URC Devotion

URC Daily Devotion 27th November 2020

Fri, 27/11/2020 - 06:00
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Pursue peace with everyone, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble, and through it many become defiled.  See to it that no one becomes like Esau, an immoral and godless person, who sold his birthright for a single meal.  You know that later, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent,  even though he sought the blessing with tears.

You have not come to something that can be touched, a blazing fire, and darkness, and gloom, and a tempest,  and the sound of a trumpet, and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that not another word be spoken to them.  (For they could not endure the order that was given, ‘If even an animal touches the mountain, it shall be stoned to death.’  Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, ‘I tremble with fear.’)  But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering,  and to the assembly  of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect,  and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

See that you do not refuse the one who is speaking; for if they did not escape when they refused the one who warned them on earth, how much less will we escape if we reject the one who warns from heaven! At that time his voice shook the earth; but now he has promised, ‘Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heaven.’  This phrase ‘Yet once more’ indicates the removal of what is shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.  Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe; for indeed our God is a consuming fire.

Reflection

How did the Jews who followed Christ as saviour navigate the implications of this new life? The persecution from Synagogue and State; the amalgamation of Gentiles in their ranks, and the challenges this brought to the practice of long held Jewish customs and rituals; the knowing that Christ is Saviour, but the not knowing of what comes next.
 
These issues are played out in this letter, and at the risk of sounding flippant, I can’t help but draw parallels with our midst-covid world. Thrown from a situation of relative certainty, where the Church simply ‘was’ and has always been; a physical place of sanctuary; a mark on the landscape; a familiarity and a comforting presence in our lives, we find ourselves nervous and exhausted, knee deep in risk assessments, faces covered, advising long standing members not to come to worship, for their own benefit. In this scary new world, it’s so easy to look back, to long for that old certainty of rhythm and ritual, the confidence of our forebears in God's purpose for us, and to get back to how it was.
 
This section of the letter to the Hebrews, reminding them that Jesus, to put it crudely, ‘trumps all’ has much to say to us. Just as the Hebrews were forced to consider their own culture from a new Jesus shaped perspective, we too have an opportunity to re-assess, to re-centre Jesus, to remember that the church can be shaken, but the Kingdom cannot. With or without us, the Kingdom will continue to grow, as it always has. Jesus is ‘out there’, beyond the boundaries of our church walls, with the oppressed, the hurting, the maligned and the broken. Isn’t it about time that we got out there and joined him?  

Prayer

Oh God,
sometimes you feel far away.
The past looks rosier than the future.
It used to all make sense.
 
I seek you out, Jesus,
first born of God, made flesh,
now sat at the right hand of the Father,
yet, right here with me.
 
Send your Spirit,
to whisper new ways,
infuse in me faith,
hurry me on and into the world,
Where I might join
in the dance of your Heavenly Kingdom.
Amen   --> Today's writer Liz Kam CRCW Levenshulme Inspire 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 26th November 2020

Thu, 26/11/2020 - 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; 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Hebrews 12: 1 - 13

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely,  and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.

Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart.  In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.  And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as children—

‘My child, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
    or lose heart when you are punished by him;
for the Lord disciplines those whom he loves,
    and chastises every child whom he accepts.’

Endure trials for the sake of discipline. God is treating you as children; for what child is there whom a parent does not discipline? If you do not have that discipline in which all children share, then you are illegitimate and not his children. Moreover, we had human parents to discipline us, and we respected them. Should we not be even more willing to be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share his holiness. Now, discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.

Reflection

Many times I have heard people say, “I’ll be glad to see the back of that year.”  What promise a new year brings to those who are struggling, but what really is different with the turn of the calendar?  I never really understood.  Life is sometimes tough, and a new year offers hope.  As we approach the end of this year, I do understand.  This year I look forward to the promise of next year.

I’m not particularly athletic, but I, along with you and everyone else, have been running this year.  We have run to keep up with legislation, with technology, with the needs of our communities.  We have run to find appropriate ways to support each other while distancing.  We have been running for months.  Many of us are tired.

We have managed to keep running because we have that cloud of witnesses around us.  Our friends  have encouraged us, have offered ideas, have laughed and cried with us. Stil it has been a tough race. Our hands may be drooping.  Our knees may be weak, and we keep running.  People need us.  They need us to fight for justice, to work for the planet, to offer a caring presence.  In the midst of brokenness, they need us to create a community of healing.

In the midst of struggle the author of Hebrews wants us to remember who is our guide and why we are still running.  So whatever today holds Christ continues to guide us.  We are called to run--even the least athletic among us.   Listen to voices of encouragement and keep moving so that what is lame, broken in our world, may be healed.  

Prayer

God, thank you for the witnesses who encourage us, who guide us.  Give us courage to keep running.  Help us create communities of peace and justice.  Give us the gift of love in the face of pain.  God, grant us strength to be your people on the race for your kingdom.  Amen.    --> Today's writer The Rev’d Martha McInnes, Minister, Cardiff and Penarth Churches    

 

  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's Coming

Wed, 25/11/2020 - 16:15
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Dear Friends,

This Sunday's service is the first Sunday in Advent. We're doing Advent services a little differently from the normal structure. But we hope you will find them all a refreshing departure from the norm. This one, like the remainder of Advent Sunday services, won't have a sermon. But instead a series of reflections written by Baptist minister Nick Fawcett. Hymns for this Sunday include Wesley's (Charles!) Lo He Comes With Clouds Descending, the Taizé chant Wait for the Lord, a rousing rendition of Give me oil in my lamp, and more! T

Services will begin and end, during advent, with a secular song instead relevant to the theme. This week we have U2 and Stormzy.

With every blessing,

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

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URC Daily Devotion 25th November 2020

Wed, 25/11/2020 - 06:00
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Hebrews 11

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval.  By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.

