URC Devotion

Sunday's coming

Wed, 14/04/2021 - 15:00
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Dear Friends,

Sunday's service will be led by students from the Scottish United Reformed & Congregational College. Lesley, Roberta, Kevin + Louise will take us through the service on the theme of 'Peace'. Hymns include John Bell's We Cannot Measure how You heal, Make me a channel of Your peace, and Stuart Townend's How deep the Father's love for us.

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
Editor, 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 14th April 2021 The Rev’d William Young

Wed, 14/04/2021 - 06:00
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Exodus 20: 8-11

Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy.  For six days you shall labour and do all your work.  But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.

Reflection

This is the first of three major moments in the Torah where the law to keep Sabbath is asserted, and each time there is a different meaning attached to its importance. In Exodus, keeping Sabbath is a reminder of creation: God rested after the creation of the universe, likewise for us. In Deuteronomy, their liberation from Egyptian slavery is referenced. Between the two stands the detailed legal account in Leviticus 23, with the explanation that it is to be a holy occasion and a sign for the generations after them.
 
The late Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks explained that these three moments explain the three major elements of religion: creation (God’s relationship to the world), revelation (God’s relationship to us), and redemption (the union of God’s will and ours).
 
So, keeping Sabbath is not supplementary. Yet, nearly two millennia later, Jesus places his own interpretation of Sabbath for a generation for which Sabbath keeping has lost meaning: Sabbath is made for us, we are not made for the Sabbath. Meaning, far from it being an ‘obligation’ or imposition, it is supposed to be a source of liberation, connection and transformation.
 
We hardly consider Sabbath in this way. We are caught up in what Walter Breuggemann calls “a culture of restlessness.” Before the pandemic, weekly worship was side-lined by football matches and sleeping in on Sunday. These days, in streaming worship, I must remind the virtual congregation of rules of etiquette; like keeping the audio on mute, etc. Surprisingly, it is more difficult for us to offer space to God in our own homes than it is in a sanctuary. We seek experiences of worship that allows us to stay just the way we are, and at our peril, that maintains predictability even as the world around us is changing.
 
To ‘keep Sabbath’ is to be mindful of the sacredness of time, that time itself belongs to God and is for our benefit.
 
Prayer/ Meditation
 
Neither a vacation or a heavy load;
Time with You is a joy and a treasure.
May the busyness and burden of life
Never separate us from the holiness of rest
and the wholeness of Divine kinship.
Amen.     --> Today's writer The Rev’d William Young, Pastor, Covenant Baptist United Church of Christ, Washington DC 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 © 2021 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 13th April 2021

Tue, 13/04/2021 - 06:00
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Exodus 20: 8-11

Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy.  For six days you shall labour and do all your work.  But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.

Reflection

Sometimes the most urgent and vital thing you can do is take a complete rest. Hard for some of us though.  Yet a regular time of rest is there in the opening chapters in Genesis.  After working for six ‘days’, God establishes a pattern of resting on the 7th building a rhythm into the DNA of creation.
 
All Ancient Near Eastern cultures held customs of keeping rest days.  But for the Israelites, sabbath rest took on special meaning not because of its regularity or various prohibitions, but in the fact that the day is made holy because of its relationship to God: God stopped, then he was able to make a covenant with his people.
 
In Exodus, God calls his people to observe not just remember the sabbath: a day for everyone and not just for one day a week: every seven years, land is rested … debts are forgiven… slaves go free…Sabbath, then, is about an entire way of life.  If you don’t learn how to rest well, you will never learn how to work well (and vice versa). Work and rest (not sleep) live in symbiotic relationship. 
 
Sabbath is not a day off to do housework or go to Ikea. Sabbath (shabbat) means ‘stop’, ‘cease’, ‘be complete’. It needs to be held alongside another word for rest (nuakh), a time to be restfully present in God’s presence. God calls us back into this rhythm of grace from the busyness of our digital lives, to reflect on the work of the last six days, and just enjoy. Jews have been practising Sabbath for millenia.  They talk about ‘menuha’ (another word for ‘rest’) often translated as happiness or delight. As you keep the Sabbath, delight in the life you have in partnership with God, delight in the world around you, and delight in God himself.  That is what the Sabbath is for. Such is the beauty of rest.
 
Prayer/Meditation
 
Be still and know that I am God…
 
Be still and know…
 
Be still…
 
Be…
 
Amen     --> Today's writer The Rev’d Nicola Furley-Smith, Secretary for Ministries 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 © 2021 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 12th April 2021

Mon, 12/04/2021 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 12th April 2021 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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Exodus 20: 8-11

Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy.  For six days you shall labour and do all your work.  But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.

Reflection

In the Wilderness where this story is set, the Hebrew People were cut off from many of the habits, routines and opportunities which had shaped them in Egypt. The 10 Commandments were a covenant to forge a renewed society, a society unlike Egypt, which was built of healthy relationships between God and the Hebrew People, the People with each other, and the People with the world at large.

The Sabbath commandment in Exodus, implies a rhythm built into the very fabric of creation which includes a pattern to set aside time to focus on God. While I understand that every moment of life is an opportunity to encounter holiness, this commandment suggests a fundamental human need (like our need for exercise or healthy food) to make time to keep our perception of holiness ever growing and open. Moving with the Sabbath Rhythm enables us to be continually refreshed in maintaining those healthy relationships with the Holy One, each other, the world at large, and perhaps even with ourselves. For many people that fundamental need to keep our perception ever growing and open, includes being with others for worship, growth and support.

The period of the Covid 19 Pandemic has been a wilderness space where we have been cut off from habits, routines and opportunities which have shaped our lives and society. For many, setting aside time to come together to focus on God has been challenging and we have had to forge new habits, routines and opportunities which previously were laid out for us. Having now lived with these ever-adapting restrictions for over a year, it is perhaps a good time to reflect on the new patterns we have developed and to notice what in these new habits has been effective and what less so? Which of our new routines might we want to continue into a post Pandemic world? How have these new opportunities to focus on God refreshed us and equipped us to develop and sustain healthy relationships with God, each other, the world and ourselves? How has this Pandemic wilderness revealed to us new ways of moving with the Sabbath Rhythm to keep our perception ever growing and open to the God who holds us in a Covenant of love today?

Prayer

Holy One, Thank you for your Covenant of love which has held us through times of sorrow and joy.
Thank you for your Sabbath Rhythm beckoning us deeper into wholeness.
Grant us the wisdom and energy to seek regular refreshment, so that our relationships with you, with others, with ourselves and with the earth, may offer a taste of your Realm.

Amen     --> Today's writer The Rev’d Fiona Bennett minister Augustine United Church, Edinburgh 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 © 2021 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotions Sunday Worship for 11th April 2021 - The Revd. Elizabeth Gray-King

Sun, 11/04/2021 - 09:45
96 URC Daily Devotions Sunday Worship for 11th April 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. URC Daily Devotions
Worship for Sunday 11th April 2021
 
The Rev’d Elizabeth Gray King  
Call To Worship
 
One:         Alleluia! Christ is Risen!
 
Many:      He is Risen indeed! Alleluia!
 
One:         Rejoice, heavenly powers!   Sing, choirs of angels!
Exult, all creation around God’s throne!
Jesus, our King, is risen!
Sound the trumpet of salvation!
 
Many:      Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing, choirs of angels!
 
 One:         Rejoice, O Earth, in shining splendour, radiant in the brightness
of our King! Jesus has conquered! Glory fills you! Darkness vanishes for ever!
 
Many:      Rejoice, heavenly powers!  Sing, choirs of angels!
 
One:         Rejoice, O holy Church! Exult in glory! The risen Saviour shines
upon you! Let this place resound with joy,  as we sing, echoing the mighty song  of all God’s people!
 
Hymn       Jesus is risen, alleluia!
Bernard Kyamanywa, English version © John Bell (b1949)   Jesus is risen, alleluia!
Worship and praise Him, alleluia! Now our redeemer
bursts from the grave
lost to the tomb,
Christ rises to save.
 
Come let us worship Him, endlessly sing;
Christ is alive  and death loses its sting.
Sins are forgiven, alleluia! Jesus is risen, alleluia!

2: Buried for three days,
destined for death,
now he returns
to breathe Easter breath.
Blest are the ears
alert to his voice,
blest are the hearts
which for him rejoice.
 
3. Don’t be afraid!”
the angel had said,
“Why seek the living
here with the dead?
Look where he lay, his body is gone,
risen and vibrant, warm with the sun.”
 
4: Go tell the others,
Christ is alive.”
Love is eternal,
faith and hope thrive,
What God intended,
Jesus fulfilled,
what God conceived
can never be killed.   5. Let heaven echo, let the earth sing”
Jesus is saviour of everything.
All those who trust him, Christ will receive’
therefore, rejoice, obey and believe!   Introduction
 
Welcome to worship from the United Reformed Church.  I’m Elizabeth Gray-King, URC Minister, project manager and visual theologian.  With the Education & Learning team, I support the continuing professional development of URC Ministers part of my working life and the rest of the time I either create visual theology or support affirmative management of charities via elizabethgrayking.com.  Let us worship in joy and hope.
 
Prayers of Approach, Confession and forgiveness
 
God, tireless creator,
With ever new energy, you make a way for our tired souls to find you.
 
When we are exhausted, you wake us to the depths of your love.
When we are strong and eager, you bring us to the heights of your pain.
 
You who gave light as gift to the dark, call us into your powerful reality and we praise you.
 
You dared flesh.  You lived it, touched it, named it, healed it, challenged it.  You named the lies and walked in truth.  Jesus Christ, flesh of all flesh, bone of all bone, life of all time, we praise you.
 
You dare flesh still.  Your creative eyes see through all eyes, damaged or free.  Your energy, pain and power move through the flesh that will have you; touch the flesh which fears you.  Holy Spirit, wind of all time, breath of all life, love of all todays, we praise you.
 
God, tireless creator, flesh of all flesh, love of all todays, you hear us this day.  We confess our tiredness—of living, of understanding, of knowing.  We confess as we hold our breath against the realities we fear.  We complain that you are absent, that we are unknown. 
 
As you know us, forgive us.  In this silence, we bring our confession.
(pause)
 
Tireless, loving, daring God. You hear us and we praise you.  You know us and as we are afraid, we are somehow grateful.  Let us know, O love of all todays that this day we are yours again.  You name us as your own.  We are forgiven.
 
