URC Devotion

URC Daily Devotion Monday 25th May

Mon, 25/05/2020 - 06:00
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Genesis 18: 1 - 15

The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground. He said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord,[a] do not pass your servant by.  Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree.  Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way—now that you have come to your servant.” “Very well,” they answered, “do as you say.” So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. “Quick,” he said, “get three seahs  of the finest flour and knead it and bake some bread.” Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it.  He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them. While they ate, he stood near them under a tree. “Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him. “There, in the tent,” he said. Then one of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.” Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?” Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’  Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.” But he said, “Yes, you did laugh.”

Reflection  

From Genesis to Jesus, from Jesus to Paul, the theme of hospitality runs through the Bible. Generous, cheerful, unsparing hospitality is the mark of the people of God and this is extended especially to strangers, foreigners, refugees. The story of Abraham by the oaks of Mamre makes this clear. In the heat of the day Abraham is having a siesta in front of his tent; while he is dozing, suddenly he becomes aware of three men standing near-by. At least he thinks they are men, we know better! This is the LORD! He rushes to meet them, greets them warmly and with respect, and in a rather long-winded speech, invites them to stop, rest, have a foot-wash and a bite to eat. 

Sarah his wife, is pressed into action immediately to bake bread with the finest flour; Abraham selects a tender calf and gives it to the servant to cook. A lavish feast, scarcely a snack, is prepared and Abraham waits upon the strangers as they sit in the shade and eat. Then the unexpected happens. One of the men speaks to Abraham, and promises that Sarah will bear a son. It’s too ridiculous! Sarah is well past child-bearing age. But miracle of miracles, she will bear a son and through Abraham’s descendants, all nations of the earth shall be blessed.

Hospitality brings blessing to the recipient and to the donor. As we welcome the stranger to our homes, our churches, our communities, our nation, we glimpse the possibility of good beyond the bleakness of our current situation. As individuals and churches, we are nourished by God’s word and called to respond with thanksgiving to our Lord’s abundant hospitality. As we share the feast he has prepared; so we strangers are welcomed with dignity and respect.

Prayer

Gracious God,
You have blessed us so lavishly,
with the gift of life and the gift of new life in Christ Jesus;
and your Spirit is at work among us,
continually transforming us and our world
according to your purposes of love.
May we in our turn honour you by the welcome
we extend to the stranger and the refugee.
Through Jesus Christ we ask it, Amen. --> Today's writer The Rev’d Fleur Houston, retired minister, Park Green and Bollington URC, Macclesfield Copyright New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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Sunday Worship for 24th May - The Rev'd Michael Hopkins

Sun, 24/05/2020 - 09:45
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Below you will find the Order of Service, prayers, hymns and sermon for today's service.   You can either simply read this or you can
  click here
to listen to the service and sing along with the hymns.  This will open up a new screen, at the bottom of the screen you will see a play symbol.  Press that, then come back to this window so you can follow along with the service. Sunday Worship from the United Reformed Church
for Sunday 24th May  





Today’s service comes from the Spire Church, a Methodist and United Reformed Church local ecumenical partnership at Farnham in Surrey.  The service is led by the Rev’d Michael Hopkins.  
You may wish to light a candle during the Call to Worship.  
Welcome
 
Good morning.  My name is Michael Hopkins, and I am minister of a group of United Reformed and Methodist churches, based around Farnham in Surrey.  Our service today uses the readings for Ascension Day, which was last Thursday, and which is the theme for today’s service.
 
Call To Worship
 
We meet in the name of God, the Holy Trinity of Love
 
who knows our needs, hears our cries, feels our pain, and heals our wounds.
 
God is our light and our salvation. In God’s name we light this candle and are reminded of Jesus, the Light of the World, God’s own Voice who came to live with us.
 
May our hearts be open to you, O God, now and always. Amen
 
Hail the day that sees him rise
Charles Wesley 1739
 
Alleluia is sung after each line
                  Hail the day that sees him rise,
to his throne beyond the skies;
Christ, the lamb for sinners giv'n,
enters now the highest heav'n!
 
2: There for Him high triumph waits:
lift your heads, eternal gates,
He has conquered death and sin;
take the King of glory in   3: See now heav'n its Lord receives;
yet He loves the earth He leaves,
though returning to His throne,
still He calls the world His own.
 
Prayers of Approach, Confession, Assurance of Pardon
 
Loving heavenly Father, you are glory and love, power and possibility.  We celebrate with you the work of your son Jesus, his humility and care, his love for the truth, his commitment to love and service, his reconciling the world to you by his life death resurrection and ascension.  We celebrate his homecoming with you, and we lift up our hearts in praise and worship.
 
As we praise your greatness, we see in the reflection our own frailty and brokenness.  Forgive any lack of worship in our lives, any grumpiness or selfishness, any frustration with the situations in which we find ourselves.

Thank you, God, that you are mercy and love, and that you have forgiven us.  Help us to accept that, and also to forgive ourselves and other people. Open our ears to hear your good news; draw us to yourself; accept and heal and empower us, so that we may draw others, too, to love and praise and live for you.   As our Saviour taught us, so we pray  Our Father
 
Introduction to the Service
 
My daughter, who’s seven, loves jokes and riddles, and I’ve got a riddle for you this morning: What has a sole but no body? A tongue but no mouth? Needs 'heeling' but there's no wound? Can be any length but is always a foot? And what is it that must always accept de-feet! The answer is a pair of shoes, of course.  There are millions of shoes in the world, from ballet shoes to walking shoes; from high-heeled shoes to Wellington boots; from trainers to babies' bootees. Think back to the last time that you bought a pair of new shoes.  Was it to find the right size, style, and colour, despite there being so many to choose from?  Or was it even more of a challenge? How many pairs of shoes do you own?  How many of them are empty just at the moment?  Perhaps empty shoes may bring memories for you?  Perhaps you might think of the last time you wore your school shoes or your work boots? When Jesus ascended into heaven, I don’t know if we he was still wearing his sandals, or whether he left them empty on the ground, but it did make me think that he when he left his disciples at the Ascension he certainly left an empty place – an emptiness after three years of being together; after the three days of death and resurrection; and after the 40 days of his re-appearings.  Perhaps some imaginary empty shoes of Jesus can help us to understand what had happened? Think a pair of football boots – perhaps they’re well worn, and have scored many goals.  They might remind us of the winning team.  At his ascension Jesus goes up to collect the cup from the Easter victory and if we're in his team we too can say 'we've won'.  Think of a pair of slippers.  Perhaps you’re wearing some just now.  At his ascension Jesus went home - to be with his daddy - where he could be relaxed and comfortable, and he’s showing us that we also have a home there. Think of a pair of sandals, perhaps like Jesus may have worn as he lived his earthly life like you and me.  At his ascension Jesus took all this experience with him, so that he can pray with us and for us. The letters of shoe – S H O E – remind us that in the ascension Jesus is Seated High Over Everything.
 
Christ triumphant ever reigning
Michael Saward (b 1932) © Jubilate Hymns
  Christ triumphant, ever reigning,
Saviour, Master, King!
Lord of heaven, our lives sustaining,
hear us as we sing:

Yours the glory and the crown,
the high renown, the eternal name.

2 Word incarnate, truth revealing,
Son of Man on earth!
power and majesty concealing
by your humble birth.   3 Suffering servant, scorned, ill-treated,
victim crucified!
death is through the Cross defeated,
sinners justified:
 
4 Priestly king, enthroned for ever
high in heaven above!
sin and death and hell shall never
stifle hymns of love:   5 So, our hearts and voices raising
through the ages long,
ceaselessly upon you gazing,
this shall be our song:
 
Prayer of Illumination
 
In a moment we’re going to hear two Bible readings, the first from the very end of Luke’s Gospel and the second from the very start of the Acts of the Apostles, which is often described as the second volume of Luke’s Gospel.  Before we read them, let us pray that god will help us to understand them.
 
Lord, break open the bread of your Word among us, and nourish us with your truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.
 
St Luke 24:44-53
 
Then Jesus said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’ Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.
 
Acts 1:1-11
 
In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over the course of forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. ‘This’, he said, ‘is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.’
 
So when they had come together, they asked him, ‘Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He replied, ‘It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up towards heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up towards heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’
 
Sermon
 
Is the ascension of Jesus a fictional story of something that couldn’t have happened, written by people in an age when they still thought the earth was flat, and so of no relevance to us today?  Or is it – although impossible to explain in modern rational and scientific terms – a literal truth? 
 
The trouble with both those positions – whilst validly held by many – is that it all seems irrelevant to most people’s lives, and the ordinary, and yet also difficult, situations and problems affecting us, our hopes, our fears; and our concerns don’t even feature, let alone find an answer or a response.
 
I’d like to suggest an alternative somewhere between those two extreme points of view, which doesn’t deny either the event or the developments of our intellect over many centuries, and so suggest that perhaps the ascension is relevant to thinking Christians with the concerns of the 21st century on their shoulders.
 
At the shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham in Norfolk (not one of my regular hang outs) there's a side chapel dedicated to the ascension, which features a large plaster pair of feet dangling from the ceiling.  A little closer to my home territory, there’s an ancient window in the chapel of The Queen's College, Oxford, which depicts a group of disconsolate disciples gazing up at a cloud from which a pair of bare feet are protruding.
 