By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain’s. Through this he received approval as righteous, God himself giving approval to his gifts; he died, but through his faith he still speaks.  By faith Enoch was taken so that he did not experience death; and ‘he was not found, because God had taken him.’ For it was attested before he was taken away that ‘he had pleased God.’  And without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would approach him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. By faith Noah, warned by God about events as yet unseen, respected the warning and built an ark to save his household; by this he condemned the world and became an heir to the righteousness that is in accordance with faith.

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going…

All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.  If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them.

By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac...  By faith Isaac invoked blessings for the future on Jacob and Esau. By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph...

By faith Moses was hidden by his parents for three months after his birth, because they saw that the child was beautiful; and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.  By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called a son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to share ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.  He considered abuse suffered for the Christ  to be greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to the reward.  By faith he left Egypt, unafraid of the king’s anger; for he persevered as though  he saw him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.

By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as if it were dry land... By faith the walls of Jericho fell...By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient...

And what more should I say?... Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised,  since God had provided something better so that they would not, without us, be made perfect.

Reflection

In September 2019, we moved back into our main church, beautifully remodelled to meet the needs of the 21st century and our wider community. We welcomed new faces, embarked on new ventures, provided a home for other groups to flourish, planned further development, then…coronavirus arrived and the doors shut.

It is said that the way to make God laugh is to tell him our plans! All our previous plans are on hold (in July), but the learning has not stopped. As in congregations across the country, we have found new ways to share our worship, support each other and deliver our message beyond the church walls.

When the doors re-open, there will be no familiar “normal” for the foreseeable future. We will have to adopt new practices and give extra thought to helping those who have lost so much this year.

What we might have lost – and gained – casts a light on this chapter of the letter to the Hebrews. Most of those Jews who had responded to the good news about Jesus still clung to the old ways, steeped in the rigid laws as prescribed by the Pharisees and Sadducees. Paul’s encouragement to spread the gospel to “unclean” Gentiles was just one of many ways in which they felt embattled.

The letter-writer reminded them that their ancestors had one thing in common, and one vital gift to offer – the importance of holding high their faith in God.

Little did they know that in a few years their embryonic church would disappear from Jerusalem after the Roman siege, but that many who escaped would become torchbearers for the gospel to non-Jewish communities they barely knew of before.

We too need to hold on to our faith and promote it with all the tools in our armoury, becoming the torchbearers for Jesus in our time.

Prayer

When we face change and challenge, Lord,
help us to learn valuable lessons from the past;
live with confidence and courage in the present,
and plan as best we can for the future,
knowing you will guide and support us.   Amen   --> Today's writer Pat Stannard is an Elder at 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 24th November 2020

Tue, 24/11/2020 - 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 24th November Hebrews - Motives for Perseverance
Hebrews 10: 32 - 39

But recall those earlier days when, after you had been enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings,  sometimes being publicly exposed to abuse and persecution, and sometimes being partners with those so treated.  For you had compassion for those who were in prison, and you cheerfully accepted the plundering of your possessions, knowing that you yourselves possessed something better and more lasting.  Do not, therefore, abandon that confidence of yours; it brings a great reward.  For you need endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.  For yet
‘in a very little while,
    the one who is coming will come and will not delay;
but my righteous one will live by faith.
    My soul takes no pleasure in anyone who shrinks back.’

But we are not among those who shrink back and so are lost, but among those who have faith and so are saved.

Reflection

Remembering the bad old days – or were they good old days? It rather depends what exactly we dwell on when we remember. My father had lifelong memories of his ten years in the Army (1910 – 1920) when, having been badly wounded in 1916, he spent several years in a POW camp in dire conditions, and suffered for the rest of his life. World War I had been a terrible experience, yet one he would not have missed. He told its stories and sang its songs with humour and a sense of gratitude that he had survived, and was glad to be able to work and keep his family.

As I read this passage, my first thought was that the “bad old days” lived by the Hebrew Christians were not so different from my father's experience. Nor indeed were they unlike the continuing experience of people today who suffer “public abuse and persecution” (and sometimes prosecution) because of the colour of their skin or their faith or their sexual orientation – or because of their determination to convince governments of the reality of climate change – or who campaign for prison reform, for safe working conditions, for a fair Benefits system or affordable housing … All these are long-term projects, part of the ongoing Christian commitment to the kingly rule of Christ. They need people of compassion and generosity, confidence and endurance … and, most of all, people of faith and hope and love. So that all will be able to say with the writer of Hebrews,

We are not among those who shrink back and so are lost, but among those who have faith and so are saved.

Prayer

God of Love and Justice and Hope
give us clear vision to see the needs around us;
make us quick to hear the weeping of the world
and ready to offer your healing and comfort.
Let us never shrink back from your call to Love,
but keep us ever faithful to know and to share your salvation. Amen --> Today's writer Heather Pencavel, retired Minister (Workplace Chaplain), member of Thornbury 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 23rd November 2020

Mon, 23/11/2020 - 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; 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For if we wilfully persist in sin after having received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful prospect of judgement, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has violated the law of Moses dies without mercy ‘on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’  How much worse punishment do you think will be deserved by those who have spurned the Son of God, profaned the blood of the covenant by which they were sanctified, and outraged the Spirit of grace?  For we know the one who said, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay.’ And again, ‘The Lord will judge his people.’  It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Reflection

Did you ever stay out after curfew, or eat sweets before your dinner?  Did you then receive the punishment due for breaking the rules?  As we grow up, our parents teach us right from wrong, and teach us the rules we are to follow in life – whether laws of the land, or household instructions.  And we follow them – mostly – and, usually as teenagers – see how many of them we can at least bend!  But we know when we have bent or broken the rules, we will feel the disappointment or even wrath of our parents for our disobedience.