Hymn       Breathe on Me Breath of God 
Edwin Hatch (1835-1889)   Breathe on me, Breath of God,
fill me with life anew,
that I may love
what Thou dost love,
and do what Thou wouldst do.
 
2: Breathe on me, Breath of God,
until my heart is pure,
until with Thee I will one will,
to do and to endure.
 
3: Breathe on me, Breath of God,
till I am wholly Thine,
until this
earthly part of me
glows with Thy fire divine.
 
4: Breathe on me, Breath of God,
so shall I never die,
but live with Thee the perfect life
of Thine eternity.   Prayer of Illumination
 
O Holy God of all time and this time, open our minds and hearts that we hear you and know you more. Alleluia, Amen.
 
St John 20:19-31
 
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.  Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’  When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’ But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’ A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’  Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’  Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’  Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’ Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
 
Acts 4:32-35
 
Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.  There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.
 
Hymn:      Faith Begins by Letting Go
                  Carl P Daw
  Faith begins by letting go,
giving up what had seemed sure,
taking risks and pressing on,
though the way feels less secure:
pilgrimage both right and odd,
trusting all our life to God.
 
2 Faith endures by holding on,
keeping mem’ry’s roots alive
so that hope may bear its fruit;
promise-fed, our souls will thrive,
not through merit we possess
but by God’s great faithfulness.   3 Faith matures by reaching out, stretching minds, enlarging hearts,
sharing struggles, living prayer, binding up the broken parts;
till we find the commonplace ripe with witness to God’s grace.
 
Sermon
 
Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen in us!  Alleluia!
 
Christ is Risen.  So? We heard it last week, people have told us this again and again, as if, if we don’t believe it for ourselves, something large is missing in our lives. We retell the story of dear Thomas annually as if we are being told not to be like Thomas, or that we can be like him and it’s really OK.  But no, Oh no.  If we had been in that room, we’d believe.
 
Yet believing in something in and of itself is just that, belief.  The Gospels show us in so many ways that the community of faith grew around Jesus not because of what Jesus believed, but because he acted in the power of that belief. He believed in justice so he challenged situations where he didn’t see it.  He acted by turning the tables in the Temple.  He healed on a sabbath; he spoke to women others refused to see. He worked with men who weren’t accepted in the mainstream.  We are shown that Jesus believed God-power in the physical geography of his time and in the reality of himself and the people who followed; so he named that power in others and they acted by changing their lives with him.
 
We can believe in justice as a thing. We can believe in love and care and kindness and humility.  But until we start living and acting as love, living out that care, graciously spilling over with kindness and working with others in humility as compared to power, a belief is just a belief, almost an object to be admired.  Thomas wanted to move his belief into tangible territory, touching what he hoped to know as true. Believing in resurrection is OK.  Living resurrection is quite another thing.
 
I need to stop for a moment because I’ve been talking about belief and that’s a hot topic in our civil society right now. We wonder what is true and what is not. We can believe strongly in many things. Most painfully recently, we can see the results of blind belief in charismatic leaders which makes people act in toxic and life denying ways, attempting to or actually overthrowing governments. People can act on their belief in a way which brings destruction and injustice. We are called to be very cautious of and discerning about who we follow, testing truth as we go. 
With that absolutely affirmed, I go back to our narrative - by the time Resurrection itself had arrive in this upper room, these disciples had evidence of quite another power; love itself in active reality.
 
Let’s look at that upper room story.  I have a hard time taking any of the Bible literally, coming as it is in waves of myth, poetry, prophesy, remembered relationships and political writing for certain points of view.  Like others, I try to probe just why some texts ended up the way they did, what the eventual author wanted to say and why a group of scholars decided to save the tales for posterity.  Whoever John is wrote this story after Jesus was executed and about 20 years after Rome destroyed the temple in Jerusalem. Jesus was seen as a sign of rebellion, part and parcel of heaps of Jewish people’s reaction to Roman occupation.  Crucifixion was a deadly Roman stunt to create fear and it worked. Jesus’ followers were afraid. Of course. And fear makes people do things against their nature. Perhaps John tells this moment around Thomas to identify with our humanity and hint at what John knew to be true.  The story has these humans gathered in fear in their old nature, against the new natures they had lived with Jesus.  So John shows us that resurrection is not a thing to be believed, but a thing to experience, and experience changes what we do.  The deep truth of ‘Christ is Risen’ woke this fearful bunch in that upper room, and the continued stories of those followers showed their courageous lives as not believing resurrection, but living it.
 
The Acts reading shows us some of the fruits of living our own resurrection – community, common wealth, the companionship of mutual support.  Yet I hesitate with this and wonder whether the compiler of Acts was more aspirational than not. Living resurrection so that one is free to be generous goes against most of our natures. It is difficult. It’s not that we can’t be generous, but trying to be generous because it is a good thing to be can be like believing because we feel we must.  It is taking on a behaviour in hope that our deeper selves will be better – indeed that God will love us more.  Though we know that God loves us no matter what, many of us have an exhausting list of all the reasons God shouldn’t.  If God really knew, God wouldn’t love us.  So we’d better be good. Whether this is you or not, so many of us behave in order to believe, or believe in order to behave.
 
What Easter calls us to do is neither.  Easter’s message ‘Christ is Risen’ calls us not to believe, or to behave, but to live resurrection.  Fine, Elizabeth. HOW?!
 
First of all, look back at your own life.  You are here now, this moment, in this podcast, listening to these words.  You are here.  Now.  You know that there were times when you thought you wouldn’t be here.  You might have been near death as I have been, or you might not have had your mental health, or your physical health has been so limited, or you might not have had the courage to make the commitment to open this service and listen.   You have been through an enormous amount in your lives no matter what age you are, and much of what you’ve been through most people don’t even know. 
 
Second, name that truth.  You are here. Physically. Alive, even while you grieve. 
 
Third, have a go at naming the deeper truth of your being here.  Each moment you thought you’d die, each time you thought you wouldn’t make it, you did. Each and every time you thought it was the end, it wasn’t.  It may not feel fair.  Let’s lay that down. You are here no matter what.
 
Dare to call each survival resurrection.  In real time, you faced your own hell and you have come out of it. With help sometimes, other times, all on your lonesome.  You may be more fragile as a result or you may have more character or more courage or less worry.  However, you’ve come out, you’re here.  I call that resurrection.  Life from death.
 
Finally, breathe that in.  Let Holy Spirit, God’s self in this present moment, affirm that you are indeed a person of resurrection experience.  You have lived it.  It isn’t someone else’s story.  Your story is that you are already living resurrection. You have had your own upper room of fear, and you are here.  You have met ‘Christ is Risen’ and you are living resurrection.
When that happens, you, we, can do anything.  No longer afraid, swept out of our fear by the resurrections we have truly and literally experienced, we can live that resurrection where we see others who are in fear.  Full of Holy Spirit, we can walk the way of Jesus, working with power where injustice needs resurrection power.  We can talk to politicians without undue awe – we’re resurrected people.  We can look others in the eye with humility, care and respect because we don’t need them to affirm us.  We’re are resurrection lives. We can read what we’ve been afraid to see and write what we’ve kept ourselves from writing. There is no stopping us.  There is no stopping you.
 
For many of you listening, you are rightly full of scepticism.  I gently ask you to look back.  See a moment you survived.  Try saying to yourself, “I lived after that.” “I am living resurrection.” “I can walk this walk.”
Bless you.
 
Christ is Risen! You are Risen!
Alleluia, Amen.
 
Hymn       Father of Mercy, God of Consolation
                  Fr James Quinn SJ
  Father of mercy,
God of consolation,
Look on your people,
gathered here to praise you,
Pity our weakness,
come in power to aid us,
Source of all blessing.

2: Son of the Father,
Lord of all creation,
Come as our Saviour,
Jesus, friend of sinners,
Grant us forgiveness,
lift our downcast spirit,
Heal us and save us.   3: Life-giving Spirit,
be our light in darkness,
Come to befriend us,
help us bear our burdens,
Give us true courage,
breathe your peace around us,
Stay with us always.
 
4: God in Three Persons,
Father, Son and Spirit,
Come to renew us,
fill your Church with glory,
Grant us your healing,
pledge of resurrection,
Foretaste of heaven.
  Affirmation of Faith
 
God’s reconciling act in Jesus Christ is a mystery
which the Scriptures describe in various ways.

 It is called the sacrifice of a lamb, a shepherd’s life given for his sheep, atonement by a priest; again it is ransom of a slave, payment of debt, vicarious satisfaction of a legal penalty, and victory over the powers of evil. These are expressions of a truth which remains beyond the reach of all theory in the depths of God’s love for humankind.
 
They reveal the gravity, cost,
and sure achievement of God’s reconciling work in which we trust.
 
Intercessions
 
Please find an object you are happy and comfortable to hold.  It could be a cushion, a small figurine, a stone, a stuffed animal.  Find anything you are happy to simple be with, and join in prayer. I’ll wait a moment whilst you find and hold it.   (pause for 30 seconds)
 
Living God of this time and place, we come to you for ourselves, desperately seeking to love ourselves as much as we love our neighbours.  We come to your for our neighbours, desperately seeking to love all of our neighbours as much as we love ourselves.
 
Lord God, I hold this thing in my hands.  It is real, I can see it, I can feel it.  It reminds me of my reality and the realities of my life.  I thank you for my resurrection times.
 
I so want others to know this too.  In this silence, I name those who are dear to me who I want you to touch and heal.
 
Oh God, I see the faces of people in the news and imagine their agony.  I hold this thing in my hands and move myself to more care than I have had, as if by holding this object, I hold them.  Move more people to care, dear God.  Move more to speak out instead of keeping silent.  I am together in this prayer time with others.  As we all hold something now, let us all see the path to actions, bringing resurrection life and anger to what appear to be hopeless things. In this silence, we name all those people, places and situations in our world which cry out for meaningful connection and justice; structures, our planet, our societies and for all of those touched by them.
 
We bring all of these prayers to you O God, confidently and hopefully, for you are our Saviour, our own resurrection life. 
 
We pray in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in the power and presence of Holy Spirit.  Amen.
 
Offertory
 
We offer now what we can.  It comes from our personal commitment and by your gracious resurrection life.  As we thank you that we have it to offer, let the gathering of this which we can give be blessed to change as much as it can into loving service and relief.
 
Hymn       Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing
Robert Robinson (1735-1790)   Come, Thou Fount of every blessing
tune my heart to sing Thy grace.
Streams of mercy, never ceasing
call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet
sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount, I'm fixed upon it
mount of Thy redeeming love.
 