Strange as this may seem to us, the early followers of Jesus were rooted in the traditions of the Hebrew Bible, where Elijah and Enoch ascended to heaven, and although Jesus was risen, there was no longer a physical Jesus walking around.  With their pre-scientific understanding of the world the ascension was the only way to understand - they weren’t idiots, they were making sense within the world view in which they lived.
 
The author of the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts vividly describes the ascension of Jesus.  The story of the ascension is a faith narrative.  What I mean by that is that the story cannot just be a literal history, because heaven is not physically up in the sky.  Ever since Copernicus and Galileo revolutionised our understanding of the cosmos, it’s been impossible to think of heaven as up in the sky and hell underground.  Perhaps some of you remember Yuri Gagarin, who made the first manned space flight in 1961?  I’m told by people who were around then that some were concerned that the godless Russian might use his craft to break physically into heaven.  In 1999, the then Pope, John Paul II, said, “In the context of Revelation, we know that the ‘heaven’ or ‘happiness’ in which we will find ourselves is neither an abstraction nor a physical place in the clouds, but a living, personal relationship with the Holy Trinity”.  This is what I mean when I say that the story of the ascension is a faith narrative: it’s been skilfully crafted to convey a theological message.  That message is simple, it’s the lifting up of Jesus into the Being of God, into the consciousness of God, into the Godhead.
 
George Macleod, the founder of the Iona Community, talked about the island of Iona as a thin place, meaning earth and heaven feel closer than normal.  Ascension reminds us that there are things we cannot quite touch, but sometimes we can see they’re closer than we might think.
 
Ascension also says something about value.  In our world, height is a symbol of value.  We speak of a football team going up to a higher division.  We talk of the upper House of Parliament, and of “climbing career ladders”.  The ascension of Jesus carries the idea not just of a transfer from a physical to a spiritu­al existence, but of a move by Jesus from human status to his real place of authority within creation.  There's something aspirational for us as human beings - we are perhaps more important to God than we sometimes think.  Our physical existence has spiritual significance as well.
 
Although some of us may not completely share the view of those who designed the Chapel of the Ascension at Walsingham, or the window in The Queen's College, Oxford, Jesus' ascension can still speak to us because it helps us to take a God-like view of things, to try to rise above our usual limitations, to see the glory of a life set free from fear.
 
The key to making sense of the ascension doesn’t lie in seeking a complete explanation of the practicalities, nor in debating whether and how it actually happened or not, but it may lie in finding ourselves with the group of disciples gazing up like spectators at the launch of a hot-air balloon.  The disciples surely didn't understand what was hap­pening in detail.  They were aware of loss, the final departure of Jesus, but it was with the warm glow of his blessing.  Their call to ministry hadn’t ended.  So they returned to Jerusalem and got on with their lives with a new sense of spiritual worth and physical purpose.  I think that might be the message of the ascension for us.
 
Next week we will be celebrating the coming of the Holy Spirit.  Our choice is whether to remain on the sidelines or to live as Jesus lived, but there is really only one choice for us to make.  At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Christ, God with us.  At Easter, we celebrate the Risen Christ in our midst.  It is right for us to do that.  But the ascension affords us the opportunity not to wallow in the presence of God, the presence of Jesus, but to reflect on his absence.  We live between the beginning and the end, when the prophecy of Jesus has not yet come true but can do so.  Jesus’ absence is a call to decision, to action and away from the sidelines.  Do we stand idly looking up to heaven or do we set about the work of Jesus?  In Matthew’s gospel – the parable of the sheep and the goats – Jesus asks each one of us if we have fed the hungry, visited the sick and welcomed the strangers.  Now is our chance.
 
 
Music for Reflection by Leslie Schram
 
Ascension, by Malcolm Guite: 
 
We saw his light break through the cloud of glory
Whilst we were rooted still in time and place
As earth became a part of Heaven’s story
And heaven opened to his human face.
We saw him go and yet we were not parted
He took us with him to the heart of things
The heart that broke for all the broken-hearted
Is whole and Heaven-centred now, and sings,
Sings in the strength that rises out of weakness,
Sings through the clouds that veil him from our sight,
Whilst we ourselves become his clouds of witness
And sing the waning darkness into light,
His light in us, and ours in him concealed,
Which all creation waits to see revealed.
 
Music for Reflection by Leslie Schram
 
Affirmation of Faith
 
We believe in God.
Despite His silence and His secrets we believe that He lives.
Despite evil and suffering we believe that He made the world so that all would be happy in life.
Despite the limitations of our reason and the revolts of our hearts,
we believe in God.
 
We believe in Jesus Christ.
Despite the centuries which separate us from the time when he came to earth, we believe in His word.
Despite our incomprehension and our doubt, we believe in His resurrection.
Despite his weakness and poverty, we believe in His reign.
 
We believe in the Holy Spirit.
Despite appearances we believe He guides the Church;
despite death we believe in eternal life; despite ignorance and disbelief,
we believe that the Kingdom of God is promised to all. Amen.
 
Prayers of Thanksgiving and Intercession
 
Loving heavenly Father, God of eternity, today we look both back and forward: back to the ministry and passion of your Son Jesus, fulfilling the words of ancient scriptures, back to his glorious resurrection, his assurance of life's triumph over death; and forward to the Church's earliest years, to challenges made and lives turned round.
 
As we thank you for the Gospel of hope, and for your offering of forgiveness, give us the wisdom and courage we need to be your witnesses in today's world.  Through the gift of your Holy Spirit grant us the insight to be true to Jesus' life and teaching, and the compassion to offer good news to people near and far.
 
God, we bring you the needs of the world around us, near and far.  Help us to show the good news of your love to everyone.  Fill us and all your Church with your Holy Spirit, so that we may serve you and others, working with you in building your kingdom, and building up your body on earth.
 
Amid the challenges of our current situation, help us to live your peace.  Grant us the will to use the gifts we have to how and to share your coming kingdom.  Equip us to work in your service, and build up your body on earth.
 
God, we bring you our prayers for those who suffer in body, mind, or spirit, especially those with Covid19, and those who have lost loved ones may they know your hope.  Be with all who work in the medical profession: medics, support staff, and chaplains; be with those in the emergency services, those keep our post and parcels arriving, and those who deliver and sell our food. 
 
Lead us, God, in humility, gentleness, and patience.  Help us to be forbearing with one another, equip us to serve you and others, build up your body on earth, and guide our footsteps and the footsteps of those for whom we pray as we try to follow you.
 
We ask these and all our prayers, spoken and silent, in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.
 
Offering and Prayer of Dedication
 
God has been very generous to so many of us in so many ways.  If you’re lucky enough still to have your income coming in each week or each month, our churches and other charities still need our support, whether through our banks and by putting cash aside, so I’m going to offer a prayer for this: Generous God, as thank you for all that you give to us, and we ask you to bless our time, our skills, and our money, as we use them to serve you; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.
 
Crown him with many crowns
Matthew Bridges 1800 - 1894   Crown Him with many crowns,
the Lamb upon His throne;
Hark! how the heav’nly anthem drowns
all music but its own!
Awake, my soul, and sing
of Him who died for thee,
and hail Him as thy matchless King
through all eternity.
 
2: Crown Him the Lord of Love:
behold His hands and side;
rich wounds yet visible above
in beauty glorified:
no angel in the sky
can fully bear that sight,
but downward bends his burning eye
at mysteries so bright.
  
3: Crown Him the Lord of peace,
whose power a sceptre sways
from pole to pole, that wars may cease,
and all be prayer and praise.
His reign shall know no end,
and round His piercéd feet
fair flowers of glory now extend
their fragrance ever sweet.
 
4: Crown Him the Lord of years,
the Potentate of time.
Creator of the rolling spheres,
ineffably sublime.
All hail, Redeemer, hail!
for Thou hast died for me;
Thy praise shall never, never fail
throughout eternity.
Blessing
 
Our service has ended. As you return to other matters, the blessing of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is upon you, and all God’s people, today, tonight, and forever.  Amen.
 
  Sources   
Call to worship adapted from New Patterns of Worship and The Book of Alternative Services of the Anglican Church of Canada. Affirmation of Faith from the Reformed Church of France. Other liturgical material written by Michael Hopkins. Ascension Day Sonnet by Malcom Guite used with his permission and from Sounding the Seasons, Canterbury Press.  His blog is worth a look at https://malcolmguite.wordpress.com/blog/
 
Hail the Day sung by the OCP Session Choir. Christ Triumphant by Hyperion Records. Crown Him With Many Crowns recorded at Westminster Abbey by the BBC.  Music for reflection by Leslie Schramm of Stewarton URC. Thanks Thanks to members of Barrhead URC for recording the Call to Worship and Affirmation of faith and to Kathleen Haynes, Carol Tubbs, and Barbara Redmond for reading various spoken parts of the service. Copyright
Where in copyright words are produced in line with Barrhead URC's CCLI LIcence.
Recordings are shared in line with Barrhead URC's PRC Limited Online Music Licence no LE-0019762 and its OneLicence --> Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 24th May 2020

Sun, 24/05/2020 - 06:00
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1 O praise, O praise the LORD!
Praise him from heavens’ height!
2 All angels, give him praise;
Praise him, you hosts of light.
3 Praise him, sun, moon and stars on high,
4 You highest heavens and cloudy sky.

5 O let them praise his name,
The name of God the LORD,
For he created them
By his almighty word.
6 He set their place eternally;
For ever fixed is his decree.