What we are warned in our reading is slightly more serious than whether we put our dirty clothes in the washing basket.  When we accept Christ into our lives, it is not just a commitment to an hour a week on a Sunday. It is a complete change of life.  It is a way of life that inspires us to do the right thing all the time, to put away our own desires and plans and to live for Christ.  If we choose to stray from that path we are doomed to judgement.  Of course, we are going to get it wrong sometimes, but this is more than that.  It’s a deliberate choice to turn our back on everything we believe and act as though we had never accepted Christ, making his sacrifice for nothing.  Then we will feel the full force of God’s judgement.

We spend so much time focussing on the security and love and hope we have in Christ, that we often forget that there are consequences to our actions if we deliberately choose to reject him.  Be warned.

Prayer

Lord God, we don’t want to be scared about following you, but sometimes we rely too much on your forgiving love that we take advantage and stray too far.  Remind us of your judgement that we might realise the consequences of our actions and so focus more on our commitment.  May we use the love you have shown to us to motivate all our actions that we may follow your true path.  Amen.    --> Today's writer The Rev’d Ruth Watson Bolton and Salford Missional Partnership Minister      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 Sunday Worship - 22nd November 2020

Sun, 22/11/2020 - 09:45
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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentColumn{ padding-right:18px !important; padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnImageCardLeftImageContent,.mcnImageCardRightImageContent{ padding-right:18px !important; padding-bottom:0 !important; padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcpreview-image-uploader{ display:none !important; width:100% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h1{ font-size:24px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h2{ font-size:20px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h3{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h4{ font-size:16px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; 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Below you will find the Order of Service, prayers, hymns and sermon for today's service.   You can either simply read this or you can
  click here
to listen to the service and sing along with the hymns.  This will open up a new screen, at the bottom of the screen you will see a play symbol.  Press that, then come back to this window so you can follow along with the service. URC Daily Devotion Worship for Sunday 22nd November
Christ the King

The Rev’d Michael Hodgson

Introduction
 
Good morning, I’m Michael Hodgson and I’m the Minister of two churches in Surrey- St Andrew’s in Walton-on-Thames, and Weybridge URC.  St Andrew’s story begins in 1928 when a group of people, mainly Scots or people with Scottish roots, began to meet for services in the local theatre.  Weybridge’s story begins back in 1860 when a wealthy local resident began holding services in his own home to offer a service principally aimed for the domestic servants who lived and worked in the many big houses in the area then.  Things have changed a lot now.  We are just within the M25 circle and very much in the London commuter belt.  Both Walton and Weybridge are outwardly extremely affluent areas but within both towns there are areas of poverty and of social deprivation.  It’s therefore both a joy and a challenge to live and to minister here which is much more socially mixed than it may initially appear.
 
Call To Worship
 
The wisdom of God calls to us, from the heights, along the paths, and at the crossroads. Come into God’s presence to worship, sing, and pray.

From our scattered places we come. Let us worship God.

Hymn
       Alleluia Sing to Jesus
                  W. Chatterton Dix, Tune: Hyfrodol

1 Alleluia! Sing to Jesus;
His the scepter, His the throne.
Alleluia! His the triumph,
His the victory alone.
Hark! The songs of peaceful Zion
thunder like a mighty flood;
"Jesus out of ev'ry nation
hath redeemed us by His blood.
 
2 Alleluia! Not as orphans
are we left in sorrow now.
Alleluia! He is near us;
faith believes, nor questions how.
Though the cloud from sight received Him
when the forty days were o'er,
shall our hearts forget His promise,
"I am with you evermore"?
 
3 Alleluia! Bread of Angels,
Here on earth our food, our stay!
Alleluia! here the sinful
Flee to thee from day to day:
Intercessor, friend of sinners,
Earth’s redeemer, plead for me,
Where the songs of all the sinless
Sweep across the crystal sea.
 
4 Alleluia! King eternal,
Ye the Lord of lords we own;
Alleluia! Born of Mary,
Earth thy footstool, heav’n thy throne:
Thou within the veil hast entered,
Robed in flesh, our great high priest;
Thou on earth both priest and victim
In thy Eucharistic feast.

Opening Prayer, Confession and Assurance and Pardon
 
God of Wonder and God of love, with the whole church on earth, and with the whole company of heaven, we praise your name.  You have brought us to this hour and to you belong the glory and the praise.  You made us in your image and, through Jesus, you save us.  You love us with a never-ending love and so we pray that you will cleanse us by your grace and guide us by your Holy Spirit.  May we honour your name and may we offer you to acceptable worship; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.
 
Remember not, Lord, our offences,
Nor the offences of our forebears;
Neither take vengeance of our sins,
But spare us, good Lord.
Spare your people, whom you have redeemed
With your most precious blood,
And be not angry with us for ever.
Spare us, good Lord.
 
Grace to you and peace from God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.   Your sins are forgiven- thanks be to God.
 
And as one family we say together the Lord’s Prayer…
 
Reading:  St Matthew 25: 31-46
 
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory.  All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left.  Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,  I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink?  And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’  And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’  Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels;  for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,  I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’  Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’  Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’  And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Hymn:      There Is A Land of Pure Delight
                  Isaac Watts
  1 There is a land of pure delight
Where saints, immortal reign
Infinite day excludes the night
And pleasures banish pain.
 
2 There everlasting spring abides
And never withering flowers:
Death, like a narrow sea, divides
This heav'nly land from ours.
Could we but climb where Moses stood
And view the landscape o'er
Not Jordan's streams nor death's cold flood
Should fright us from this shore


3 O could we make our doubts remove
Those gloomy thoughts that rise
And see the Canaan that we love
With unbeclouded eyes!
 