2: Here I raise my Ebenezer.
Here there by Thy help I come.
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure
safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger
wandering from the fold of God.
He, to rescue me from danger
interposed His precious blood.
3: Oh, to grace how great a debtor daily I'm constrained to be.
Let that goodness like a fetter bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it - prone to leave the God I love.
Here's my heart, oh, take and seal it seal it for Thy courts above.

Blessing
 
May God who is light shine in your darkness
May God who is love be the love between you
May God who is life be your life everlasting
And the blessing of God, Creator, Christ and Spirit be with you and remain with you now and forever.
Amen
 
Sources and thanks
 
Jesus is risen, alleluia! - Bernard Kyamanywa, English version © John Bell (b1949)  sung by Scottish Festival Singers, Ian McCrorie (Conductor), John Kitchen (Organ)
Breathe on Me Breath of God- Edwin Hatch (1835-1889) - BBC’s Songs of Praise
Faith Begins by Letting Go - Carl P Daw © 1996 Hope Publishing Company- Sung and played by the Rev’d Paul Robinson
Father of Mercy, God of Consolation - Fr James Quinn SJ - sung by the choir of Marlborough College Chapel
Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing - Robert Robinson (1735-1790) - sung by the group All Sons and Daughters
 
Organ Pieces:
Fugue in G Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach
(organ of The Spire Church, Farnham – 2020)
Procession by Arthur Wills
(organ of Santa Maria dei Miracoli, Venice, Italy – 2014)
 
Both pieces played by and received, with thanks, from Brian Cotterill http://briancotterill.webs.com

Thanks to Andrew Wilson-Dickson, John Marsh, Pam Carpenter, Adrian Bulley, Jenny Sheehan and David Shimmin for reading various 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 © 2021 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 11th April 2021

Sun, 11/04/2021 - 06:00
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Psalm 38
1 Rebuke me not in anger, Lord:
restrain your wrath, I pray;
grant that your child be yet restored,
not judged and cast away.
I feel your arrows deep within,
I sink beneath your hand
and underneath a weight of sin
too great for me to stand.

2 For sinful folly now I pay:
I'm humbled to the ground,
as I go mourning all the day
and no relief is found.
I feel my body racked with pain,
diseased in every part,
so crushed that I cannot contain
the groanings of my heart.

3 My longings, Lord, to you are known,
you see my every tear;
my strength, my sight are almost gone,
my friends will not come near.
And others lay their deadly snares,
all day they plot and lie;
like one who neither speaks nor hears,
I offer no reply.

4 In you, O Lord, my hope I place:
Lord, answer when I call;
let those not jeer at my distress,
who long to see me fall.
My foothold is about to go,
my torment will not cease;
and my iniquity I know:
my sin permits no peace.

5 My foes are many and are strong,
their hatred has no cause;
my kindness they repay with wrong,
although I keep your laws.
O Lord, be with me to the last,
remain for ever near;
come to my rescue, come with haste:
O Lord, my Saviour, hear!

David G Preston (born 1939) from Psalm 38
This works well to Kingsfold which you can hear here
https://hymnary.org/media/fetch/199009

Reflection
The writer is recalling a time that they felt completely isolated, both from God and from other people. There is no assurance of, or thanksgiving for, healing. It doesn’t seem to fit in with a religious ceremony. It is a lament, a Psalm with an “alphabetic” structure (has the same number of verses as the number of letters in the alphabet) and was probably used for personal devotion.

Whilst I can understand the feelings that gave rise to the words, I cannot take them literally:


Holy God, I beg for mercy. I feel completely alone. I try to centre myself on you and all I sense is absence, and that leaves my heart and spirit broken. Feeling separated from you is like an arrow in my side, my strength has gone, and dark clouds fill my horizon.

Why? What have I done for this to be my fate? Reveal to me what I should do! Help me!

My circle of family, friends and neighbours, all those closest to me, step back lest they fall into the pit I am in. They fear saying the wrong thing, making matters worse, or risking the balance of their own fragile lives.

I imagine all kinds of traps being set for me as I sink deeper. I can hear no consolation. I can speak no words of kindness. O God I need your presence, and to hear your Word.

Why would anyone relish my discomfort? I feel the abyss before me. My sorrow is overwhelming. I believe I am worthless. Forgive me!

I think that everyone is against me. I see anger and hostility all around me. I try my best, but no-one considers me worth their effort.

Holy God, have mercy. Draw close to me. Hurry to my side. Save me, O God.

Prayer
Thank God for the NHS! Thank God for our forebears and peers who by trial and error, theory and experiment, modelling and recommendation, revealed, explored, and affected our health, well-being, and lives. Even though they at times faced ridicule, persecution or were overlooked, they continued in their endeavours trusting that Creation was comprehendible, consistent, and creative. Thank God for the invitation to be co-creators, custodians, and observers of Creation. Amen.   --> Today's writer Rev’d David Coaker serves with Grays URC in Essex.  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 © 2021 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 10th April 2021

Sat, 10/04/2021 - 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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Can we take oaths in God’s name then?

Exodus 20: 7

You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.

Reflection

In January President Biden and Vice-President Harris took oaths of office ending “so help me God”. Both also rested a hand on chosen Bibles to underscore the solemnity of their oaths. This is a tradition, despite the strict separation of State and Church in the USA.

In Exodus the people were warned against wrongful use of God’s name, not against using God’s name at all. So when could they call on God’s name and God’s power, for the name of God is powerful? Disclosed to Moses in Exodus 3.13-20 as “I AM” or alternatively interpreted as “I will be what I will be” the name shows that God’s freedom could not be constrained. God chooses to be present in the name and trusts fallible human beings to use it rightly. God’s name was to be used by Israel alone, for blessings, solemn undertakings and, sometimes, overcoming enemies. Improper use would be in lying, bearing false witness, or trying to bind God to human purposes. Breaking the duties of a promise taken under oath invoked divine punishment. “So help me God – you can punish me if I fail.” How many violent intentions have been carried out to their conclusion because of a promise made in fear of God?

The early Church was clear on the point of not using God’s name for oaths. Matthew 5. 33-37 and James 5.12 state “let your ‘Yes’ be yes and your ‘No’ be no”: integrity as a Christian and as a human being was enough, without bringing God overtly into the matter. The divine was already present in a life lived in reliance on God.

So when encountering systems of justice Christians should perhaps choose to “solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm” the truth of their testimony rather than swearing by Almighty God.

Prayer
God who is and will be,
source of truth,
expression of complete integrity,
give us the courage to face whatever must be endured
relying on you
so that your name will be known
whether we use it or not.

Amen   --> Today's writer Revd Fiona Thomas, freelance facilitator, member of Christ Church, Bellingham.  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 © 2021 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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Liturgical Resources following the death of HRH The Duke of Edinburgh

Fri, 09/04/2021 - 12:30
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HRH The Duke of Edinburgh

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Dear <<First Name>>

The United Reformed Church has prepared the resources, below, for individuals and congregations to use following the death of HRH The Duke of Edinburgh.


with every good wish

Andy

Andy Braunston
Coordinator, Daily Devotions from the URC Project
 

Reading Psalm 107: 23-31

Some went down to the sea in ships,
doing business on the mighty waters;
they saw the deeds of the Lord,
his wondrous works in the deep.
For he commanded and raised the stormy wind,
which lifted up the waves of the sea.
They mounted up to heaven, they went down to the depths;
their courage melted away in their calamity;
they reeled and staggered like drunkards,
and were at their wits’ end.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he brought them out from their distress;
he made the storm be still,
and the waves of the sea were hushed.
Then they were glad because they had quiet,
and he brought them to their desired haven.
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wonderful works to humankind.

Reflection

The death of HRH Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, brings a moment to reflect on an extraordinary life. For many, this death will leave them feeling shaken, as the life of someone who has for so many decades been at the heart of our nation comes to an end.

He was born in Corfu and baptised into the Orthodox Church. Later received into the Church of England, many who have known the Duke of Edinburgh bear witness to the depth of his faith and his theological knowledge. A regular visitor to Mount Athos, and a keen questioner of preachers, his faith was much more than nominal.

With a childhood marred by political turmoil and danger, as his family fled from Greece, Philip was, in many ways, often almost alone in the world as he grew up. Gordonstoun School and the British Royal Navy gave him roots and a home, and with marriage to Princess Elizabeth his life’s path was set. She described him, in 2012, as a ‘constant strength and guide’ and his supportive role as a husband was one he fulfilled over decades of marriage. It is often said that he felt the loss of his own career keenly, but he became a hardworking member of the Royal Family, taking up causes and projects with formidable energy.

Many of us will have been, or will know, someone who learned a love of the outdoors, spurred on by the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme. Countless young people have learned endurance and survival skills, navigating maps and building fires, walking in the hills and bedding down in tents, achieving things they would not have imagined possible. Prince Philip has also been a tireless campaigner on behalf of threatened wildlife and for the preservation of the earth.

Known for his blunt and forthright speech, and for being the man who was always one step behind the Queen, he was a determined supporter of his wife, an energetic sportsman, a committed conservationist, with the strength of character to remain steady through changing and difficult times. Queen Elizabeth often acknowledged her debt to him and encouraged the whole nation to recognise it too.

At this moment of his death we have an opportunity to reflect and to give thanks, for a life of dedicated service to nation and commonwealth. We pray for his family and closest friends, for those who will mourn and miss him most. And we draw hope from the faith into which he was baptised, declaring that Christ is risen.


Prayer

O God, our rock and our redeemer,
we come to worship you
and to give thanks for your servant Philip.

We thank you for his long life,
for his dedicated support of his wife in her vocation as Queen,
and for his service to commonwealth and nation.

We thank you for the Duke of Edinburgh award,
for the work of the World Wide Fund for Nature
and for so many causes he inspired and supported.

We thank you for what he has meant
to each one of us…

We treasure memories
of meeting him ….

We rejoice that he lived and shared
the faith we hold,
and that, by your grace,
he survived danger and threat.

We pray for those who will miss him most deeply,
that they may find comfort and hope.

We celebrate and affirm our faith
that death is defeated,
that new life awaits your children,
and that creation is renewed in Christ.

And, in this day and time, we pray,
as we are always glad to pray,
may your Kingdom come. Amen.
 