7 The LORD praise from the earth,
You creatures of the deep,
8 Fire, hail, snow, clouds and winds,
Which his commandments keep.
9 You hills and trees, beasts wild and tame,
10 Small creatures, birds, exalt his name.

11 All nations and earth’s kings,
Princes and all who reign;
12 Young men and maidens too,
Both children and old men:
13 The LORD’s great name by them be praised;
His name alone on high is raised.

His glory shines abroad
Above the earth and heaven;
14 And he to his own folk
A mighty king has given.
Let Israèl give praise to God;
They are his people. Praise the LORD!

You can hear a Free Church of Scotland congregation sing the last two verses here

Reflection

In January 2004 Patrick Moore introduced an episode of The Sky At Night called “The Music of the Spheres”.   Now, to my 20th / 21st century understanding that seemed entirely sensible.   We know the solar system, with its large and small planets swinging round the sun, is blown by the wind from the sun, battered by stray rocks.   It makes sense to us that an object hit by another goes “boing”.   It is said that to Pythagoras the sight of a working blacksmith provided a new revelation of the way the vibrations of music are produced.   Pliny the elder [77AD pp. 277–8, (II.xviii.xx)]  wrote: "…occasionally Pythagoras draws on the theory of music, and designates the distance between the Earth and the Moon as a whole tone, that between the Moon and Mercury as a semitone, .... the seven tones thus producing the so-called diapason, i.e.. a universal harmony".  

The idea that all things can and should praise the Lord may be based not only on poetic imagination but also on the musical theories of the time.  With more science and the use of his xylophone Patrick demonstrated the musicality of the solar system.  

Similarly, the Psalmist’s use of “sun” “moon”, which might contain an idea based on the mythology of Greece or Babylon, allows a progressive structure to the Psalm in praise of the Lord who creates all.  This takes us from angels (greater than other gods), down through the spheres (lesser gods), through the inanimate, to the flora and fauna. The order is similar to that of Genesis ch. 1 reflecting the understanding that all things owe their existence to God.  Praise is the proper response, due even from inanimate objects.  The voice of each is acknowledged and all are commanded to praise the Lord.  Finally, all people are also commanded to give praise.   

Prayer:

All things praise thee, Lord Most High.
Heaven and earth and sea and sky,
all were for thy glory made,
that thy greatness, thus displayed,
should all worship bring to thee;
all things praise thee: Lord, may we.  Amen
(George William Conder, 1821-1874. CMP 24) --> Today's writer The Rev’d Ruth Browning, Retired Minister worshipping at Thornbury URC Copyright Sing Psalms! (C) The Worship and Psalmody Committee of the Free Church of Scotland Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Saturday 23rd May

Sat, 23/05/2020 - 06:15
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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentColumn{ padding-right:18px !important; padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnImageCardLeftImageContent,.mcnImageCardRightImageContent{ padding-right:18px !important; padding-bottom:0 !important; padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcpreview-image-uploader{ display:none !important; width:100% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h1{ font-size:24px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h2{ font-size:20px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h3{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h4{ font-size:16px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; 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When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.” Abram fell facedown, and God said to him,  “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations.  I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you.  I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.  The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.” Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner—those who are not your offspring. Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.” God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.” Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?”  And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!” Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac.I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.”  When he had finished speaking with Abraham, God went up from him. On that very day Abraham took his son Ishmael and all those born in his household or bought with his money, every male in his household, and circumcised them, as God told him. Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised, and his son Ishmael was thirteen; Abraham and his son Ishmael were both circumcised on that very day.  And every male in Abraham’s household, including those born in his household or bought from a foreigner, was circumcised with him.

Reflection

After thirteen years of silence, Abram must have been greatly encouraged by this encounter with the Lord. This narrative is a tête-à-tête between Abram and the Lord; a conversation full of surprises, instruction, change of names, consequences of covenant and blessing. During the questions and answer session about covenant, God blesses Sarai, the woman who is not directly involved in this discussion yet is central to it. It is through the blessing of Sarai, that she becomes the mother of nations; and what does Abram do? Only bend his head low and chuckle! He is laughing at the absurdity of it all or exasperation of an image of the elderly pregnant Sarai?

Personally, I do not view this as the laugh of delight, but of disbelief. The impossibility of such a thing taking place was the cause of Abraham’s outburst. But let not be too pious about this matter, I suspect Abraham’s response is just about what we would have done. The promise was an incredible one—too much to take in one dose, however laughter is often the response to things which catch us off guard.

How often have laughed at the absurd, only to find that over time, our laughter was tuned into amazement?

In Genesis 17 we learn, that from something impossible, through God’s covenant, becomes a possibility, something that seems hopeless becomes hopeful and a blessing, not just for Abraham and Sarah, but for all generations, and that includes us.  

This story is about growth, and we cannot have a static relationship with God, through Jesus, God will break into our lethargic lives and draw us closer to Godself. Surely that is what the Christian life is all about.

Prayer
 
O God, 
the One who brings blessing and Covenant, 
through your grace
ee are transformed and forgiven,
changed into the people you want us to be.
Through your grace,
we are healed and loved,
made whole by the touch of your calling.
 
Through your grace,
we are blessed and restored, 
never to excluded, but included in Your family of humanity.
Amen   --> Today's writer The Rev’d Ruth Dillon Minister serving Fleet URC and Beacon Hill Hindhead URC, Wessex Synod  Copyright New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Friday 22nd May 2020

Fri, 22/05/2020 - 06:00
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Reading - Genesis 16

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.” Abram agreed to what Sarai said. So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. He slept with Hagar, and she conceived. When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the Lord judge between you and me.” “Your slave is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her. The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?” “I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered. Then the angel of the Lord told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” The angel added, “I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.” The angel of the Lord also said to her: “You are now pregnant and you will give birth to a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard of your misery. He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.”

She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; it is still there, between Kadesh and Bered. So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son she had borne. Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael.

Reflection

Today’s reading is a rare passage in the Bible where the focus of the narration is women. It’s not found in the three-year Lectionary cycle, so we may be unfamiliar with it.

Sarai’s infertility is the one piece of additional information we learn at the start of Abram’s story (Gen. 11:30). Ten years have passed since God’s promise to create a great nation (Gen. 12:2, 15:4). Even their great wealth (Gen. 13:2) has not brought them fulfilment.

How did Sarai feel? Infertility was then considered a divine curse. Did God’s promise feel like a cruel joke? She grew impatient and contrived a human solution.

This passage does not paint Sarai in a good light. Despite the good intention, feelings turn sour, Sarai blames Abram for the mess, the women’s relationship becomes abusive and Hagar flees. The angel’s words to Hagar are a very poor example of pastoral care: we would never advise the return to an abusive relationship!

The angel repeats to Hagar God’s covenant promise to Abraham: Ishmael would have numerous descendants. In Islam, Ishmael is considered be a prophet and an ancestor of Muhammad. 

Hagar’s conversations with the angel (here and Gen. 21) are unique experiences for a woman in the Hebrew Scriptures.

One thing I treasure about Genesis in the accounts of Abraham-Sarah, Jacob and Joseph is that God had long-term plans for them which spanned decades. These Biblical characters had to endure and be patient. 

Even though aged 48, I am still called “young man” at URC gatherings, I recognise the decades God has been forming my call to the ministry. We live in a very fast-paced world, where a week can seem a long time. Indeed, in Galatians 5:22, we are reminded that “patience” is a fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Prayer

Wait for the Lord, whose day is near.
Wait for the Lord, keep watch, take heart.

(Source: Jacques Berthier, Taizé Community)   --> Today's writer Walt Johnson, Ordinand at Northern College and Member at Wilbraham St Ninian’s URC (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 © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Thursday 21st May

Thu, 21/05/2020 - 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 Thursday 21st May - Abram the Pimp
Genesis 12: 10-20

Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe. As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know what a beautiful woman you are.  When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live. Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.” When Abram came to Egypt, the Egyptians saw that Sarai was a very beautiful woman. And when Pharaoh’s officials saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh, and she was taken into his palace. He treated Abram well for her sake, and Abram acquired sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, male and female servants, and camels. But the Lord inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household because of Abram’s wife Sarai. So Pharaoh summoned Abram. “What have you done to me?” he said. “Why didn’t you tell me she was your wife?  Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her to be my wife? Now then, here is your wife. Take her and go!”  Then Pharaoh gave orders about Abram to his men, and they sent him on his way, with his wife and everything he had.

Reflection

No two ways about it, this is a repellent story.

Having learned that he, and Sarai of course (we mustn’t forget her role), will found a nation, Abram displays lack of faith in God’s protection by taking his family to Egypt to escape famine. He persuades his wife to pose as his sister - a half-truth, since she is his half-sister, but a lie for all that. She ends up as a cherished companion, mistress, or wife of Pharaoh himself. Meanwhile Abram, as Sarai’s ‘brother’, willingly accepts substantial gifts from the grateful ruler.  The truth, however,  catches up with Abram.  God afflicts Pharaoh and his household with ailments which somehow brings the matter to light. 
We have the strange situation that Abram the patriarch is portrayed as a liar, willing to sell the services of his wife, while the duped Pharaoh is the one who cares about Sarai’s plight.  When he sends the family away, Pharoah allows them to take all the acquired wealth with them, perhaps as a mark of respect for Sarai.  

What she thought of it all is never articulated.