Could we but climb where Moses stood
And view the landscape o'er
Not Jordan's streams nor death's cold flood
Should fright us from this shore (x2)


Sermon
 
The liturgical comes to an end this Sunday and today is known by a number of names.  It’s “The Sunday next before Advent”; it’s “Stir Up Sunday”;  it’s “Christ the King” Sunday to name but a few.  Today encourages us to look forward to the reign of Christ the King and, as a musician, my brain is already mentally singing, “Christ triumphant, ever reigning, Saviour, Master, King.”  My guess is that after the year we’ve been through many of us will find looking forward a rather more pleasurable prospect than looking back.  2020 is not a year that we’ll ever forget although I sense that during it a number of people have found great strength and comfort in their faith.  As I prepare this sermon I am reading that there has been a considerable increase in the number of people who say that they are praying regularly now. 
 
Our Gospel reading this morning is a well-known passage, unique to Matthew.  It speaks of the judgement of the Son of Man and it follows three parables which are all about preparing for the coming of the Son of Man.  The first of those is the “Parable of the Faithful and Unfaithful Servants”.  The second is the “Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids” or the “Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins”, as some of us may more readily know it.  And then, the third is the “Parable of the Talents.”  Those three parables are all about being prepared for the coming of the Son of Man.  In each of them everyone knows that the master will come, even if he doesn’t arrive as soon as was initially expected.    What is required in each of those parables, however, is watchfulness.  That is why the wicked servant, the foolish bridesmaids and the lazy steward fail:  and the faithful servant, the wise Bridesmaids and the enterprising stewards all succeed.  Everyone knew what to do but when push came to shove, some did it and some did not. 
 
The three parables then climax with the story of the judgement of the Son of Man which is our Gospel reading today. 
 
I always find it both a comforting and a disturbing passage.  I know that I can think of occasions when I’ve been both a sheep and a goat and being realistic, I suspect that I’ve fallen short of the mark far more frequently than I’ve reached it.  In my preaching since the middle of March, however, I’ve quite often looked at each Sunday’s Bible readings and explored them through the lens of lockdown and the COVID pandemic.  I’d like to try to do that this morning though you will all be aware that these sermons are prepared well in advance.
 
When I said the Blessing in church at the end of worship on 15th March I think I knew that it could well be a long time before I did that again.  The next few weeks were certainly a steep learning curve for a lot of us.  The church moved online and once my brain moved out of panic mode and rebooted in safe mode I realised that a significant change was taking place all around me.  I live in an area not necessarily known for being a close-knit community these days but suddenly people were coming together, looking out for each other, helping others and being aware of other people’s needs and situations, not just their own.  As  “Clap for the Carers” progressed I met neighbours I’d never even seen before, let alone spoken to.  A WhatsApp group was established.  People started smiling at the each other, saying, “Hello”.  Having moved here from mid Wales, where buying a pint of milk can easily take an hour, it was wonderful.  Suddenly there was human contact.  When the NHS asked for volunteers to help people get prescriptions etc they were overwhelmed by the response - and to me this all ties in directly with the first part of our Gospel reading this morning.  To pick up Matthew’s language, people were fed, given food, clothed and visited by phone or by Zoom or by keeping a 2 metre distance outside.  One of my own more unusual pastoral moments was a visit to a church member in the last weeks of a terminal illness.  He was in bed and I, since I couldn’t go in, I was standing in a flowerbed by an open window.  Weird - but a visit I’m so glad I did.  I think that I always knew it would be the last time I’d actually see him. 
 
A number of churches have also been heavily involved in community response and support, members and ministers alike being key workers in trying to mitigate some of the effects of the lockdown.  Our online churches have been out there meeting spiritual needs and it’s interesting that many suddenly found themselves with bigger congregations than they had pre-Covid days-  and covering much greater areas too.  So, when I read about the judgement of the Son of Man and about the sheep and goats this year, I dare to respond to it with a little more positivity.  That’s not to be complacent.  I don’t dismiss the times when we have failed.  I don’t dismiss the times when we didn’t welcome, we didn’t give food or a drink, didn’t clothe, or didn’t visit-  but if those three parables which precede our Gospel reading are all about knowing what to do and doing it then I dare to hope that we’ve done rather better this year.   Surely this year we should give thanks to God for all the appropriate responses as well as confess the times we failed.  We should give thanks that God has been with us through it all- our refuge and out strength, as the Psalmist writes.  Matthew’s Gospel makes it clear that when we are judged our faith should have been expressed through obedient and loving behaviour to all, not just to those we like.  After the year we’ve been through -  and after the way we’ve responded, a little more carrot and a little less stick is surely appropriate today.
 
So, having looked back a bit, I’d like finally to look forward and two hymns by Isaac Watts always seem to say so much at this point.  “There is a land of pure delight”, he writes and says the we need not fear that because, if we could just see it then nothing would “fright us from the shore”.  In the other hymn Watts imagines that he’s been given a special pair of wings to allow him to do precisely that.  He asks “the saints above” how they got there and tells us that, “they, with united breath, ascribe their conquest to the Lamb, their triumph to his death.”  I’ve long found those words both encouraging and reassuring.  They may have been written a little over 300 years ago but I believe them still to be at the heart of our faith and a joy upon which to meditate.
 
So, as the liturgical year comes to an end I find myself looking forward with hope and with optimism.  2020 has been a difficult year.  I have lost members of my congregations to the COVID-  but I do hope that we’ve risen to its challenges with faithfulness, resourcefulness and courage. 
 
Our Gospel reading is always a challenge.  There is always room for improvement but this year I read it knowing that in so many ways a lot of people have done their very, very best to deliver that standard.  And where we’ve failed to meet that standard, I also believe in a God who is merciful.

Hymn:      Christ, Of God Unseen, The Image
                  The Rev’d Leith Fisher, (b1941) based on Colossians 1: 15-20
  1 Christ, of God unseen the image,
born before creation’s birth;
through whom all things were created,
all that live in heaven and earth –
realms and rulers, thrones, dominions,
powers great and forces small
through and for Him made and fashioned –
He is in and over all.
 