Other suggested readings

Genesis 1: 24-26
(the creation of wild animals and the responsibility of humankind)
Psalm 121 (I lift up my eyes to the hills…)
Ephesians 5: 25-33 (the love of a man for his wife)
1 Corinthians 15: 17-26 (Christ has been raised from the dead)


 

  

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 © 2021 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 9th April 2021

Fri, 09/04/2021 - 06:00
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font-size:14px; font-style:italic; font-weight:normal; line-height:125%; letter-spacing:normal; text-align:left; } #templatePreheader{ background-color:#EBDBCD; border-top:0; border-bottom:1px solid #CDC2BA; } .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ color:#524E48; font-family:Georgia; font-size:10px; line-height:125%; text-align:left; } .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent a{ color:#524E48; font-weight:normal; text-decoration:underline; } #templateHeader{ background-color:#FFFFFF; border-top:0; border-bottom:0; } .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ color:#524E48; font-family:Georgia; font-size:18px; line-height:150%; text-align:left; } .headerContainer .mcnTextContent a{ color:#036B74; font-weight:normal; text-decoration:underline; } #templateBody,#mainBackground{ background-color:#FFFFFF; } #templateBody{ border-top:0; border-bottom:0; } .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ color:#524E48; font-family:Georgia; 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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 Friday 9th April
Not misusing God’s name?

Exodus 20: 7
You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.

Reflection

Ministering as a Pioneer, working mainly with young adults in cafes and bars in South Manchester I hear the words ‘Jesus Christ’ quite regularly … often followed by an apology! 

Exclaiming the name of Jesus as an expression of shock or surprise, disappointment or frustration, anger or ecstasy is a common thing in our society, and although I doubt any of those who apologise for the language used when in the company of a minister are directly concerned about Exodus Chapter 20 verse 7, it is from this verse where the idea of ‘using the Lord’s name in vain’ arises. 

Amongst those reading our Daily Devotions I suspect feelings will be diverse as to whether hearing the name of Jesus used in this way is offensive, uncomfortable, or of little concern. Whatever your personal feelings, I would suggest that in our engagement with others perhaps different from ourselves it is always better to listen carefully to what is being expressed, rather than the language used to express it.
 
All that said, to reduce this verse to concerns about swearing is to lose sight of much more troublesome behaviours which this commandment is much more likely to be warning us against, regarding swearing an oath, rather than swearing as bad language.
 
Reformed voices of the past have interpreted this verse to be a warning against several different ways of making commitments in God’s name, but failing to fulfil them, knowingly or not.

Whether we ourselves would ‘swear to God’ as if to guarantee our claims, perhaps this verse can serve as a reminder to all of us to avoid making promises to God and others with little sincerity; of making promises in haste with little regard for the difficulty of the task; of protesting our innocence when we know ourselves to be guilty, or swearing what we say is true, when we know it to be false.  

Prayer

God, whose name is holy
and can inspire the best in us,
we acknowledge the ways in which we can hide our frailty behind your name. 
When we speak the name of God, 
May it be to share our wonder of you and your love for us
in a world in little need of false promises, 
but yearning to know what is good and true. 

Amen.   --> Today's writer Rev’d Mike Walsh, SCM 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 © 2021 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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Pandemic Prayer and Improved Podcasts

Thu, 08/04/2021 - 11:53
96 Pandemic Prayer and Improved Podcasts 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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font-size:16px; line-height:150%; text-align:left; } .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent a{ color:#036B74; font-weight:normal; text-decoration:underline; } .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ color:#524E48; font-family:Georgia; font-size:10px; line-height:125%; text-align:center; } .footerContainer .mcnTextContent a{ color:#524E48; font-weight:normal; text-decoration:underline; } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ body,table,td,p,a,li,blockquote{ -webkit-text-size-adjust:none !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ body{ width:100% !important; min-width:100% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ #mainBackground,#templateHeader,#templateBody,.templateContainer{ max-width:600px !important; width:100% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnRetinaImage{ max-width:100% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnImage{ width:100% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnCartContainer,.mcnCaptionTopContent,.mcnRecContentContainer,.mcnCaptionBottomContent,.mcnTextContentContainer,.mcnBoxedTextContentContainer,.mcnImageGroupContentContainer,.mcnCaptionLeftTextContentContainer,.mcnCaptionRightTextContentContainer,.mcnCaptionLeftImageContentContainer,.mcnCaptionRightImageContentContainer,.mcnImageCardLeftTextContentContainer,.mcnImageCardRightTextContentContainer,.mcnImageCardLeftImageContentContainer,.mcnImageCardRightImageContentContainer{ max-width:100% !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; 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 Pandemic Prayer and Improved Podcasts
Dear Friends,

This week's pandemic prayer was written by the Rev'd Fleur Houston and focuses on the Risen Lord who guides us through difficult times.  You can read this, and other prayers in the series by clicking here.

You will have seen, a few weeks, ago we managed to get our recordings of each Daily Devotion published as a "podcast" which now can be accessed by any number of podcast providers.  You can ask Google, Alexa or Siri (if you have these artifiicial assistants" to "play today's podcast of the Daily Devotions from the United Reformed Church" (the word "podcast" seems to be needed!")  You can also hear it by clicking on the "podcast" link above and in each day's email.  Thanks to Leslie Schram a very clever member of my congregation in Stewarton we now have a short piece of music to start and end each day's podcast.  We hope this enhances the experience for those of you who prefer to listen to the reflection each day.

with every good wish


Andy --> --> --> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend --> 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 © 2021 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 8th April 2021

Thu, 08/04/2021 - 06:00
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font-size:16px; line-height:150%; text-align:left; } .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent a{ color:#036B74; font-weight:normal; text-decoration:underline; } .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ color:#524E48; font-family:Georgia; font-size:10px; line-height:125%; text-align:center; } .footerContainer .mcnTextContent a{ color:#524E48; font-weight:normal; text-decoration:underline; } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ body,table,td,p,a,li,blockquote{ -webkit-text-size-adjust:none !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ body{ width:100% !important; min-width:100% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ #mainBackground,#templateHeader,#templateBody,.templateContainer{ max-width:600px !important; width:100% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnRetinaImage{ max-width:100% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnImage{ width:100% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnCartContainer,.mcnCaptionTopContent,.mcnRecContentContainer,.mcnCaptionBottomContent,.mcnTextContentContainer,.mcnBoxedTextContentContainer,.mcnImageGroupContentContainer,.mcnCaptionLeftTextContentContainer,.mcnCaptionRightTextContentContainer,.mcnCaptionLeftImageContentContainer,.mcnCaptionRightImageContentContainer,.mcnImageCardLeftTextContentContainer,.mcnImageCardRightTextContentContainer,.mcnImageCardLeftImageContentContainer,.mcnImageCardRightImageContentContainer{ max-width:100% !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; 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 Thursday 8th April
Exodus 20: 7

You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.

Reflection

What is your favourite name or title for the Triune God and why? Usually, names say something about who and how people are. There are about 80 different names for God in the Bible, mostly in the Old Testament. Each name depicts a specific attribute and essence of God. God appears to be more like a verb than a noun. God’s names often refer to what God has done and what God can do. So, God’s names can be strongly connected to the times, situations and settings, when they are used.

The prime name of God is YHWH, an expression of the eternal and unutterable character of God. Today, many people use God’s name in situations of shock, surprise and overwhelming:  somewhat calling God into their situation in a consumerist and irreverent manner.  Other people use God to make promises, many of which are not only lazy and cunning but also alien to God’s will. The biggest issue to me is when one uses God’s name for personal gain or fame. God’s name has been misused and misappropriated since the creation. In Acts 19.13, the seven sons of a Jewish High priest named Sceva, tried to use Jesus’ name to cast out evil spirits, like Paul did. Yet, they end up being mauled by those spirits. They did not know that Paul used Jesus’ powerful name out of an active relationship, intimacy, submission, reverence and cooperation.

More than just a noun, God’s name may be used like an incarnate verb in praise, selfless-service, prayer, petition and thanksgiving. We could do so, expecting God’s attributes to be embodied around us, for the expression and growth of the Kingdom. ‘God’ is like a relational, powerful and incarnate verb. If ever used, then to God alone be the glory.

Prayer

El Shaddai, You are almighty and sovereign
Adonai, at Your name every knee bow in heaven and on earth.
Elohim, thank you for making us wonderfully in Your image
El Roi, thank you for saving us
Jehovah Jireh, we lay our needs and longings at Your feet
Jehovah Rohi, be our shepherd in this pandemic wilderness
Jehovah Shalom, grant us peace, passing all understanding
Emmanuel, be in our waking, working and resting. 
Amen   --> Today's writer Rev’d Bachelard Kaze, Minister, Eastwood & Marlpool 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 © 2021 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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Sunday's coming

Wed, 07/04/2021 - 15:15
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Dear Friends,

Sunday's service will be led by the Revd. Elizabeth Gray-King. Elizabeth is a person of many talents! I know her as having one of the most soothing, reassuring voices across the entire denomination. Which is probably why she excels as Programme Coordinator for the Education + Learning Team at Church House, Project Manager, Visual Theologian and URC Minister of Word and Sacraments.

Low Sunday, as well as being interestingly named, is an interesting Sunday to tackle. How do we ride the wave of Easter? What does Easter mean now for us? Find out more on Sunday! Hymns include Jesus is Risen, Alleluia, Breathe on me, breath of God, Faith begins by letting go and a wonderful rendition of Come thou found of every blessing.

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
Editor, 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.  

Finally, a reminder if you need to change your email address please use the link, below, "update your preferences".    Copyright © 2021 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Wednesday 7th April 2021

Wed, 07/04/2021 - 06:00
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Wednesday 7th April   Worship God alone   Exodus 20: 1 - 6

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery;  you shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.  You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Reflection

The last bit of this reading really doesn’t seem fair. Surely God doesn’t punish children for the sins of their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents? As Christians surely we don’t believe in that kind of damning inherited karma?

Researching family history is a very popular occupation. It’s amazing just how far back a researcher can go using old censuses, newspapers, and other written material easily accessed online. And there’s the fascination of programmes like ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ Celebrities discover ancestors of varying types and react, some with tears, others with pride….

We each have a backstory and some of us will have a backstory of folk who were more sinners than saints, folk who may indeed have rejected God. But that does not force us to reject God in our own turn. Their influence down the ages might have been less than helpful, a punishment in itself, but we each have our choice of the way we will take - and as a result, the influence our lives and choices will have on the generations that come after us.