It would be comforting to believe that the exploitation of those in weaker positions remains buried in this ancient story, but nothing could be further from the truth. Think of the pimps who prostitute powerless adults and even children  for profit or self-gratification. Think of the traffickers who bring adults from poorer countries to work for no reward, often in illegal trades. Think of those in positions of power, including in our churches, who use and abuse children and vulnerable adults.

We can close our eyes, but none of this will go away unless we as a society, and as Christians, make the protection of our most defenceless brothers and sisters a priority.

Prayer

In God’s name,
Pray for increased awareness;
Pray for the protection of the most vulnerable;
Pray for the restoration of victims;
Pray for justice to be done.   --> Today's writer Pat Stannard, Elder, Muswell Hill URC Copyright New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion

Wed, 20/05/2020 - 15:00
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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 Celebrate Ascension with us on Sunday
Dear Friends,

As know Ascension day is  tomorrow but, in common with most churches, we mark it on Sunday. 

Ascension marks the end of Jesus' earthly ministry and the commissioning of the Church to act in His place. 

Our preacher this week will be the Rev'd Michael Hopkins who serves as minister of the Spire Church in Farnham (a newer union of Methodist and URC congregations) and Elstead URC.  Alongside his pastoral work Michael serves as the Clerk of General Assembly. 

We have a good selection of  hymns and music which include Hail the Day that Sees Him Rise, Crown Him with Many Crowns and Christ Triumphant Ever Reigning.  





I hope you'll be able to join us on Sunday

with every good wish



Andy

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


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URC Daily Devotion 20th May 2020

Wed, 20/05/2020 - 06:00
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font-family:inherit !important; font-weight:inherit !important; line-height:inherit !important; } a.mcnButton{ display:block; } .mcnImage,.mcnRetinaImage{ vertical-align:bottom; } .mcnTextContent{ word-break:break-word; } .mcnTextContent img{ height:auto !important; } .mcnDividerBlock{ table-layout:fixed !important; } body,#bodyTable,#bodyBackground,#templateFooter{ background-color:#EBDBCD; } #bodyCell{ border-top:0; } #mainBackground{ border:1px solid #CDC2BA; } h1{ color:#7AC1BD !important; font-family:Georgia; font-size:50px; font-style:normal; font-weight:normal; line-height:125%; letter-spacing:normal; text-align:center; } h2{ color:#A48B75 !important; font-family:Georgia; font-size:30px; font-style:normal; font-weight:normal; line-height:125%; letter-spacing:normal; text-align:left; } h3{ color:#A48B75 !important; font-family:Tahoma; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:bold; line-height:125%; letter-spacing:1px; text-align:left; } h4{ color:#036B74 !important; 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; 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Genesis 12: 1 - 9

The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.

“I will make you into a great nation,
    and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
    and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
    and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
    will be blessed through you.”

So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.

Abram travelled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring  I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him. From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord. Then Abram set out and continued toward the Negev.


Reflection

We are used to stories of people going travelling these days. Taking a gap year and travelling around the world before going to university or taking a year out before settling down. It is also more common to hear of people taking career breaks or making the once in a lifetime trips in early retirement. However Abram and his family are doing this at a time when their lives were closer to the end than the beginning.

At such times when we might be downsizing and moving closer to our families, Abram is doing the opposite. His journey involved him and his household in leaving everyone and everything they had ever known, except each other.  Even his father's household is left behind. This seems an irresponsible act given the expectation that a family would care for the elderly.

Abram is also exchanging the settled existence of town life for that of a nomad, dependent on wells and grazing to support the herds, trading goods to feed the household in areas he has never visited before.

The distance he travels is huge - it's worth looking at an atlas to see this first stage of his journey and then comparing it with the distance you have moved in your lifetime.  Then consider that this would be travelled on foot or camel. The blessing offered to the childless elderly couple, their nephew and their households is worth the step of faith they are making.

God promises that this new life will be blessed and that he will be a blessing to others. God promises a land, descendants, a name that will be remembered and a purpose. These promises would not be fully realised in his lifetime. However God is calling and Abram responds.

Prayer

Father God we are amazed at the way Abram trusted you as you called him to leave all that he knew. Help us to hear what you are asking of us and give us the courage to respond. May we be a blessing to others too. Amen --> Today's writer The Rev’d Viv Henderson, Minister of Minehead 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 © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Tuesday 19th May

Tue, 19/05/2020 - 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 19th May Babel’s Tower
Genesis 11: 1 - 9

Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward,[a] they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city.  That is why it was called Babel —because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.

Reflection

It’s a story that’s often overlooked; when we do read it, the idea of a tower climbing up to heaven does sound a little odd. But at the heart of today’s passage, we see humanity trying to comprehend their relationship with God. 

Only four  chapters earlier, we can read the story of Captain Noah and his floating zoo - we read how humanity had turned away from God’s commands, so God felt He had to start humankind off anew, almost being a computer scientist and ‘turning it off and on again’. No doubt memories or stories of the flood continued to worry the people who came after. Although we’ve no idea of the timescales, it would be natural to worry about being scattered, particularly in an age and culture where living together in society was so valued. 

Yet, if this was the case, the people in Shinar had missed the point. They wanted to remain all in one place - to stay in the newly discovered lands to which they had migrated. Yet God, we read in Genesis 1 and Genesis 9, specifically wanted humans to spread all over the earth. In building this tower, they were going against God’s will. 

It feels to me as though the tower was built out of fear, and indeed, reading the passage in this way can leave one to wonder why the tower was such a sinful thing to build in the first place. But we must read this passage of Scripture in the context of the whole of Genesis. God’s punishment, after all, was not entirely negative. Although going against humanity’s desires, God’s actions enabled humans to spread through the world, and gave us the variety that we know and love today. 

One of the delights of the URC is the wide variety contained within. In terms of theology, practice, opinion and architecture, we are a real amalgam. I think that the story of Babel serves to highlight how God doesn’t want us all to be identical, or mirror images one of another, but instead rejoices in our diversity. 

Prayer:

Loving God
We thank You for diversity, both in the Church and in our world. 
We thank You for the gifts and talents that different people can bring. 
May we not become inward looking, concerned only for those who talk or act or look like us; but instead delight in the diversity that You have created. 
Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen   --> Today's writer Michael Topple is a Synod Accredited Lay Preacher in the Eastern Synod, and a member of Chappel 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 © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Monday 18th May

Mon, 18/05/2020 - 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 Monday 18th May The Curse on Canaan
Genesis 9: 18 - 28

The sons of Noah who came out of the ark were Shem, Ham and Japheth. (Ham was the father of Canaan.)  These were the three sons of Noah, and from them came the people who were scattered over the whole earth. Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard.  When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent.  Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father naked and told his two brothers outside. But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father’s naked body. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father naked. When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him,  he said, “Cursed be Canaan!  The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers.” He also said, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Shem!  May Canaan be the slave of Shem.  May God extend Japheth’s territory; may Japheth live in the tents of Shem, and may Canaan be the slave of Japheth.” After the flood Noah lived 350 years. 29 Noah lived a total of 950 years, and then he died.

Reflection

The recent production of Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale has been an international success.  Atwood posits a fascist regime only valuing women for their fertility.  LGBT people are referred to as “gender traitors” and black people referred to as “Children of Ham”.  That reference comes from this confusing passage.

The story is an attempt to explain Canaanites origins and was written to justify their subjugation by Israel.  

We’re not sure what is meant by Ham seeing his father naked especially as when Noah comes round he is appalled at what Ham has done to him.  It might be as simple as the shame in seeing one’s father naked but it might also be Biblical code for some form of sexual assault (see Leviticus 20:17).  

Then we have the horror of how the story has been used over time.  Noah condemns Canaan, not Ham, to slavery.  Ancient commentators began to depict Ham as black.  Linking the curse on Canaan to slavery became a Biblical proof text to justify slavery.  

Sadly there are many Biblical texts that support slavery - that shouldn’t surprise us given the prevalance of slavery in the ancient world.  As late as the 19th Century, however,  Christians were using this text to justify the enslavement of black people.  Other Christians, including many Congregationalists, were involved in the abolition movement.  At same time as the Congregational Union of Scotland was opposing slavery one of its ministers founded the Congregational Church in Stewarton; he was a man made wealthy from the slave trade.  

We have to be careful when using the Bible in our ethical decision making and be aware of how texts have been used to oppress and condemn as well liberate and enliven.  We need to confront our own mixed history around slavery and racism; the recent exposure of Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche, as a sexual predator makes us realise we can all be capable of heroic sanctity and dreadful sin.

Prayer

Lord,
help us to understand the Scriptures,
to see how they’ve been used,
and to commit ourselves to always taking the side of the oppressed,
using your words to liberate,
Amen. --> Today's writer The Rev’d Andy Braunston is minister of Stewarton URC in East Ayrshire. Copyright New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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NigHtingaleS by Jo Baird of Nairn URC

Sun, 17/05/2020 - 15:11
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Dear Friends,

many of you have commented on how much you appreciated Jo Baird's song NigHtingaleS which she sung during last Sunday's Communion service led by the Rev'd Janet Sutton Webb.  Jo, a member of Nairn URC,  is pleased for her song to be used in any way that his helpful for our people.