2 Christ the firstborn of creation,
Christ in whom all things cohere,
all things’ Maker, seen and unseen,
low and lofty, far and near,
Christ the head of His dear body,
of His Church the living core,
risen from the dead before us –
Him we gladly now adore.  
3 Christ in whom the very fullness
of the living God is found,
Christ who reconciles creation
turning earth to holy ground,
Christ the home of God’s good pleasure
through whose blood is made our peace,
in whose Cross, beyond all measure,
is our freedom and release.
  Affirmation of Faith
 
Do you believe in the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who gathers, protects, and cares for the Church through Word and Spirit. This God has done since the beginning of the world and will do to the end. We do
 
Do you believe that God is the One who wishes to bring about justice and true peace among people. We do.
 
Do you believe that God, in a world full of injustice and enmity, is in a special way the God of the destitute, the poor, and the wronged? We do.
 
This is the faith of the Church!  We are proud to confess it in Jesus Christ, our Lord.   Amen.
 
Prayers of Intercession
 
Loving, living God, today we as we think of the reign of Christ the King we give thanks and pray for all those who, in the terms of our Bible reading, have acted as sheep.  We pray for those who have given the hungry food, those who have given the thirsty a drink.  We pray for those who welcome strangers, clothe the naked, care for the sick and visit those in prison.  We give thanks for the many acts of kindness and caring shown in these difficult and frightening times.
 
In our prayers we continue to pray for those involved in the caring professions.  We pray for those trying to improve the lot of their fellow human beings, particularly remembering those doing so in the face of uncaring or unjust leaders.  And we pray for the scientists working for a vaccine for Covid (and the other dreaded diseases) at the moment.
 
And we pray for those who are hungry and thirsty today.  We pray for the sick.  We pray for the dying and we pray for those who are mourning.  We pray for the stranger, the frightened, the homeless and we pray for those whom we know and who are finding life a struggle at this time.
 
And we pray for ourselves.  Open our eyes and open our hearts that we may respond as those Biblical sheep did. May we live our lives in a state of preparedness for your coming, setting our eyes on that “land of pure delight where saints immortal reign”  which we may glimpse through faith.  May we do everything in our power to share that glimpse with others through our lives and through our actions.
 
In a moment or two of quiet we bring our own, personal payers before God…
 
And the collect for this Sunday,- stir-up Sunday.
 
 "Stir-up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people;
that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works,
may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
 
Offertory Prayer
 
O God, from whom we receive both our gifts and our power to give; grant that our offerings, which we bring to you, may be used for in your service and for your glory;  through Jesus Christ our Lord.
 
Praise god from whom all blessings flow
Praise him all creatures here below
Praise hm above ye heavenly host
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
 
Hymn       Christ triumphant, ever reigning
1 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:
Yours the glory...
3 Suffering servant, scorned, ill - treated,
victim crucified!
death is through the cross defeated,
sinners justified:
Yours the glory...
 
4 Priestly king, enthroned for ever
high in heaven above!
sin and death and hell shall never
stifle hymns of love:
Yours the glory…
  5 So, our hearts and voices raising
through the ages long,
ceaselessly upon you gazing,
this shall be our song:
Yours the glory...

Blessing
 
Go forth into the world in peace; be of good courage; hold fast that which is good; render to no one evil for evil; strengthen the fainthearted; support the weak; help the afflicted; honour all people; love and serve the Lord, rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit.
And the blessing of Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be with you all now and always.
 
Amen.
 






Thanks to
 
Jonnie Hill and Adam Scott, Ruth and Kingsley Browning, Phil, Lythan and Carys Nevard for recording the Call to Worship and Affirmation of Faith. Andy Braunston, Addie Redmond, Aaron Wood and Ray Fraser for other spoken parts of the service.
Alleluia Sing to Jesus- (W. Chatterton Dix, Tune: Hyfrodol), sung by the Choir of Kings College Cambridge
There Is A Land Of Pure Delight- (Isaac Watts), Red Mountain Music
Christ, of God Unseen, The Image- (The Rev’d Leith Fisher, (b1941) based on Colossians 1: 15-20), Edinburgh University Singers, Ian McCrorie (Conductor), John Kitchen (Organ)
Christ Triumphant, Ever Reigning- (Michael Saward), Jubilate Hymns
 
Organ Pieces
Nun Komm Der Heiden Heiland (“Now the Gentile saviour comes”) by Johann Sebastian Bach, (organ of The Spire Church, Farnham – 2020)
Nun Danket Alle Gott – Marche Triomphale (“Now thank we all our God”) by Sigfrid Karg-Elert, (organ of All Saints’, Odiham – 2020)
 
Both pieces played by Brian Cotterill

http://briancotterill.webs.com  --> Where words are copyright reproduced under the terms of Barrhead URC’s CCLI licence number 1064776,
Some material reprinted, and streamed, with permission under ONE LICENSE A-734713 All rights reserved.
PRS Limited Online Music Licence LE-0019762
  Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Sunday 22nd November 2020

Sun, 22/11/2020 - 06:00
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The earth is the Lord's (Men)
And everything in it (Women)
The earth is the Lord's (Men)
The work of His hands (Women)
The earth is the Lord's (Men)
And everything in it (Women)
And all things were made (All)
For His glory

(Last time)
And all things were made
Yes, all things were made
And all things were made
For His glory

The mountains are His
The seas and the islands
The cities and towns
The houses and streets
Let rebels bow down
And worship before Him
For all things were made
For His glory

Graham Kendrick
Copyright © 1986 Thankyou Music

You can hear this Psalm here 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rAompuKQZo0#action=share

Reflection

In the church I grew up in we used to take turns to say verses of the Psalms. An imaginary line down the centre of the congregation determined who would speak the odd or even lines. As I look at our Psalm song, I see something that should seem similar. And yet those bracketed instructions to the (Men) and (Women) look so curious on the page.