I cling to a belief in a God of new beginnings, the one who not only has an ever-open door but comes running out to embrace us at the first sight of a step back towards him. 

Prayer

Open our eyes to our responsibilities to the generations that will follow us - both physically in terms of our responsibility for the environment we hand on to them, but also spiritually, that they might enjoy the loving relationship with God that he so desires, through his son, Jesus Christ. Amen.     --> Today's writer Dorothy Courtis, Lay Preacher, Thurso 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 © 2021 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Tuesday 6th April 2021

Tue, 06/04/2021 - 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 Tuesday 6th April  Graven images   Exodus 20: 1 - 4 
I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery;  you shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.  You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Reflection

‘And God spoke all these words’.
  Do we take it as a ‘dibrot’ something like an ‘utterance’ or perhaps even ‘inspired speech’ or does being ‘etched into stone’ make it outdated and not relevant for today?  Robert Alter describes: ‘Writing on stone an archaic medium of communication which lines up with archaic fire (roasting) and archaic baking (unleavened bread) earlier in the story’. Is a card in the post carefully written in your own hand an outdated mode of communication?

During Advent we used the worship song ‘Hush there’s a Baby’’*. Had we been in church, doing the actions would have been easy, but in front of your laptop . . .? How on earth can you do ‘Bow right Down’ when , in effect, you are trying to touch your toes! (Can you do that? ‘Touch your toes? Pre-lockdown maybe but as the pounds go on it might be more of a struggle!)

The ‘Bow right Down’ was about the magi visiting the Christ Child with precious gifts. Today’s text commands us not to bow down to the wrong things. An idol is anything that takes God’s place in our lives. Commentators suggest that these commandments are about naming who we follow. We cannot have two masters.  African culture teaches: ‘A person cannot choose two roads at the same time’ (Mali) while in Cameroon the saying is ‘One cannot chase two pigeons at once’. ( Do you remember the phrase ‘Catch the Pigeon’ from Dastardly and Muttley?)

The words of this commandment could be translated ‘no other God against me’ or ‘beside me’ or ‘above me’. During Lockdown I came off my bike spectacularly and found my face slammed against the concrete surface of the pavement. The Commandments were etched in tablets of stone, in your face. God is literally beside us, picks us up and says ‘Get back on your bike and keep going’.

*https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1YurJsAVorg
 
Prayer

Gracious God, as I bow before you,
whether on my knees or trying to touch my toes,
You are beside me.
You are literally in my face, whether I am comfortable or not.
 
May I know your continuing presence right in front of me,
guiding and encouraging me.
When I fail and fall
and when I cannot physically
bow right down,
give me the courage to keep on going,
knowing you are beside me. 
Amen.     --> Today's writer The Rev’d Andrew Royal, Minister, Maidstone & Staplehurst URC’s    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 © 2021 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Monday 5th April 2021

Mon, 05/04/2021 - 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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I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery;  you shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.  You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Reflection

‘I am the Lord thy God, thou shalt have none other gods but me’… 

thus boomed the voice of the vicar in the parish church I used to attend. 
The words of the Ten Commandments, used at the beginning of every Communion service, were jarring. 
It was as though, in some way, they always spoke to me.

I’ve often thought this, the first Commandment of the Ten, to be the hardest one. 

Most of us, I would suspect, find it fairly easy not to kill people; 
most of us try our best not to take the Lord’s Name in vain; 
most of us try to honour our parents… 
but having other gods before God? That one is a bit trickier.

But surely I don’t have any false gods? 
Surely I wouldn’t put anyone/thing in front of God? 
Surely not I, the supposedly respectable Christian?

Apart, perhaps, from the football match I choose to attend instead of coming to church; 
apart, perhaps, from the kudos I crave among my friends;
or the latest gadget I strive for;
the higher salary I covet;
or the latest position of importance I seek to occupy…

Do you have anything in your life that tries to occupy God’s place? Do you have anything that seeks to take your priority away from God?

If so, perhaps the first Commandment speaks as much to you as it does to me…?

Prayer

I am the Lord thy God, thou shalt have none other gods but Me.
Lord, have mercy upon us, and write all these Thy laws in our hearts, we beseech Thee. Amen

(taken from the Order for Communion from the Book of Common Prayer)     --> Today's writer Michael RJ Topple, Elder, Chappel URC, Essex 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 © 2021 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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The Ten Commandments

Sun, 04/04/2021 - 18:00
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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 The Ten Commandments
Dear Friends,

First, I wish you and those you love a Happy Easter!  This is the second Easter we've celebrated under the shadow of Covid but we know that Christ is Risen and, in his risen life he gives us hope.  It is my fervent hope that as Spring continues and Summer comes we may be able to find some ways of returning to a more normal life.

I hope you've found our read through of St Mark's Gospel over the last few months rewarding.  The earliest manuscripts of St Mark end where we left of this morning with the women discovering the empty tomb and running off with fear and puzzlement.  Some think that an older ending has been lost, some thing the alternative endings often added to these verses in our Bibles are later additions by editors who wanted to round the story off nicely.  I like the stark ending as it shows the story moves to us.  The Risen One encourages us in our worship, our witness, our service and our evangelism.

We turn now to the Book of Exodus and the Ten Commandments which are at the heart of both Jewish and Christian morality; in ages past Christian children would be taught them by rote and many Protestant church buildings had them inscribed on the walls.  As one of our writers notes, some orders for Holy Communion have the Commandments read to the people as part of the liturgy! 

There is something of a dispute in how they are numbered.  The differing Biblical passages about the  commandments list 10 but the texts themselves have rather more than 10 direct commandments.  St Augustine of Hippo divided the commandments up into the order that Catholic and Lutheran churches use now.  Thinkers in the Early Church of the East divided them up slightly differently and this division is used by many Orthodox and Protestant Churches.  The content is the same, we start and end in the same place but there is some difference.  Catholics and Lutherans fold the commandment about graven images into the first commandment and separate out two commandments about covetousness.  We aren’t following either numbering system slavishly.  Sometimes there may be an extra Scriptural passage to help our reflections; each Commandment is given consideration over several days as we muse on what they might mean for us now - what does the command not to murder imply for pacifism?  What does the commandment about adultery, written in an age where women were seen as property, mean for contemporary relationships?  Can we not steal if we own property? 

Throughout April we will think more deeply about these Commandments and are helped by a range of writers from different places with different perspectives.  I hope you find them useful in your own journey of discipleship.

with every good wish


Andy


The Rev'd Andy Braunston
Co-ordinator, Daily Devotions from the URC   --> --> --> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend --> 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 © 2021 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotions Worship for Easter Day 2021 - The Revd. Dr Susan Durber

Sun, 04/04/2021 - 09:45
96 URC Daily Devotions Worship for Easter Day 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. URC Daily Devotions Service for
Easter Sunday 2021
 
The Rev’d Dr Susan Durber  
Call to Worship
 
One:         Alleluia! Christ is Risen!
 
Many:      He is Risen indeed! Alleluia!
 
One:         Rejoice, heavenly powers!   Sing, choirs of angels!
Exult, all creation around God’s throne!
Jesus, our King, is risen!
Sound the trumpet of salvation!
 
Many:      Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing, choirs of angels!
 
One:         Rejoice, O Earth, in shining splendour, radiant in the brightness
of our King! Jesus has conquered! Glory fills you! Darkness vanishes for ever!
 
Many:      Rejoice, heavenly powers!  Sing, choirs of angels!
 
One:         Rejoice, O holy Church! Exult in glory! The risen Saviour shines
upon you! Let this place resound with joy,  as we sing, echoing the mighty song  of all God’s people!
 
Hymn       Christ the Lord is risen today
Charles Wesley (1707-88)
 
Sing “Alleluia” after each line of music   Christ the Lord is risen today: 
Sons of men and angels say:
raise your joys and triumphs high: 
sing, ye heavens, thou earth reply: 
 
2: Love’s redeeming work is done:
fought the fight, the battle won:
vain the stone, the watch, the seal:
Christ hath burst the gates of hell:
 
3: Lives again our glorious King:
where, O death, is now thy sting?
Once he died our souls to save:
where’s thy victory, boasting grave?
 
4: Soar we now where Christ hath led:
following our exalted Head:
made like him, like him we rise:
ours the cross, the grave, the skies.   5: King of glory, soul of bliss,
everlasting life is this,
Thee to know, thy power to prove,
thus to sing, and thus to love.
 
Introduction
 
Christ is risen! Alleluia! Alleluia! Greetings on this joyful Easter day!
I am Susan Durber and I have two main roles; one as the minister of Taunton United Reformed Church and the other as Moderator of the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches. Right now I am recording this in my home -  and services, in our local church here, are taking place on Zoom. We hope to return to a hybrid of Zoom and some people being present in church. But however you are doing this, and whatever your situation, let’s all be determined to celebrate Christ’s victory over death. This is the heart of our faith and on this we stand.
 
As someone active within the work of the World Council of Churches I am much aware that not all churches in the world are celebrating Easter on this day; that this year Orthodox Easter is not until May 2nd.  One of the challenges before the ecumenical movement is to find a way for us to celebrate Easter together. Perhaps one thing the pandemic has shown us is how much we need each other, how terrible our present divisions and inequalities are, and how God is calling us to be renewed together. This Easter, more than usual, it seems so tragic that we cannot all mark even this day in unity. May that day come, and may it come soon. For we have so much to celebrate, even while we mourn. In the light of the resurrection of Christ, we can say with confidence that the sting of death, a sting we have felt so deeply this year, is overcome, for all God’s people.
 
Prayers of Approach and Confession; words of forgiveness
 
God of resurrection, lit by your love and warmed by your life, we come to praise you.  Today we touch once more the mystery that life is strong,
that love is eternal, that death is defeated, the darkness scattered by the dawn and sorrow transfigured by joy.
 
Risen Lord, we praise you at this moment of new beginning, and we welcome with open hearts this great and irresistible hope. Whatever our sorrow however profound our struggle and even if grief and death are with us we welcome the gift of life with which you bless us.
 
May we know your risen presence with us today as we open the scriptures and break the bread. May we walk out of our own tombs
and receive new life.  May we trust your loving hand that reaches into any Hell to draw us up to Heaven.
 
Forgive us our sins. Restore our strength. Tread down any evil in us and confirm in us everything that is good.
 