You can listen to it again here or you can download it here.   You can see the lyrics here.  Jo has also written out the melody with chords written above which you can see here.  Finally, she's written out the lyrics with chords above them here.

with every good wish


Andy

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


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Sunday Worship for 17th May The Rev'd Fleur Houston

Sun, 17/05/2020 - 09:45
96 Sunday Worship for 17th May The Rev'd Fleur Houston 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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Below you will find the Order of Service, prayers, hymns and sermon for today's service.   You can either simply read this or you can
  click here
to listen to the service and sing along with the hymns.  This will open up a new screen, at the bottom of the screen you will see a play symbol.  Press that, then come back to this window so you can follow along with the service. Sunday Worship from the United Reformed Church
for Sunday 17th May   
Today’s service is led by the Rev'd Fleur Houston, a retired URC minister living in Macclesfield.
                         
Good morning, and welcome! My name is Fleur Houston and I am speaking to you from Macclesfield.  Not from Macclesfield and Bollington United Reformed Church where I am a member, but from the study that I share with Walter on the top floor of a silk weaver’s garret, with a large picture window overlooking the hills. Wherever we are, in living room or study, in bedroom, kitchen, or breakfast room, we meet today in the presence of God. And we do not meet alone. For we are part of the great company of the Church, past, present and yet to come.  In a moment of silence, let us now set aside the business of the morning, still our hearts and our minds, and prepare to worship God.
 
Call to Worship 
 
Alleluia! Christ is Risen!      He is Risen indeed! Alleluia!
 
Rejoice, heavenly powers!   Sing, choirs of angels!  Exult, all creation around God’s throne!  Jesus, our King, is risen!  Sound the trumpet of salvation!
 
Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing, choirs of angels!
 
Rejoice, O Earth, in shining splendour, radiant in the brightness of our King! Jesus has conquered! Glory fills you! Darkness vanishes for ever!
 
Rejoice, heavenly powers!  Sing, choirs of angels!
 
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!
 
All people that on earth do dwell
Psalm 100, metrical version by William Kethe (publ. 1560-1561) altd.
    All people that on earth do dwell,
sing to the Lord with cheerful voice.
Him serve with fear, His praise forthtell,
come we before Him and rejoice!
 
2: The LORD ye know is God indeed;
without out aid He did us make.
We are His folk he doth us feed,
and for His sheep He doth us take.
 
3:  O enter then His gates with praise!
Approach with joy his courts unto
praise, laud and bless His name always
for it is seemly so to do.
 
4 (choir only) For why? The Lord our God is good,
His mercy is forever sure.
His truth at all times firmly stood
and shall from age to age endure.   4: To Father, Son and Holy Ghost,
the God whom Heaven and earth adore,
from earth and from the angel host
be praise and glory evermore.
 
 
Prayers of approach, confession and pardon
 
All-holy God, Light of the hearts that see you, Life of the souls that love you, Strength of the thoughts that seek you, to abide in you is to stand fast forever. Grant us this morning your grace and blessing for the sake of Jesus Christ our Redeemer.
 
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves. As we turn to you this morning, we know that  we have fallen short of our high calling. And we are ashamed.   We have focussed too much on ourselves and on our own wants and needs. We have not loved you with all our heart and soul and mind and strength, We have not loved our neighbour as ourselves.
 
Remind us, Lord, of your constant love, for we put our trust in you; show us the way we should go. Release us from the burden of our sins, that we may turn to you again and be renewed through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.
 
In repentance and in faith, receive the promise of grace and the assurance of pardon. Here are words you may trust, words that merit full acceptance: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” To all who turn to him he says: “Your sins are forgiven.” He also says: “Follow me.” Thanks be to God. The LORD is my light and my salvation, Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid?
 
Prayer of illumination
 
As we listen to the Bible readings we allow God’s word to speak to us,
And so we pray:
 
Lord, your word is a lamp for my feet,
and a light upon my path.
May the Scriptures come alive to us this morning
that our hearts may be warmed our faith stirred
and all things be made new. Amen.
 
 
Readings 
 
Psalm 66: 8-20
 
Bless our God, O peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard,
who has kept us among the living, and has not let our feet slip.
For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried.
You brought us into the net; you laid burdens on our backs;
you let people ride over our heads;
we went through fire and through water;
yet you have brought us out to a spacious place.
 
I will come into your house with burnt-offerings; I will pay you my vows,
those that my lips uttered
and my mouth promised when I was in trouble.
I will offer to you burnt-offerings of fatlings,
with the smoke of the sacrifice of rams;
I will make an offering of bulls and goats.
 
Come and hear, all you who fear God,
and I will tell what he has done for me.
I cried aloud to him, and he was extolled with my tongue.
If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.
But truly God has listened;
he has given heed to the words of my prayer.
 
Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me.
 
St John 14: 15-21
 
‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments.  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever.  This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. ‘I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.  In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.  They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.’
 
Sermon
 
I sometimes think that the gospel of John is like a great diamond, shaped and polished, and scattering light and fire. It has many different facets. As you look at it from one angle it might seem dark and deep, but hold it up to the light, and it is a glorious blaze of colour.
 
Take these verses which we have just heard. They are as good an example as any. There are different ways of looking at them, different facets, if you like. Now that’s interesting. Let’s examine them more closely.
 
First of all, we see what is happening in real time. The disciples and Jesus are self-isolating. They sense something is about to happen. They have just finished their supper. As it turns out, this is the last meal they will all eat together. Judas has already gone out into the night. Indeed, there is not much time left. The net is closing in and Jesus knows it. He is being betrayed even as he speaks. His companions are feeling anxious and confused. Death is staring them in the face, Jesus’s death. The grief is beginning to sink in. If Jesus dies, what about them? They are suddenly feeling all too human, all too vulnerable, all too mortal. They have a dread of something fatal looming large, lurking round the corner. It’s only natural.
 
Jesus acknowledges their confusion. He speaks to them personally, and his voice is calm and authoritative. He is taking charge of the situation. Here, and in the next two chapters of the gospel, we have Jesus’s last words, his final teaching. They are certainly important for the disciples. But don’t they apply every bit as much to us today? We simply can’t exaggerate their importance. What then is he saying to us in these times of crisis? What is he saying to us in the teeth of COVID-19?
 
Like the disciples, we are feeling threatened. In common with Peter, Thomas, Philip, and presumably all the others, our everyday life is dislocated, our norms are crumbling, There is clearly a need for some plain speaking. So Jesus spells it out. “If you love me”, he says, “you will keep my commandments”. “If you love me”: this is clearly not a love “like a red, red rose, that’s newly sprung in June.” Jesus is not evoking gushing emotion or touchy-feely sentimentality, however beautiful that may be. No, nothing like that. The love Jesus is talking about is ethical. If we love Jesus we will automatically do the right thing. We just can’t do anything else. And so we will keep his commandments. Our love for Jesus is expressed in love of God and love of our neighbour.
 
But how do we love our neighbour now, at the present moment, in this time of pandemic? To obey Jesus’s commandments is second nature for us, they are in our DNA, they give us a sense of authenticity as his followers, a sense of identity as church congregations. But the virus raises searching ethical questions about our social life and our Christian practice.
 
Have we not conscientiously preached the gospel, celebrated the sacraments, been welcoming and hospitable, opened our doors to friend and stranger? But what now? now we are forced to make unpalatable decisions, to close our doors, suspend services of worship, and distance ourselves from one another. In times like these, how can we preach the gospel? how can we accompany people? How can we share their celebrations? Or support them in their sadness and grief? How can we comfort them?
 
And what of our service to the wider community - our night shelters, our toddler groups, our coffee mornings, our youth groups? Where spreading the gospel goes hand in hand with spreading the virus, these too must be closed down at least for the time being. It is the responsible thing to do. It’s only right. We have to accept that we present risks to one another and to the people we serve. That, if anything, brings us back to reality with a jolt. Loving our neighbour at the present moment means we have to be socially distanced from them. None of us is immune to mortality. Faced with COVID-19 we all are in the same boat. We none of us live Teflon-coated lives. Every single one of us– young or not so young, prince or pauper, citizen or non-citizen, whether we live in Congleton or Cameroon, we are all of us mortal. We all belong together. And we also belong to God. The whole world, its people and everything else belongs to God.
 
Has COVID-19 taught us a sobering lesson? Has it taken this awful virus to make us realise that we are not self-sufficient, that we followers of Jesus simply cannot rely on our own resources? Have we perhaps been taking so much pride in our obedience that we have allowed the love of God in Jesus Christ to take second place? Do we need to be reminded that our love for one another is grounded, not in our own achievements, but in God’s love?
 
Perhaps it’s time we looked at another facet of our diamond. It’s time we considered what Jesus says next. Now this is unexpected. This really is a revelation. We don’t have to rely on our own resources!
 
Jesus will ask the Father to give his followers “another Advocate,” a Paraclete, as the Greek text would have it, a person called alongside us to assist us, to intercede on our behalf, to comfort us in times of need. A person who will bolster our spirits and give us strength and courage. Some of you may be familiar with the Bayeux tapestry. This medieval strip cartoon tells the story of the invasion of England by William the Conqueror. In one panel, a bishop is thumping a group of reluctant soldiers from behind with the flat of his sword. The caption reads: “Bishop Odo comforts the troops”. Some comfort we might say! The analogy cannot be pressed too far, but in comforting the troops, Odo is actively fostering strength and courage for the fray.
 
The Advocate then is a person who will give us sustained, all-round support. For ever.
 