Both the song and my memory of sharing out the psalm lines come from the mid-1980s. The same decade saw a growing conversation about who gets to speak, whose language is considered normal, and who gets to say what. I have never sung this hymn without noticing, and regretting, that only men get to sing of God’s lordship, whilst women just sing in reply. The female voices never get to begin an idea, only to elaborate upon the point the men already made. Perhaps unconsciously, perhaps deliberately, this Psalm setting connects the Lordship of God to male authority. I find it hard to sing, which is a shame as Psalm 24 is such a powerful and beautiful poem.

The way we speak of God, and who we listen to as we talk of God, can limit our imagination. Psalm 24 points in the opposite direction – everything in this world belongs to God, and all have their part to play in worship. Who gets to speak, whose life experience is assumed to be normal, who is made to feel like a token presence, and who is encouraged to stay silent still matters. In each generation grows a new awareness of who has been kept quiet and what has previously been left unsaid. May we listen with the Holy Spirit to the chorus of God’s created people. And may we notice how every voice needs to be honoured and brought out for us to begin to imagine the fullness of life which God promises.

Prayer

How does the sea worship you?
Through its ebbs and tides, and consistent action? Or its constant recreation of beaches and rain clouds?

How does a city worship you?
Through the buildings which point to the heavens? Or its openness to the stranger, protection of the vulnerable?

How do I worship you?
Through my prayer and reflection? Or in my speaking, listening, and action?

As all of creation seeks to worship you, may every thing speak of your glory.
Amen.   --> Today's writer The Rev’d ’frin Lewis-Smith is a healthcare chaplain in Salford and a member of Tonge Moor 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  21st November 2020

Sat, 21/11/2020 - 06:00
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Hebrews 10: 19-25

Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus,  by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh),  and since we have a great priest over the house of God,  let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.  Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful.  And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds,  not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Reflection

Paul had confidence born of faith. Confidence built on Christ. That’s surely one of the reasons that his ministry was as wide ranging and impactful as it was. It’s no wonder that he urges others to have that same confidence. 

Nevertheless, confidence alone is no guarantee of the quality of anyone’s faith, or the quality of their message. After all, the false prophets, to whom Paul alludes elsewhere, probably also displayed a similar confidence. However, Paul reminds the Hebrews that the right sort of confidence and the right sort of message should provoke them to love and good deeds. They can see from the fruit growing within their community, or the lack of it, whether or not the confidence is warranted.

Paul also tells the Hebrews to meet together. One of the many good reasons for doing this is so that they can discern together the worth of any message. Whilst an individual can be led astray by a new and exciting preacher, the community as a whole will more easily discern a false apostle. In other words, when we get back to having coffee after worship, we should also return to the old, old ways of discussing the sermon over the biscuits. This will allow us to absorb all that has been said that is good and to discard anything not so good.

Paul then prompts the Hebrews to encourage one another. So often those with the strongest gifts do not recognise them for what they are. It is only when they are encouraged by others that they may have the confidence to step forward and to offer those gifts to God and to the community. So coffee time needs to become encouragement time too. That way, those with unrecognised gifts can discover both the gifts and the confidence to use them.

Prayer

Living and loving God,
We praise you that we can stand before you
in the confidence that through Christ we have been forgiven.
We ask you now to grant us the discernment to know what you would have us do
And the confidence to step forward in your name and to do it.
Thanks be to God
Amen.     --> Today's writer The Rev’d Jacky Embrey, minister in the Bolton and Salford Missional Partnership   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 20th November 2020

Fri, 20/11/2020 - 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; 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Hebrews 10: 11 - 18

And every priest stands day after day at his service, offering again and again the same sacrifices that can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, ‘he sat down at the right hand of God’,  and since then has been waiting ‘until his enemies would be made a footstool for his feet.’  For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us, for after saying,

‘This is the covenant that I will make with them
    after those days, says the Lord:
I will put my laws in their hearts,
    and I will write them on their minds’,

he also adds,

‘I will remember  their sins and their lawless deeds no more.’

Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

Reflection

The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews compares and contrasts the daily sacrificial offerings in the Temple with the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross for the sins of the world.  In the Temple sin offerings were made each day - and the writer thinks they were ineffective despite being commanded in the Law - but Jesus’ offering of himself to the Father is effective and was offered just once.  

Many contemporary Christians struggle with these ideas of sacrifice for the atonement from sin - the images certainly come from a different world view and a different understanding of faith than is often the case now.  But then the URC believes that everytime we celebrate Holy Communion we “show forth Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross” making it present in the here and now (a variant of older ideas linking the Eucharist with sacrifice).

Many contemporary people struggle with ideas of sacrifice generally - not just about ideas of sacrifice in religious worship.  A culture which is based on credit means we can have what we want whenever we want it.  Gone are the days of our grandparents where they’d save up for things before buying them.  The idea of sacrificing something in our lives or in our interests for the good of another or the greater good of society is long gone.  But for 10 weeks we stood on our doorsteps and clapped appreciation for people who work in the NHS for little recognition and even less money.  Maybe the idea of sacrifice still resonates.

We are all called to participate in Jesus’ sacrifice to offer ourselves to the Creator along with Jesus.  We are all called to give sacrificially of our time, our talents, and our money - not as offerings for sin but as a way of changing both ourselves and our world.  We are called to point to a different understanding of how to live that, through sacrifice, the Kingdom will come.

Prayer

Lord Jesus,
you offered yourself on the wood of the Cross,
that we might find freedom - 
from sin,
destruction,
and alienation.
Help us to live sacrificially,
that we might point to a world of different values,
even your coming Kingdom.  Amen.   --> Today's writer The Rev’d Andy Braunston serves with four churches in and around Glasgow.   Copyright New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 19th November 2020

Thu, 19/11/2020 - 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 19th November Hebrews - The Old Sacrifices Ineffective

Hebrews 10: 1 - 10


Since the law has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered year after year, make perfect those who approach. Otherwise, would they not have ceased being offered, since the worshippers, cleansed once for all, would no longer have any consciousness of sin? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sin year after year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,

‘Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
    but a body you have prepared for me;
in burnt-offerings and sin-offerings
    you have taken no pleasure.
Then I said, “See, God, I have come to do your will, O God”
    (in the scroll of the book it is written of me).’