Let the heavens echo earth’s praise as we rejoice that you forgive us
that death is defeated that the night has given way to the dawn that Christ is risen and all shall be well for evermore, Amen.
 
The Lord’s Prayer
 
Prayer for illumination
 
O God, however many times we have heard the words of the Easter Gospel, let them sound with clarity and joy in our ears today.
May we be blessed with new insight and deeper faith.
May familiar words truly become holy scripture
and may our ears be blown open by the Holy Spirit,
that at last we may say ‘Amen’ with body, mind and soul. 
 
Reading: St John 20: 1-18
 
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’ Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went towards the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes.
But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” ’ Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her.
 
Sermon
 
Last year, when we were living through the first lockdown, a friend of mine said, ‘I don’t want last year’s Easter’. She was then living with someone shielding, and it was a time when the churches were all closed. On the television she found some recordings of Easter services from what seemed like a former world, with people crowded into decorated churches, wearing bright colours, smiling happily and singing lustily. Such a recorded Easter, an Easter from another lifetime, seemed to her so jarring and inappropriate. If Easter means anything, if resurrection is true, then it has to make sense in the times we are living in right now. Now, another year on, I think this seems even more true. Our celebrations of Easter this year have somehow to be different. The great numbers of the dead, the many who are grieving, those who are fearful for the future, and those who despite everything are full of hope, need and deserve to hear something for today. There can be no taking out last year’s sermon and changing the odd illustration. We need to hear and proclaim together an Easter message for this time. We need this year’s Easter.
 
But then every year when I read this marvellous text from John’s Gospel, I notice something new. And this year, straightaway, I noticed, perhaps as you did, Jesus telling Mary ‘Do not touch me’. ‘Noli me tangere’ in Latin - evoking memories of the Tango – in which the dancers touch one another with almost every part of their bodies getting involved. Jesus tells Mary not to touch him, not to hold on to him. These two do not tango. In one very famous and beloved painting of this Gospel reading (by Titian) Jesus is shown pulling away from Mary. Sadly, it’s a gesture that seems all too familiar to us now. All those walks where people cross the road to avoid getting too close. All those moments when we are doing our best always to stay two metres apart. The queues in the supermarket, spaced out in lines. Even those most painful moments when we can only wave at those we love or speak to them from the doorstep – those times when we have to hold back from touch and embrace. This kind of social distancing has been the reality of our lives for many months. We have understood in a way that we never expected or imagined, what it means not to be able to touch one another. In this story from John’s Gospel we see how the Word has become flesh, but not at this point, flesh that can be touched or held. ‘Do not touch me’, he says.
 
It may be that some of us here are longing to be able to touch someone else; someone who we haven’t seen for months, or perhaps someone who has now died and whose body is no longer there for us to hold, though we so long to. Not to be able to touch and hold is part of the almost physical and profound pain of bereavement. So, we find ourselves identifying today with the longing and the loss and desire for touch and comfort – for something we cannot have. And it is good to see echoed in the holy pages of the Gospels this intense longing, this loss that we now know so deeply, as we long for those who have died or as we try to keep distance from each other in order to keep one another safe.
 
But this is hardly, itself, good news – not an answer to a pandemic or to death or grief. Where can we hear the Gospel that will transform our pain and loss today? Well, the most profound hope  is there in this passage. It’s in Mary’s journey from grief and bereavement to confident proclamation. Have you noticed that several times in the text Mary talks about Jesus being ‘taken away’. At the beginning she runs to Simon Peter and to the other disciples and tells them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb’. Later, the angels ask why she is weeping and she says, ‘They have taken away my Lord…’. And then when she sees the gardener she says, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away..’ and she even says that once she knows where the body is, ‘I will take him away’.. But once Jesus speaks she hears that Jesus is not to be taken anywhere at all, but is going home to God. And she tells the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’. Mary cannot touch, as she longs to, but she can hear and see. And she learns that Jesus has not been taken away, and indeed that he cannot be taken away. He is going to the Father, the very one with whom Jesus has already told the disciples he is at one and the disciples too ( all there in chapter 17). Jesus is reminding the disciples, Mary and us too – dear readers – that he is one with God, and we are one with him. We are closer than physical touching could bring anyone. We are ‘one’. The unity we long for is his and ours. The separation that death creates and that a pandemic compels us to observe is – at a deep level - absolutely overcome. Mary does not need to hold on to Jesus now, because a much closer relationship than that has come into being. She is held by God. We are held and can hold onto God. We are made one with the creator of all life. Death cannot hold us now. Life has us in its embrace. It is death itself that is banished to a distance as life is made new.
 
In a time of pandemic we have not even been able to reach out – in the way we used to do - and hold the bread that becomes for us the body of Christ. Even that most sacramental of touching is compromised. But, just as no-one did take away the body of Jesus then, so no-one can take away the presence of Jesus with us right now. Even if we can only watch and take part ‘in spirit’, or even if we take our own bread at home rather than in church, we are being made one with God and life in us is being renewed. We may well long for how things were, we may grieve for what is taken away, but nothing, nothing, no power on earth or in heaven, can ever take Jesus away from us. He is with God, and he is with us – more powerfully even than human touch can imagine. No-one has taken him away and no-one will. As Mary said, ‘We have seen the Lord’.
 
This Easter may be different from other ones – in ways that we all understand. But at the same time it is like all other Easters. In just the same way we can know that no-one has taken Jesus away – the truth is that he is drawing us close in order to lift us into the very presence of God with him. The God revealed in the risen Christ keeps no distance from us, but is at one with us, sharing our grief and sorrow and lifting us with him into the joy of God’s presence and the hope of new life. May it be so, for you and for all for whom you long. Amen.
 
Affirmation of Faith
 
God’s reconciling act in Jesus Christ is a mystery
which the Scriptures describe in various ways.
 
It is called the sacrifice of a lamb, a shepherd’s life given for his sheep, atonement by a priest; again it is ransom of a slave, payment of debt, vicarious satisfaction of a legal penalty, and victory over the powers of evil. These are expressions of a truth which remains beyond the reach of all theory in the depths of God’s love for humankind.
 
They reveal the gravity, cost,
and sure achievement of God’s reconciling work in which we trust.
 
Hymn       This joyful Eastertide!
George Ratcliffe Woodward (1894)
  This joyful Eastertide
away with sin and sorrow!
My love, the crucified,
hath sprung to life this morrow.
 
Had Christ, who once was slain,
ne’er burst his three-day prison,
our faith had been in vain.
But now hath Christ arisen,
arisen, arisen, arisen.

2 My flesh in hope shall rest
and for a season slumber
till trump from east to west
shall wake the dead in number.
 
3 Death’s flood hath lost its chill
since Jesus crossed the river.
Lover of souls, from ill
my passing soul deliver.   Communion
 
This is the table of Christ, the feast of life  to which all are invited,
and all are made welcome.
 
Come on this day of new beginning, come limping or dancing, come at home or in church, come in your bed or on your feet, come with your wounds and your griefs, come rejoicing, come with hope. Come and eat bread,  come and drink wine,  For this is the table of Christ.
 
Introduction to and prayer over offering
 
We offer to you O God, this bread - the food we eat each day this wine - made for joyfulness and celebration. Our money - the symbol of our work and possessions, and ourselves - all that we love and all that we are. May all give glory to you and bring joy to the world, Amen.
 
Hymn       Easter people raise your Voices
John of Damascus 676 – 749
  Easter people raise your voices
Sounds of heaven
in earth should ring
Christ has brought us
Heaven's choices
Heavenly music let it ring
Alleluia alleluia
Easter people let us sing

2: Fear of death
can no more stop us
From our pressing here below
For our Lord empowered us
To triumph over every foe
Alleluia alleluia
On to victory now we go   3: Every day to us is Easter, with its resurrection song
Even when life overwhelms us, Easter people sing this song:
Alleluia alleluia, everlasting Sunday song.

 
On the night he was handed over, Jesus took bread gave thanks, broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you. Do this to remember me.
In the same way he also took the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this whenever you drink it, to remember me.’
 
Now, at this table, remembering the last supper and also the supper at Emmaus when the risen Christ was known in the breaking of bread, we come to meet with Christ and to celebrate the joy of life.
 
The Prayer of Thanksgiving
 
Eternal God, we praise you and give you thanks for you created us and gave us life and in Christ, you renew us again. You broke out of the tomb –  and from the tragedy of death you brought forth joy.  On the first day of the week, while it was still dark, you were raised in power and our world was lit with hope. In the early dawn, before even the birds sang,
you rose to sing the song of life.

And so with those who found the tomb empty and believed, with those who met you risen from death, and with all those who have loved you throughout the ages, we praise you his Easter day.
 
Remembering your passion and resurrection, knowing that you died for us and live for us, we set forth this bread and wine.
 
Come now, Holy Spirit of our God, to breathe on these things, and bring new life and joy to us, that the risen Christ may be present here and that we may go forth in power to live a new life in the world. Amen.
 
The bread of heaven in Jesus Christ
The cup of salvation in Jesus Christ.
 
The Sharing
 
Music:      Victimae Paschali Laudes
 
Intercessions
 
We thank you God, for this great joy beyond words.
 
A silence of thankfulness…
 
As we remember the stories of Easter we pray for our world:
 
We remember the women who came while it was still dark to honour your body, and we pray for all those who now tend to the dying and dead, that they may know the worth of what they do…
 
We think of the women whose stories and testimony of resurrection were not believed and we pray for those who have very little power in this world. May their voices be heard at last and their truth made plain…
 
We remember the disciples on the Emmaus road who discovered that you were with them as they broke the bread, and we pray for all who do not yet see or know your loving presence with them…
 
We think of Thomas who doubted and who needed the evidence of his eyes, and we pray for all who are seeking or questioning faith. May they find those who will truly listen to them and hear their cry…
 
We remember Peter, consumed by guilt and shame after betraying you, and we pray for new beginnings for all who struggle to know that they are forgiven and free…
 
May we all find those who will lead us back to life...
 
We think of the disciples who caught a miraculous catch, so huge that the nets burst – and we pray for the mission of the Church.  May our faith be so renewed that it is visible, credible and attractive to those who meet us…
 
We remember Saul of Tarsus, who met the risen Christ on the road to Damascus and who was transformed. We pray for a world that needs your light to transform every place where suffering is deep and oppression strong.
 
 We think of the hundreds of people who were added to their number in the earliest days of the Church, and we pray for the crowds of people in our world who are crying in pain or suffering and who long for peace.
 