Now I’m sure you will agree that that is a wonderful gift. But wait a moment! Does Jesus not say that this is another Advocate? Who is this
person? Another who? Another what?” This is another of the same sort as before. Rather as when we ask some-one: “would you like another cup of coffee?” or “would you like another helping of trifle?” It’s more of the same, and yes please! The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, is another of the same, another Jesus. As Jesus goes away, the Holy Spirit will come to his disciples to replace him. And in this way, Jesus will be closer to his followers than ever.
 
Just as it was for the disciples, so it was for the first hearers of the gospel, and so too it is with us: Jesus abides with us. Today and for ever. We who follow are not left abandoned, orphaned and alone. In the face of a pandemic, we are caught up and sustained by God’s love. Today and every day. For God is not confined by our human limitations. God is not self-isolating. God is alive and at work, the living God, who through his love for us revealed in Jesus Christ, illuminates our life in community and sustains us in faith, love and hope.
 
Our doors may be closed but we are open to the world. We are part of a great world-wide web of followers of Jesus, past, present and yet to come. We are part of a network of believers that transcends borders and boundaries. We have a unity in all our diversity, a unity that sustains community, a unity that is expressed not only through telephone conversations or through those helpful apps which enable many of us to stay in touch with friends, family and work colleagues, but also through a lived togetherness in common prayer. As we pray together we know that we are all of us caught up in the love of God in Jesus Christ. A love that never comes to an end.
 
This brings me to my final point. As we hold the diamond up to the light, it comes to life. It is full of fire, it scatters light in all directions, it is glorious.
 
In May 2020, we are in a different position from the disciples on the eve of Golgotha. They have to take Jesus at his word, they can’t understand what he is saying and they won’t until after his earthly ministry has come to an end. But we live on the other side of Easter. We are an Easter people. We know that the Jesus who addresses his terrified followers is also the risen Christ. That makes a whole world of difference. For at times like the present when we are only too conscious of our own mortality, we can proclaim with assurance that Jesus has triumphed over death. And triumphed over death once and for all. In the light of the Resurrection we are given strength and courage to face the future. For we have an advocate who guides us, comforts us, strengthens us and calls us on in hope. And it’s a never-ending story.
 
Five years ago this month, Pope Francis published an encyclical letter called Laudato si – “Praise be to you, my Lord!” The reference is to the lovely canticle attributed to his namesake, St Francis of Assisi. The letter concludes with these words: “Let us sing as we go. May our struggles and our concern for this planet never take away the joy of our hope. God, who calls us to generous commitment and to give him our all, offers us the light and the strength needed to continue on our way. In the heart of this world, the Lord of life, who loves us so much, is always present. He  does not abandon us, he does not leave us alone, for he has united himself definitively to our earth, and his love constantly impels us to find new ways forward. Praise be to him!”
 
And all God’s people say Amen!
 
Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine
Frances Jane Crosby (1820-1915)
  Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine;
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.
   
This is my story, this is my song,
praising my Saviour all the day long.
This is my story, this is my song,
praising my Saviour all the day long.
 
2: Perfect submission, perfect delight,
visions of rapture burst on my sight;
angels descending, bring from above
echoes of mercy, whispers of love.
 
3: Perfect submission, all is at rest,
I in my Saviour am happy and blest;
watching and waiting, looking above,
filled with His goodness, lost in His love.   Affirmation of Faith
 
As followers of Jesus Christ, living in this world—which some seek to control, but which others view with despair—we declare with joy and trust: our world belongs to God!
 
From the beginning, through all the crises of our times, until His Kingdom fully comes, God keeps covenant forever. Our world belongs to God!
 
We rejoice in the goodness of God, renounce the works of darkness, and dedicate ourselves to holy living, for our world belongs to God!
 
As committed disciples, called to faithful obedience, and set free for joyful praise,  we offer our hearts and lives to do God's work in his world, for our world belongs to God!
 
With tempered impatience,  eager to see injustice ended, we expect the Day of the Lord. And we are confident that the light which shines in the present darkness  will fill the earth when Christ appears for our world belongs to God!
 
Intercessions
 
Ever-living and ever-loving God, You make the wilderness bloom like the rose, we bless you for the gift of life and for the love of family and friends.
 
You redeem your people as they wander in the desert and bring them home. We bless you for the gift of Jesus Christ, your Son, our Saviour.
 
You are creating a new heaven and a new earth we bless you for the gift of your Spirit, to strengthen us to serve you in the world
 
And so we pray for the world. We pray for the leaders of the nations that they might exercise good governance and show concern for those who live in poverty and despair.  May they be blessed with discernment and wisdom in these troubled times, that our broken and sinful world might find healing.
 
We remember before you those who have fled their homes because of war and face an uncertain future.  May they come to know the power of human kindness to transform their living.
 
In this time of pandemic, we give thanks for all those who volunteer so generously and cheerfully to help their neighbours.  We remember especially at this time doctors and nurses and all who are at the front-line of medical care.   Bless all those who bring healing and hope to those who are ill or anxious about what the future may bring.
                                             
Kyrie eleison   Lord have mercy
 
Living God, you created life out of love, as Christians celebrate with joy the resurrection of Jesus, we give thanks for the fellowship of the Church,
as it witnesses to the Lord of life.
 
And as we do, we remember especially our brothers and sisters in situations where to confess the Christian faith is to risk harassment, persecution, even death itself.
 
May they find peace in the knowledge that they are following the footsteps of their risen Lord.
 
We pray for our own churches and our own congregations. As we face up to present challenges, may we find that strength and courage which you give to all who know your love, that we may manifest that love and worship you in faith and truth.
 
Kyrie eleison   Lord have mercy
 
We pray for our families and friends. Watch over them and protect them.
We pray for those we love who are far away surround them with your loving care.
 
In a moment of silence we now remember those known to ourselves who are in any sort of trouble whether of body, mind or spirit.
 
(silence)
 
May they know that there is nothing in heaven or earth that  can ever separate them from your love in Christ Jesus our Lord.
 
Kyrie eleison  Lord have mercy.
 
Eternal God, You hold all souls in life. We praise you for those who have shared this earthly life with us and entered into eternal life with you.
 
Yours is the love that will never die. In our weakness, you are our strength; in our darkness, light; in our sorrows, comfort and peace;
from everlasting to everlasting, You are our God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, One God, for ever.
 
All these prayers we ask through your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
 
The Lord’s Prayer
 
Offertory
 
It is time to take up our offering. We give in different ways, through our actions as well as our money. For many, staying at home and being less active is a gift given to your community.  For others it may be taking up a new commitment. You may be giving to local charities, or directly to those in need, in terms of your stewardship to your local church, it maybe you are filling and keeping your offering envelopes each week, or are giving via standing order or paying directly in the church bank account. However we choose to give, it’s important to continue - to offer our money and ourselves to God.  So let us pray together:
 
O God as your people we praise you
and we bring our offerings –
not as for the Psalmist, of sheep or goats -
but our money and our lives,
given freely and in grateful thanks
for all that you have done for us,
God bless them and use them
for the building up of your Kingdom
and the sharing of your love
God in unity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
 
 
Guide me, O thou great Redeemer  
v.1 tr. Peter Williams (1722-1796) altd; vv.2-3 tr. William Williams (1717-1791) altd.
    Guide me, O thou great Redeemer,
pilgrim through this barren land;
I am weak, but thou art mighty;
hold me with thy powerful hand:
bread of heaven, bread of heaven
feed me till I want no more.
Feed me till I want no more.
 
2: Open now the crystal fountain
whence the healing stream shall flow;
let the fiery, cloudy pillar
lead me all my journey through:
strong deliverer, strong deliverer
be thou still my strength and shield.
Be thou still my strength and shield.
3: When I tread the verge of Jordan,
bid my anxious fears subside;
death of death, and hell's destruction,
land me safe on Canaan's side:
songs of praises, songs of praises
I will ever give to thee.
I will ever give to thee.
 
Blessing
 
May the peace of God which is greater than anything we can ever understand keep your hearts and your thoughts in the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ our Lord, and may the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be with you and those whom you love from this time on and for evermore.  Amen.
 
  Sources   
Opening Responses adapted from the Exultset by Andy Braunston
Affirmation of Faith from the Christian Reformed Church of North America.
Offertory written by the Rev’d Lythan Nevard
Other liturgical material by Fleur Houston.
 
All People That On Earth Do Dwell recorded at Westminster Abbey.
Blessed Assurance by Chelmsford Citadel, Salvation Army
Cwm Rhonda the BBC’s Songs of Praise
 
Thanks to the Rev’d John Young, Liane Todd, Kathleen Haynes, Linda Richards, Lorraine Webb, the Rev’d Lythan Nevard and the choir of Barrhed URC for recording various parts of the service.
 
Hymns, where in copyright, reproduced in line with Barrhead URC's CCLI Licence and Barrhead URC's OneLicence.  Material podcasted in line with Barrhead URC's PRS Limited Online Music Licence number LOE-0019762.

Thanks to Phil Nevard who mixed the recordings into one podcast.

  --> Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Sunday 17th May

Sun, 17/05/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion Sunday 17th May 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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1 O praise the LORD! How good it is
to sing him songs of praise!
How pleasant to give thanks to him
for all his gracious ways!

2 The LORD builds up Jerusalem;
and he it is alone
Who reaches out to Israèl
to bring the exiles home.

3 He heals his people’s broken hearts,
restores the bruised and lame.
4 He sets the number of the stars
and calls them each by name.