When he said above, ‘You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt-offerings and sin-offerings’ (these are offered according to the law), then he added, ‘See, I have come to do your will.’ He abolishes the first in order to establish the second. And it is by God’s will that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Reflection

It seems to me that the writer is telling all that the never-ending following of the Law as the years go by; approaching God, making offerings and seeking forgiveness, will not make them – or us perfect because if that were so – and perfection without sin is the ultimate goal – then having sins forgiven once for all, would negate the need to keep asking.  They and we would be left only with the memory of the first time that we were forgiven.  An echo of a past event only.  The result would be that there would be no further need to enter God’s presence and obey the Law for would they not be cleansed and perfect already? 
Now Christ has entered the world, and all is changed.  The Lord takes away the Old Testament to establish the New, “by the body of Jesus Christ”.  The incarnation had its foundation in the love of God.  It was the beginning of the Lord’s own self-sacrifice in fulfillment of the will of His Father, that leads all the way to the cross and there, if we accept His sacrifice and let Him into our hearts and lives, God will sanctify us and make us clean again for all time.

 Prayer

Lord Jesus,
Our hearts cry out to you today.
We acknowledge you as our Lord and our God.
And yet we know that today and on every other day
We have not listened to you or done your will.
Again and again we did not carry through what you asked of us.
Forgive us.
Help us to see clearly what you are asking us to do.
Help us to follow you, listening always to your voice in our lives.
We can then reflect your love
And become more perfect in your eyes.
Amen.     --> Today's writer Ann Barton, Lay leader and member of Whittlesford URC in the Eastern Synod   Copyright New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion

Thu, 19/11/2020 - 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 19th November Hebrews - The Old Sacrifices Ineffective
  Hebrews 10: 1 - 10

Since the law has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered year after year, make perfect those who approach. Otherwise, would they not have ceased being offered, since the worshippers, cleansed once for all, would no longer have any consciousness of sin? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sin year after year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,

‘Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
    but a body you have prepared for me;
in burnt-offerings and sin-offerings
    you have taken no pleasure.
Then I said, “See, God, I have come to do your will, O God”
    (in the scroll of the book it is written of me).’

When he said above, ‘You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt-offerings and sin-offerings’ (these are offered according to the law), then he added, ‘See, I have come to do your will.’ He abolishes the first in order to establish the second. And it is by God’s will that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Reflection

It seems to me that the writer is telling all that the never-ending following of the Law as the years go by; approaching God, making offerings and seeking forgiveness, will not make them – or us perfect because if that were so – and perfection without sin is the ultimate goal – then having sins forgiven once for all, would negate the need to keep asking.  They and we would be left only with the memory of the first time that we were forgiven.  An echo of a past event only.  The result would be that there would be no further need to enter God’s presence and obey the Law for would they not be cleansed and perfect already? 

Now Christ has entered the world, and all is changed.  The Lord takes away the Old Testament to establish the New, “by the body of Jesus Christ”.  The incarnation had its foundation in the love of God.  It was the beginning of the Lord’s own self-sacrifice in fulfillment of the will of His Father, that leads all the way to the cross and there, if we accept His sacrifice and let Him into our hearts and lives, God will sanctify us and make us clean again for all time.

 Prayer

Lord Jesus,
Our hearts cry out to you today.
We acknowledge you as our Lord and our God.
And yet we know that today and on every other day
We have not listened to you or done your will.
Again and again we did not carry through what you asked of us.
Forgive us.
Help us to see clearly what you are asking us to do.
Help us to follow you, listening always to your voice in our lives.
We can then reflect your love
And become more perfect in your eyes.
Amen.     --> Today's writer Ann Barton, Lay leader and member of Whittlesford URC in the Eastern Synod   Copyright New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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Sunday's Coming

Wed, 18/11/2020 - 15:45
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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentColumn{ padding-right:18px !important; padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnImageCardLeftImageContent,.mcnImageCardRightImageContent{ padding-right:18px !important; padding-bottom:0 !important; padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcpreview-image-uploader{ display:none !important; width:100% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h1{ font-size:24px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h2{ font-size:20px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h3{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h4{ font-size:16px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; 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Dear Friends,

Sunday’s service is Christ The King. The theme being based around the Parable of the Sheep and Goats. Thinking about how we are called to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, give shelter to the homeless... Hymns include Alleluia, Sing to Jesus, Isaac Watts' There is a land of pure delight, Christ, of God unseen, the image, finishing with Michael Saward's Christ Triumphant, Ever Reigning.

The service will be led by Revd. Michael Hodgson, with contributions, as usual, from far and wide. Michael is the minister of two churches in Surrey, Wessex Synod.

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

with every good wish


Dan


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

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

Finally, a reminder if you need to change your email address please use the link, below, "update your preferences".    Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 18th November 2020

Wed, 18/11/2020 - 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 Wednesday 18th November  Hebrews - Christ’s Sacrifice Takes Away Sin
  Hebrews 9:23 - 28

Thus it was necessary for the sketches of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves need better sacrifices than these. For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made by human hands, a mere copy of the true one, but he entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself again and again, as the high priest enters the Holy Place year after year with blood that is not his own; for then he would have had to suffer again and again since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the age to remove sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for mortals to die once, and after that the judgement, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

Reflection

‘Once for all.’ There is such a wealth of hope in these words. In our human lives, we launch out on the really meaningful things in our lives once for all, and when we make these commitments we mean them. But we are human, and weak, and fail. Marriage entered into with such hope and shining eyes too often falls apart into unbearable unhappiness, and separation and divorce follow on from that once for all promise.