We remember the great story of Easter, the good news of life, and the hope of redemption. May we treasure it, live it and proclaim it; with our words and our lives, today and every day, Amen.
 
Hymn       Thine be the Glory
Edmond Louis Budry. (1854-1932)  tr. Richard Birch Hoyle (1875-1939)   Thine be the glory,
risen, conquering Son;
endless is the victory
thou o’er death hast won;
angels in bright raiment
rolled the stone away,
kept the folded grave-clothes
where thy body lay.
 
2: Lo, Jesus meets us,
risen from the tomb;
lovingly he greets us,
scatters fear and gloom;
let the Church with gladness
hymns of triumph sing,
for her Lord now liveth,
death hath lost its sting:
  Thine be the glory, risen, conquering Son;
endless is the victory thou o’er death hast won!
 
3: No more we doubt thee,
glorious Prince of life;
life is naught without thee:
aid us in our strife;
make us more than conquerors,
through thy deathless love;
bring us safe through Jordan
to thy home above.
 
Blessing
 
May the God who has conquered death
bless you with life and joy
this Easter and always,
And the blessing of God;
Creator, Christ and Comforter,
be with you. Amen
 
Closing Music
 
Sources and thanks
 
Christ the Lord is risen today - Charles Wesley (1707-88) sung by Maddy Prior accompanied by the Carnival Band from the album Sing Lustily and with Good Cheer.
This joyful Eastertide! - George Ratcliffe Woodward (1894) sung on BBC’s Songs of Praise
Easter people raise your Voices  - John of Damascus 676 – 749 sung by the choir and people of Polk St United Methodist Church, Amarillo, Texas
Victimae Paschali Laudes - (“To the Paschal victim let Christians offer up their songs of praise”) by Wipo of Burgundy, 11th Century) - Unknown performers.
Thine be the Glory - Edmond Louis Budry. (1854-1932)  tr. Richard Birch Hoyle (1875-1939) – sung on BBC’s Songs of Praise
 
Closing Organ Piece: Komm Gott Schӧpfer Heiliger Geist (“Come God, creator Holy Ghost”) by Johann Sebastian Bach (organ of Basilica Santa Maria Dei Assunta, Montecatini Terme, Italy – 2016).
Played by, and received, with thanks, from Brian Cotterill. http://briancotterill.webs.com
 
Thanks to Anne Hewling, John Young, Lorraine Webb and Melanie Hall for reading various 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 © 2021 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Easter Sunday 2021

Sun, 04/04/2021 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion Easter Sunday 2021 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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St Mark 16: 1-8

When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.  They had been saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?’ When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed.  But he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him.  But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.’  So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

Reflection   Go and Tell

In most, if not in all cultures, the thought of dying and coming to life is crazy. People don’t rise from the dead after dying, back then and now. The three women, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome had every reason to believe that Jesus would still be dead when they approached the tomb. Arguably we would have thought the same. As clearly recorded by Mark, these women didn’t anticipate the resurrection. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us away from the tomb?” Unfortunately, none of them would even remember what Jesus said would happen. “It is necessary that the Son of Man suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, be killed, and be raised the third day.” As the story unfolds, you realise that people didn’t expect Jesus to rise from the dead, even his own disciples. The attitude of the disciples was that everything had finished in tragedy.

The women’s witness of the empty tomb is a message to be proclaimed: “But go and tell.“ Who are the audience here? It is the disciples, and Mark singles out Peter as the spokesperson. So someone has to proclaim this awesome story of the resurrection. We know from the other gospels that the women didn't stay silent forever. The message of the young man is addressed to us. Go and tell the world that Jesus is alive. Therefore, we must not merely celebrate the resurrection, but we respond to it. In short, Mark’s gospel calls us to act and speak: Go and tell. On this Easter Sunday, as we gather at the tomb, it is up to you and me to make a decision. Will we live in fear, or will we go and tell?

Prayer

God give us new eyes to which to behold your glory and presence on this Easter Day. 

Jesus give us the grace of Easter and teach us to be thankful for your sacrifice. 

Holy Spirit brighten our view of the world with renewed hope in the coming of your Kingdom.

Amen.     --> Today's writer The Rev’d Samuel Silungwe, minister, Rockingham Forest Group (London Road, Geddington and Brigstock URCs), in Kettering.   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 © 2021 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 3rd April 2021

Sat, 03/04/2021 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 3rd April 2021 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 Mark 15: 42-47
  When evening had come, and since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath,  Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.  Then Pilate wondered if he were already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he had been dead for some time. When he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the body to Joseph. Then Joseph bought a linen cloth, and taking down the body,  wrapped it in the linen cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock. He then rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where the body was laid.

Reflection

Sometimes we feel there is nothing we can do.  In the face of illness, pandemic, and death we feel helpless.  Today, the Church has nothing to do - except to watch and wait at the tomb.  Today we recall when God died on the Cross and, in the terrible shadow of death, there is nothing, seemingly, we can do.

And yet things happened.  
  • Joseph of Arimathea had the courage to go to Pilate to perform one last mercy for Jesus; to give him the dignity of burial after the indignity of naked crucifixion.  
 
  • Joseph took Jesus’ body down, tenderly wrapping him in a cloth and laid Him in a newly hewn tomb.  
 
  • Mary and Mary watched and noted - no doubt planning to come back after the Sabbath to clean Jesus’ body and prepare him for a proper funeral.

There is always something we can do in the face of illness, pandemic and death.  It might not seem much but we can chat, offer the shoulder to cry on, look out for each other, find practical ways of support and stand with those who grieve.  

Joseph, Mary, and Mary probably felt there was nothing they could do yet their actions - seemingly meaningless at the time - are recorded for posterity and remembered every year as we wait at the tomb wondering what we can do.

Prayer

O God of our pain, our grief,
and our helplessness,
hold us when we wait,
comfort us when we feel there is nothing to be done,
and encourage us in our everyday love.
Amen. --> Today's writer The Rev’d Andy Braunston works with four churches in and around 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 © 2021 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotions Good Friday Service 2021 - The Revd. Ruth Whitehead

Fri, 02/04/2021 - 09:45
96 URC Daily Devotions Good Friday Service 2021 - The Revd. 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Ruth Whitehead View this email in your browser 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
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Service for Good Friday 2021
 

 
The Rev’d Ruth Whitehead Introduction  
Welcome to this service, where we take time to reflect on the awful reality of Good Friday: a day of solemn worship, inspired by the reality of what it means to see God-made-flesh die on a cross of pain.
 
My name is Ruth Whitehead and I am a minister of the United Reformed Church. I currently serve as Moderator of the South Western Synod, based in Taunton in Somerset.
 
This is a reflective service, and I invite you, when you are listening, to press ‘pause’ at any point and give yourself time to reflect deeply and to receive God’s grace in this day.
 
We begin our worship using the hymn ‘There is a green hill, far away’, written by Cecil Frances Alexander. She was born in Dublin, and lived for many years in Derry, where her grave lies. I once stood on the walls of the city of Derry and was shown a green hill, beyond the walls, which it is claimed inspired Alexander in her simple hymn. Her use of ‘us’ and ‘we’ throughout the hymn makes us reflect on both the cost and the meaning of the cross. She sums this up in the last verse with the repetition of ‘dearly’ – O dearly, dearly has he loved… reminding us both that Christ paid dearly on the cross and that Christ loves us dearly. There can be no better thought to begin our worship.
 
Hymn       There is A Green Hill Far Away
Cecil Francis Alexander   There is a green hill far away, 
without a city wall, 
where the dear Lord was crucified 
who died to save us all.

2: We may not know,
we cannot tell, 
what pains he had to bear, 
but we believe it was for us 
he hung and suffered there.

3: He died that we might
be forgiven, 
he died to make us good, 
that we might go at last to heaven, 
saved by his precious blood.

4: O dearly, dearly has he loved,
And we must love him too, 
and trust in his redeeming blood, 
and try his works to do.   Prayer of Adoration
 
Let us pray:
Holy God, who is eternally Father Son and Spirit,
We take this time to pause in our lives to wonder at the Cross.
We wonder how you, heavenly Father,
could bear to send the Son to die out of love for the world.
We wonder how you, Jesus the Son of God,
could bear to suffer at the hands of those who hated you,
and yet forgive.
We wonder how you, the Holy Spirit,
could move in the lives and the hearts of those who feared so deeply.
As we wonder, so surround us with your love, we pray,
that we may bear to look again at the Cross
And know how dearly we are loved.  Amen
 
Prayer of Confession
 
Our prayer of confession is based on the ‘Reproaches’ from the Roman Catholic veneration of the cross on Good Friday. The prayers are presented as Christ crying out to us, His people, against the injustice we have done after all the wonders God has performed for us.
 
Let us pray:
 
O my people, what have I done to you?
How have I wearied you?  Answer me!
For I brought you out of the land of Egypt,
and led you to a good land,
but you led your Saviour to a cross.
 
Holy God, holy and mighty, holy and immortal, have mercy upon us.
 
I parted the sea before you: but with a spear you parted my side.
I took you through the desert with a pillar of cloud,
but you took me to the judgment hall of Pilate.
 
Holy God, holy and mighty, holy and immortal, have mercy upon us.
 
I rained down manna for you to eat,
and gave you water to drink from the rock
but you rained blows on my head, and gave me vinegar to drink.
 
Holy God, holy and mighty, holy and immortal, have mercy upon us.
 
I made you a royal people, crowned with honour
and lifted to a place of greatness,
But you crowned my head with thorns and lifted me up on a cross
 
Holy God, holy and mighty, holy and immortal, have mercy upon us.
 
Hebrews 10:16-24
 
The Holy Spirit testifies saying,
"This is the covenant that I will make with them
after those days, says the Lord:
I will put my laws in their hearts,
and I will write them on their minds,"
he also adds,
"I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more."
Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.
Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. 
 
Words of Forgiveness
 
May the almighty love of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit –
Hold you, forgive you, and make you holy. Amen.
 
The account of Jesus’ crucifixion: John 19: 16b-27
 
They took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them. Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, "Do not write, 'The King of the Jews,' but, 'This man said, I am King of the Jews.'" Pilate answered, "What I have written I have written." When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. So they said to one another, "Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it." This was to fulfill what the scripture says,
 
"They divided my clothes among themselves,
and for my clothing they cast lots."
 
And that is what the soldiers did.
Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, "Woman, here is your son." Then he said to the disciple, "Here is your mother." And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.
 