5 Great is our Lord and great in power;
his wisdom is profound.
6 The LORD sustains the meek, but casts
the wicked to the ground.

7 Sing to the LORD with thankfulness;
with joy his praise proclaim;
And with the music of the harp
give glory to his name.

8 He clothes the vast expanse of heaven—
the sky with clouds he fills;
He makes the rain refresh the earth
and grass grow on the hills.

9 He sees the beasts that roam the fields
and feeds them when they call;
The ravens’ young cry out to him,
and he supplies them all.

10 In horses strong, equipped for war,
the LORD takes no delight;
Nor does he care for proud displays
of human power and might.

11 The LORD takes pleasure in his saints
who worship him in fear,
And those who trust his steadfast love
will always find him near.

You can hear a Free Church of Scotland congregation sing this Psalm here

Reflection - Nature and nurture
 
‘God of Stars and Broken Hearts’. That’s the title one commentator gives to this Psalm (Leslie Allen, Word Biblical Commentary). This is a hymn about creation and compassion, about nature that shows God’s power and the nurture that embraces God’s people. In this Psalm greatness and goodness go together, the splendour of God’s world and the secure relationship God offers to those who trust.
 
There are three movements in the whole Psalm (vv.1-6, 7-11 and 12-20): two of them are in our reading. The three together issue a lively and repeated call to praise, and together they paint a picture of grace at work. Each of the three explores and connects the psalm’s two big themes – creative power and covenant love. In creation, the first tells of the starry skies, the second of rainfall, watering the earth and feeding animals and plants, and the third of winter storms and summer crops. Then in covenant we hear first of a broken and scattered people restored, second of a call to trust and hope rather than rely on worldly might, and finally of a people shaped by God’s purposeful word. A wrap-around creation, of skies, seasons and sustenance matches the loving care that gathers, guards and guides.
 
A Psalm like this is always both a comfort and a challenge. The power that made the earth is a personal power, a power that notices people and calls us into relationship, a power we can turn to and trust. That’s the comfort. The challenge is never to take God for granted. God’s grace is no reason for our complacency. When God builds us up and binds us up, this is an invitation to live faithfully, to reflect grace and pass it on, that others too may trust in this God of creation and care.
 
Prayer

When I look at the starry heavens, Lord, help me to feel small but secure. 
    When I see the green earth,
       keep me aware of your presence and provision. 
         In trouble teach me to trust. 
            Out of healing may I learn hope. 
                That I may praise you, gladly and gratefully.
                    In the name of Jesus. Amen.   --> Today's writer The Rev’d John Proctor, General Secretary of the URC, member at Downing Place URC, Cambridge Copyright New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Saturday 16th May

Sat, 16/05/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion Saturday 16th May 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; 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 Saturday 16th May  The Rainbow Covenant
Genesis 9: 1-17

Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth. The fear and dread of you will fall on all the beasts of the earth, and on all the birds in the sky, on every creature that moves along the ground, and on all the fish in the sea; they are given into your hands. Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything. “But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it.  And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each human being, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of another human being. “Whoever sheds human blood,  by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God  has God made mankind. As for you, be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it.” Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you—every living creature on earth. I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.  Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds,  I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.  Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.” So God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.”

Reflection

‘So long, and thanks for all the fish’ is the message left by the dolphins when they departed Earth just before it was demolished for a hyperspace bypass. In ‘The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy’, Douglas Adams flips assumptions about the hierarchy of species, but the re-teller of this story in Genesis has humanity firmly at the top.

So, in Noah’s flood, were the dolphins and fish unduly affected? We could travel down that rabbit-hole and ponder the effect of 40 days of rainwater on ocean and sea salinity, but it’s in the same category as why dinosaurs aren’t listed on the Ark manifest!

Taking this literally is ‘mostly harmless’ apart from when the rainbow covenant is rolled out as an excuse to not engage with the reality of Climate Change. Rising sea levels is an effect of Climate Change, and unfortunately that has given a section of humanity (who have reaped short-term benefits by causing long-term damage) a religious justification for denying or ignoring it.

Human hands wrote the words in the Bible and their worldviews would have affected how they interpreted divine inspiration. If you had complete certainty that humanity was the reason for ‘life, the universe and everything’ then the thought that the dolphins were right all along just wouldn’t occur to you.
But Climate Change is also a matter of self-interest. The evolution of life on this planet shows us that life will continue. The question is whether human life will make it to ‘the restaurant at the end of the universe’? We are seeking to mitigate the effects of Climate Change to minimise the effect it has on humanity, and for that we all need to contribute to an Ark full of solutions and not just leave it to a few Noah’s. ‘And another thing...’

Prayer

Living God, broaden our perceptions to our neighbour, peoples across the world, and all life that calls this planet home.
In the beauty of a rainbow we see a spectrum as sunlight passes through raindrops, and we can feel the presence of you within it. Let that inspire us to play our part in minimising our impact on our planet home, our fellow creatures, and to truly act as stewards of Creation. Amen --> Today's writer The Rev’d David Coaker, serving Grays URC and a chaplain to the Moderators of General Assembly Copyright New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 15th May 2020

Fri, 15/05/2020 - 06:00
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Genesis 8 1 - 17

But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded. Now the springs of the deep and the floodgates of the heavens had been closed, and the rain had stopped falling from the sky.  The water receded steadily from the earth. At the end of the hundred and fifty days the water had gone down, and on the seventeenth day of the seventh month the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. The waters continued to recede until the tenth month, and on the first day of the tenth month the tops of the mountains became visible.

After forty days Noah opened a window he had made in the ark  and sent out a raven, and it kept flying back and forth until the water had dried up from the earth.  Then he sent out a dove to see if the water had receded from the surface of the ground. But the dove could find nowhere to perch because there was water over all the surface of the earth; so it returned to Noah in the ark. He reached out his hand and took the dove and brought it back to himself in the ark. He waited seven more days and again sent out the dove from the ark.  When the dove returned to him in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf! Then Noah knew that the water had receded from the earth. He waited seven more days and sent the dove out again, but this time it did not return to him.

By the first day of the first month of Noah’s six hundred and first year, the water had dried up from the earth. Noah then removed the covering from the ark and saw that the surface of the ground was dry. By the twenty-seventh day of the second month the earth was completely dry.

Then God said to Noah,  “Come out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and their wives. Bring out every kind of living creature that is with you—the birds, the animals, and all the creatures that move along the ground—so they can multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number on it.”

Reflection

One of the strange things about writing these reflections is the timing.  I’m writing this on 1st March just after Britain has been hammered by successive storms which caused a lot of flooding.  You will be reading this on my wedding anniversary, and I’ll be on holiday in our caravan hoping that the weather is as good as it was 16 years ago.  How very British to talk about the weather. 

Imagine how Noah felt.  He had not suffered one month of heavy rainfall but month after month of rain with the whole world flooded.  People are describing on the news how hard it is to spend 14 days in self-isolation, if they have been to areas with Corvid-19 virus.  Noah and his family spent about a year in the Ark.

We might expect Noah to complain, to rail against God, but he doesn’t.  God remembers him and after the flood had receded the earth was once more dry so God told Noah and his sons and daughters-in-law to leave the arc so they could inhabit the earth again.  Many churches remember the eight people who were in the ark by having a font with eight sides.

Do we shout at God when the place we live is flooded or do we decide to make changes so the climate chaos is not fueled by our actions?  We all need to remember God, just as God remembered Noah in the Ark. No matter what seems to be going wrong in the world we can hang on the constant that is the love of God, as shown in his remembering Noah and all that followed including sending His son to die for us.  We can rejoice in the resurrected Jesus.

Prayer

Loving God thank you for looking after Noah and his family.
Thank you that you  look after me.
As you protected Noah, 
protect me by showing me how to survive all the things that worry me.

Move the hearts and minds of our leaders 
that they see the damage done to your creation 
and reduce pollution, flooding and damage.

Show me what I can do to help your fragile world. Amen   --> Today's writer John Collings, Lay Preacher, member of Rutherglen URC. Copyright New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 14th May

Thu, 14/05/2020 - 06:00
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Genesis 6: 9 - 7:6

This is the account of Noah and his family. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God.  Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth. Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out.  This is how you are to build it: The ark is to be three hundred cubits long, fifty cubits wide and thirty cubits high. Make a roof for it, leaving below the roof an opening one cubit high all around. Put a door in the side of the ark and make lower, middle and upper decks. I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish. But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark—you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you. You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you. Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive.  You are to take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store it away as food for you and for them.”

Noah did everything just as God commanded him. The Lord then said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation.  Take with you seven pairs of every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate, and one pair of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate, and also seven pairs of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth.  Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights, and I will wipe from the face of the earth every living creature I have made.”

And Noah did all that the Lord commanded him.

Noah was six hundred years old when the floodwaters came on the earth. And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives entered the ark to escape the waters of the flood.  Pairs of clean and unclean animals, of birds and of all creatures that move along the ground, male and female, came to Noah and entered the ark, as God had commanded Noah. And after the seven days the floodwaters came on the earth.

Reflection 

Here is a grand myth, shared between tribes and peoples of faith in Mesopotamia.  Woven together from two threads, there are inconsistencies for the fact conscious amongst us.  How many animals? Were they clean, unclean, or a mixture of both? Does it matter? Not really, especially as the story has fuelled so many plays, books, songs and toys, dear to the hearts of many.

Some see this myth is a reversal of the creation myths.  Instead of bringing life from the waters of the earth, the earth is to be returned to those very waters, drowned in its own birth fluids. Yet, this myth doesn’t end with complete creation reversal.  Noah, his family and some animals are set aside to be saved. The murderer Cain has built a violent society which God declares corrupt. Noah, descended from Seth, is seen to be righteous. This isn’t a flood story. It’s an ancient tale of humanity’s usual battle: Good v Evil.  What shocks me is that the tale is woven to suggest that our God is a God of vengeance, willing to kill a significant majority of those God created and loved - to prove a point. God prefers good to evil. Well yes, so do we. Yet, God shown to us in Jesus is not that God of vengeance.  God who Jesus called Father didn’t destroy all those who sent Jesus to his death. God shown to us in Holy Spirit, giving people a passion for justice, is not a God who would, with great detailed plans and forethought, destroy one set of people in favour of another.

We are often tempted to imagine (and use) God as the angry One. Jesus shows us that no matter how much we want that God to be true, we have made an idol.  God is love, utterly, for the evil and the good.    

Prayer

Oh God, forgive us.  We often make you into what we hope or want you to be.  Then we confuse one another with difficult images and stories.  The hardest news for us to bear is that you love without stop. Give us deep grace to accept your love for us.  Give us even deeper grace and immense courage to love those who we think (surely) you would never love.
Amen   --> Today's writer Elizabeth Gray-King, Education & Learning Programme Officer, member St Columba's URC Oxford Copyright New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 13th May 2020

Wed, 13/05/2020 - 06:00
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Genesis 4: 1-16

Adam made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, “With the help of the Lord I have brought forth a man.” Later she gave birth to his brother Abel.

Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favour on Abel and his offering,  but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”  Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” “I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.  When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.” Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is more than I can bear. Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” But the Lord said to him, “Not so; anyone who kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. So Cain went out from the Lord’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

Reflection “Am I my brother’s keeper?” –
The muttered cry was drowned
By Abel’s life-blood shouting
In silence from the ground
For no man is an island
Divided from the main,
The bell which tolled for Abel
Tolled equally for Cain. John Ferguson (R&S 609)
  I have often said that the Old Testament legends are not to be treated as history but to tell us about God, our relationship with God and with each other.  However the story of Cain and Abel, in the form we have it, does not fit in with this interpretation as we are not told why God had no regard for Cain’s offering but seems to be capricious in a way that does not complement other records of God’s actions. Perhaps Cain’s offering was not from the best of his crops but what our local supermarket labels as “wonky” – we do not know.

But it is clear that Cain was incensed and picked a fight with his brother; Abel’s death may not have been intended but was the unintended consequence of impetuous and ill-considered sibling rivalry.  This story certainly tells us about our relationships with others, and not just those in our immediate family. Helpfully and pertinently John Ferguson melds John Donne’s verse with his own.

It is all too easy to react rashly when we feel aggrieved or provoked and say or do something which makes a difficult situation worse, sometimes with dreadful consequences.  Yet each man kills the thing he loves,
By each let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
Some with a flattering word,
The coward does it with a kiss,
The brave man with a sword! Oscar Wilde (The Ballad of Reading Gaol)
  Prayer

Gracious God: we pray for protection and strength so that when we are upset, angry or provoked we may be able to think clearly, speak wisely and act in ways that build up and repair rather than break down and shatter our relationships with others.

Seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit we pray in the name of Jesus: Amen     --> Today's writer The Rev’d Julian Macro, Retired Minister, Member Verwood United Reformed Church Copyright New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 12th May 2020

Tue, 12/05/2020 - 06:00
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Genesis 3

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,  but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.  Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”  Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,

“Cursed are you above all livestock  and all wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust  all the days of your life.
And I will put enmity  between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush  your head, and you will strike his heel.”

To the woman he said,

“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
    with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
    and he will rule over you.”

To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’

“Cursed is the ground because of you;
    through painful toil you will eat food from it
    all the days of your life.
It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
    and you will eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your brow
    you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
    since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
    and to dust you will return.”

Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.

The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”  So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

Reflection

Developmental psychology is concerned with the study of how we become the people we are.  In many ways, Genesis 3 has served as an account of the origins of our ‘flawed’ human nature.  We have many understandings of this ‘flaw’, but at the heart of Genesis 3 it is the rupture in relationship that takes place between God and Adam and Eve.

At the beginning of the chapter, Adam and Eve seem quite child-like.  As any parent would, God has set the boundaries and expectations for the children and forbids them to eat of “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”. 

But ‘adolescence’ sets in and Adam and Eve seem ready to think for themselves. With the prompting of the serpent (perhaps an older peer in everyday life), Adam and Eve seek to test the limits of their autonomy, they break out from their parent’s boundaries and make their own decisions. 

The consequence of this?  Well they too, like God, come to know of good and evil. Their child-like innocence is lost and they are exposed to the harsh reality of adulthood – actions result in consequences.

My work as a counsellor has shown me that as we mature, thinking and deciding for oneself almost inevitably brings us into conflict with those who brought us up, those who would ‘keep us safe’ from the knowledge of evil.

But God created human beings to grow, to develop and mature, to think for ourselves. Were Adam and Eve’s actions not inevitable sooner or later? 

Many parents can bear witness to hellish years with their children as teenagers, wondering where they went wrong, only years later to have reconciled, mutual and respectful relationships with their children.  

A short reflection is hardly the place to reimagine such a foundational passage of Scripture. But maybe we can give some weight to our own experience of human development as we read this passage afresh. 

Prayer

Loving God, parent to all,
You have created us
to grow, develop and mature. 
Though we may assert our independence
and make our own decisions,
continue to draw us to you,
that our will may be reconciled to yours, 
and your kingdom come 
on earth as in heaven.
Amen.      --> Today's writer Jonnie Hill, Ordinand at Northern College, Member of Chorlton Central Church in 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 © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 11th May 2020

Mon, 11/05/2020 - 06:00
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Genesis 2: 4 - 25

This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, when the Lord God made the earth and the heavens. Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground, but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground.  Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters. The name of the first is the Pishon; it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold. (The gold of that land is good; aromatic resin and onyx are also there.) The name of the second river is the Gihon; it winds through the entire land of Cush. The name of the third river is the Tigris; it runs along the east side of Ashur. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals. But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh she shall be called ‘woman,’  for she was taken out of man.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

Reflection

A second account of the creation of humanity? Or is it the first? Scholarship seems to concur that this creation story in Genesis 2 derives from source material in currency half a millennium before the more familiar version. Those with a wider horizon (temporal and geographical) may well describe both as but pebbles in a mosaic of Ancient Near Eastern creation myths best viewed from above to obtain a true perspective on their significance.

Such an overview suggests that it is not too surprising if the accounts are somewhat contradictory – simply that no rigorous editorial process was applied (or presumably felt necessary) by the collectors/compilers of the material into Jewish Scripture. It was their desire neither to compile a scientific treatise on creation nor to imply that every word was set by direct divine composition.

Therefore neither scientific literalists nor young earth creationists need worry overmuch about (or minimise) the discrepancies.

As Saturday’s writer comments, the first story is a poem. It’s a description of how God ordained and ordered the cosmos and the world, envisioning a God acting by speaking in and to a chaotic situation through an ordered series of commands.

The prosaic narrative In Chapter 2 is in a sense much more down to earth. From the dirt of the garden God made man and plants and animals, but it was from the man that the woman was created to be a companion. Creation as relationship.

The sweep of the entire piece moves from a cosmocentric commanding God to an anthropocentric partnership in full relationship with a God who wanted what was good for humanity.

Thus is mirrored an understanding of two sides of our God – one who expects us to obey the commands of worship, doing justice and seeking peace who in return will fulfil the covenant with us by leading us to eternal life.

Prayer

God who made the earth
the air, the sky, the sea,
who gave the light its birth –
God cares for me.
(Sarah B Rhodes (Rejoice and Sing 62))
Creator God, in your mercy, care for me   --> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend --> Today's writer The Rev’d Ron Reid is a retired minister in the Mersey Synod serving as Link Minister at Rock Chapel, Farndon.  He is a member at Upton-by-Chester URC Copyright New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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Genesis, Exodus, Jonah and the Basis of Union!

Sun, 10/05/2020 - 15:00
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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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Dear Friends,

I hope you enjoyed our reflections on 2 Corinthians.  You will have noticed that, yesterday, we started a new series looking at Genesis.  Over the next few weeks we will read through many of the stories in Genesis  - some, like the creation accounts, are very familiar.  Other stories, however, are ones that aren't read out in church; ones we're tempted to skip over when we read the Bible.  Stories of rape, bitterness and anger fill the pages of Genesis alongside the more comfortable stories.  We will be reading more or less all of Genesis but skipping the stories on Joseph which we looked at last year.  

After Genesis we will start to read through Exodus until, in July, we take a break and have a 10 days with Janet Tollington looking at the Book of Jonah and then four weeks or so looking at our Basis of Union before returning to some more Old Testament stories.

With the press ablaze with stories about the lockdown being eased and with our governments busy quashing that speculation we're living through difficult times.  We don't know how long it will be before we can worship together again in church and, if we can, what such worship might look and feel like.  I hope, therefore, that the daily diet of Daily Devotions supplemented by the weekly worship we offer helps to keep us connected with God and each other during these strange times.

with every good wish


Andy

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


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