Reflection
 
We are used to thinking of Mary, the mother of Jesus, ‘pondering things in her heart’ at Jesus’ birth. In Alison Robertson’s hymn we hear Mary’s ponderings at the foot of the cross:
 
Hymn       While Mary was Watching
Alison M Robertson
 
While Mary was watching, they hung Jesus high.
His feet hung beyond her, his hands reached the sky.
His blood and his sweat soaked and matted his hair,
She wished she could touch him, and show him her care.
 
2: She wished he could hear her; not even her shout
would carry; the hubbub was shutting her out.
His friends kept safe distance, away from the scorn;
but she stood there rueing the day he was born.
 
3: She thought of the angel, before he began.
She thought of the song of the faithful old man.
She thought of the day she delighted to find
her boy in the temple, with God in his mind.
 
4: She gazed at the Son, whom the Father had sent;
and looking, and thinking, she saw what he meant.
Lord Jesus, our Saviour, with Mary we bow
to honour the death which gives life to us now.
 
The word incarnation is used a lot in our celebration of Christmas. We hear the story of God’s love made flesh in Jesus, born from Mary’s body, and we might wonder what it means to say that God is one of us, with us, among us.
 
We are used to thinking, too, of the bodily ministry of Jesus – the living breathing human doing the work of God’s kingdom and revealing his divine nature through teaching, healing and miracles.
 
On Good Friday we contemplate the incarnation in a new way.
As Jesus suffers and dies we cannot deny his human nature – real flesh, real blood, real pain. But we see more than just the suffering of an innocent man – we see the true depths to which God’s love will go for us, as Jesus, God made flesh, allows human beings to do their worst to him.
 
Hymn       O Sacred Head Sore Wounded
Paul Gerhard   O sacred Head, sore wounded,
with grief & shame weighed down;
O royal head surrounded
with thorns, thy only crown;
O Lod of life and glory,
what bliss till now was thine!
I read the wondrous story
I joy to call thee mine.
 
2: What thou, my Lord,
hast suffered
was all for sinner’s gain;
mine, mine was the transgression,
but thine the deadly pain.
By this, thy bitter passion,
Good Shepherd, think on me;
vouchsafe to me compassion,
unworthy though I be.

3: For this, thy dying sorrow,
O Jesus, dearest Friend,
what language shall I borrow
to thank thee without end?
O make me thine for ever,
and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never
outlive my love to thee.
 
4: Be near when I am dying,
and, show thy cross to me
that I, for succour flying,
may rest my eyes on thee.
My Lord, thy grace receiving,
let faith my fears dispel,
that I may die believing.
and in thee, Lord, die well.  
Reflection 2
 
The genius of this translation of Paul Gerhardt’s hymn, which we have just heard, is in the use of the words ‘thine’ and ‘mine’. It reflects on the divine and human nature of Jesus, the suffering of Jesus, and the love of Jesus…and then it makes them personal to each one of us.
 
I call Jesus ‘mine’, I admit that sin is ‘mine’, I ask the Good Shepherd to think on ‘me’ and make me ‘thine’. And so, in the final verse, I move from reflection on the death of Jesus to my own death that I may die believing, in thee, Lord die well.
 
The death of Jesus on the cross is for me – for you – for each one of the human race who cannot help being wrong and broken, but who sees on the cross the incarnate love of God broken to make things right for us.

This kind of reflection is nothing new: John Wesley describes it in his account of his ‘Aldersgate experience’, when his heart was strangely warmed  “I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation, and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death”.
 
Jesus dies: John 19: 28 – 42
 
After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfil the scripture), "I am thirsty." A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, "It is finished." Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
 
Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed. Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. (He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth.) These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, "None of his bones shall be broken." And again another passage of scripture says, "They will look on the one whom they have pierced."
 
After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.
 
Reflection 3
 
Jesus shows us the depths of God’s love for us in his suffering: but pain and death have neither the first word nor the last word in the story of created life.
 
Throughout this next hymn about the cross, Alan Gaunt uses the name Love (with a capital L), in a way that might remind us of the use of ‘logos’ or The Word at the start of John’s gospel.
 
Hymn       The Love That Clothes Itself in Light
Alan Gaunt
  The Love that clothes itself in light stands naked now, despised, betrayed
receiving blows to face and head from hands that love itself has made.
 
2: The Love that lifts the stars and sun collapses, spent, beneath the Cross;
the Love that fills the universe, goes on to death and total loss.

3: Love, helpless, comes to Calvary, rejected, scorned and crucified;
Love hangs in shame, and dies alone, but Love abased, is glorified.
  4: Extinguished with the sun at noon, Love’s light transcends all history;
Love wrapped in linen, Love entombed, still wraps all heaven in mystery.   5: Though Love is lost, Love finds us here; though Love is absent, Love remains;
where Love is finished, Love begins; where Love is dead, Love lives and reigns!
 
Alan Gaunt’s hymn beautifully seesaws between the divinity of the Love that in the timeless Godhead was present at creation and the humanity of Christ who is naked, despised and betrayed. Here is the mystery and the glory of the cross – that the creator accepts suffering from the creatures Love itself has made; that the one whose glory fills the universe is emptied to the point of death.
 
But when we hold these two opposites in tension we find, right in the heart of this hymn, that Love, abased, is glorified.
 
Even as we reflect on the agony of the cross, we still call this Friday ‘Good’ – because we know this is not just another injustice in a broken world, it is the means of bringing healing to the broken and life to the world.  The triumphant final verse of this hymn reminds us that Love which is lost, absent, finished and dead is the Love which finds us, remains with us, and begins again, to live and reign, and to bring all people hope.
 
Prayer for the World
 
As we prepare ourselves to pray for the world, we sing a hymn based on Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s words ‘We turn to God when we are sorely pressed’

Hymn       We Turn to God When We Are Sorely Pressed
Dietrich Bonhoeffer 1906-1945
 
We turn to God when we are sorely pressed;
we pray for help, and ask for peace and bread;
we seek release from illness, guilt, and death:
all people do, in faith or unbelief.
 
2: We turn to God when he is sorely pressed,
and find him poor, scorned, without roof and bread,
bowed under weight of weakness, sin, and death:
faith stands by God in his dark hour of grief.
 
3: God turns to us when we are sorely pressed,
and feeds our souls and bodies with his bread;
for one and all Christ gives himself in death:
through his forgiveness sin will find relief.
 
Loving God,
Even as Jesus is abused and scorned, his cross speaks to us of your love for all.
In Jesus, ‘sorely pressed’, yet still forgiving, we glimpse your healing for human bodies and souls. And so we bring to you our prayers for ourselves and our world.
 
You know our need for release from illness, guilt and death. We pray for the millions affected by the spread of Covid-19, for a greater equality in healthcare and vaccine availability, and for all who care for others,
that they may know healing.
 
Loving God we turn to you.. and we know you hear us
 
You know our need to be fed in body, mind and soul. We pray for those in desperate poverty, or who scrape an existence,
that they may know life in all its fulness.
 
Loving God we turn to you.. and we know you hear us
 
You know our need for peace and wholeness of mind. We pray for those battling injustice or facing danger and hatred,
that those with power may use it wisely.
 
Loving God we turn to you.. and we know you hear us
 
You know our need for security and a loving home. We pray for those driven out as refugees by poverty, violence, or human wickedness,
that they may find a safe place.
 
Loving God we turn to you.. and we know you hear us
 
Loving God, as we turn to you, you find that you have turned to us –
with forgiveness, grace, healing and new life.
Thanks be to you. Amen.
 
Blessing
 
As we near the end of our time of worship and prepare ourselves to return to whatever our daily routine looks like, we sing or listen to Isaac Watts’ wonderful hymn ‘When I survey the wondrous cross’.
   
Hymn       When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
Isaac Watts
  When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
my richest gain I count but loss,
and pour contempt on all my pride.
 
2: Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
save in the death of Christ my God;
all the vain things, that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

3: See from his head, his hands, his feet,
sorrow and love flow mingled down;
did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
or thorns compose so rich a crown?
 
4: His dying crimson, like a robe,
spreads o’er his body on the tree;
then I am dead to all the globe,
and all the globe is dead to me.   5: Were the whole realm of nature mine,
that were a present far too small;
love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all.
 
If we want to take one word into the rest of our day this Good Friday – perhaps ‘wondrous’ is the best one – a word we will hear again in our closing music.
 
May the wondrous love of God be with you
May the wondrous glory of Jesus on the cross go with you
May the wondrous peace of the Spirit stay with you,
Today and forever. Amen.
 
Closing Music           What wondrous love is this
                                    James Christopher
 
What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul?
What wondrous love is this, O my soul?
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
to bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
to bear the dreadful curse for my soul?
 
When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down,
when I was sinking down, sinking down,
when I was sinking down beneath God’s righteous frown,
Christ laid aside his crown for my soul, for my soul,
Christ laid aside his crown for my soul.
 
To God and to the Lamb I will sing, I will sing,
to God and to the Lamb I will sing,
to God and to the Lamb who is the great I Am,
while millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing,
while millions join the theme, I will sing.
 
And when from death I’m free I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on,
and when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on,
and when from death I’m free, I’ll sing and joyful be,
and through eternity I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on,
and through eternity I’ll sing on.
 
Sources and Thanks
 
There is A Green Hill Far Away - Cecil Francis Alexander - sung by the choir of King’s College Cambridge.
While Mary was Watching - © Alison M Robertson (SCM Press) - Sung by Phil &Lythan Nevard, Susan Durber and Ruth Whitehead
O Sacred Head Sore Wounded - Paul Gerhard - sung by Phil and Lythan Nevard, Susan Durber and Ruth Whitehead.
The Love That Clothes Itself in Light - © Alan Gaunt - sung by Phil and Lythan Nevard, Susan Durber and Ruth Whitehead
We Turn to God When We Are Sorely Pressed - Dietrich Bonhoeffer 1906-1945 - sung by Edinburgh University Singers, Ian McCrorie (Conductor), John Kitchen (Organ)
When I Survey the Wondrous Cross - Isaac Watts - sung by the choir of King’s College Cambridge
What wondrous love is this - James Christopher 1840 - sung at the Pittsburgh Regional All-Day Sacred Harp Singing March 2014
 
Thanks to Marion Thomas, John Marsh, Mandy Hibbert, Sue Cresswell and Claire Ette for reading various 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 © 2021 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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