Sometimes the very words betray the fact that we do not believe in ‘once for all’. A mother at the end of her tether telling a wayward child that she’s telling him  for the last time, once for all… but in her heart she knows as she speaks the words that it won’t be the last time.

In our transient world, there seems to be no permanence, no ‘once for all’ that we can truly believe in. Which is why the Gospel is so wonderful. Counter-cultural. A God who says what he means and does what he says he’ll do. A God who does the amazing cosmos-transforming thing once for all and it really is once for all.

There is a sufficiency about Christ that marks him out from all the changing uncertainties of humanity. And how we need his unchangingness to cling onto. Not as something in past history but as something for the now, and something for the future. For if we can be confident in his once for all sacrifice, we can be equally confident that he will return again for those who wait for him. 

Prayer

Steady us, Lord Jesus, in the sureness of your love.
Forgive us for our frailty and fickleness, for our difficulty with the once for alls in our own lives.
And help us rejoice in your once for all sacrifice, and look forward to your return,
Amen.  
    --> Today's writer Dorothy Courtis, Lay Preacher, Thurso URC   Copyright New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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Duplicate Email Problem

Tue, 17/11/2020 - 10:04
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font-weight:normal; line-height:125%; letter-spacing:normal; text-align:left; } #templatePreheader{ background-color:#EBDBCD; border-top:0; border-bottom:1px solid #CDC2BA; } .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ color:#524E48; font-family:Georgia; font-size:10px; line-height:125%; text-align:left; } .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent a{ color:#524E48; font-weight:normal; text-decoration:underline; } #templateHeader{ background-color:#FFFFFF; border-top:0; border-bottom:0; } .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ color:#524E48; font-family:Georgia; font-size:18px; line-height:150%; text-align:left; } .headerContainer .mcnTextContent a{ color:#036B74; font-weight:normal; text-decoration:underline; } #templateBody,#mainBackground{ background-color:#FFFFFF; } #templateBody{ border-top:0; border-bottom:0; } .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ color:#524E48; font-family:Georgia; font-size:16px; line-height:150%; text-align:left; } .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent a{ color:#036B74; font-weight:normal; text-decoration:underline; } .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ color:#524E48; font-family:Georgia; font-size:10px; line-height:125%; text-align:center; } .footerContainer .mcnTextContent a{ color:#524E48; font-weight:normal; text-decoration:underline; } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ body,table,td,p,a,li,blockquote{ -webkit-text-size-adjust:none !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ body{ width:100% !important; min-width:100% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ #mainBackground,#templateHeader,#templateBody,.templateContainer{ max-width:600px !important; width:100% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnRetinaImage{ max-width:100% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnImage{ width:100% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnCartContainer,.mcnCaptionTopContent,.mcnRecContentContainer,.mcnCaptionBottomContent,.mcnTextContentContainer,.mcnBoxedTextContentContainer,.mcnImageGroupContentContainer,.mcnCaptionLeftTextContentContainer,.mcnCaptionRightTextContentContainer,.mcnCaptionLeftImageContentContainer,.mcnCaptionRightImageContentContainer,.mcnImageCardLeftTextContentContainer,.mcnImageCardRightTextContentContainer,.mcnImageCardLeftImageContentContainer,.mcnImageCardRightImageContentContainer{ max-width:100% !important; 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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentColumn{ padding-right:18px !important; padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnImageCardLeftImageContent,.mcnImageCardRightImageContent{ padding-right:18px !important; padding-bottom:0 !important; padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcpreview-image-uploader{ display:none !important; width:100% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h1{ font-size:24px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h2{ font-size:20px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h3{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h4{ font-size:16px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ #templatePreheader{ display:block !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } View this email in your browser Daily Devotions from the URC --> inspiration in your inbox --> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend Multiple Emails
Dear friends,

over the last few days Mailchimp has, for reasons of its own, sent out duplicate copies of the morning Devotion to some people.  I have no idea why this has happened.  Looking ahead I can see that only one copy of the Devotion is scheduled for each day between now and 6th January.

Many people seem to have got annoyed at the duplicates; a few have made comments that suggest they have forgotten that the Daily reflections are written, edited and managed entirely by volunteers. 

I realise that lockdown in England raises anxiety but please remember to be kind to each other.  If the system causes duplicates to be produced again again please just press the delete button - it takes a couple of seconds at most.

with every good wish

Andy


The Rev'd Andy Braunston
Co-ordinator, Daily Devotions from the URC. --> --> --> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend --> New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 17th November

Tue, 17/11/2020 - 06:00
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Hebrews 9: 1 - 22


Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly sanctuary.  For a tent  was constructed, the first one, in which were the lampstand, the table, and the bread of the Presence;  this is called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain was a tent called the Holy of Holies.  In it stood the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant overlaid on all sides with gold, in which there were a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tablets of the covenant;  above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy-seat. Of these things we cannot speak now in detail.

Such preparations having been made, the priests go continually into the first tent to carry out their ritual duties;  but only the high priest goes into the second, and he but once a year, and not without taking the blood that he offers for himself and for the sins committed unintentionally by the people. By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the sanctuary has not yet been disclosed as long as the first tent is still standing. This is a symbol of the present time, during which gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshipper,  but deal only with food and drink and various baptisms, regulations for the body imposed until the time comes to set things right.

But when Christ came as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation),  he entered once for all into the Holy Place, not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, with the sprinkling of the ashes of a heifer, sanctifies those who have been defiled so that their flesh is purified, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to worship the living God!

For this reason he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, because a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions under the first covenant. Where a will  is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive.  Hence not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood.  For when every commandment had been told to all the people by Moses in accordance with the law, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the scroll itself and all the people, saying, ‘This is the blood of the covenant that God has ordained for you.’ And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent  and all the vessels used in worship.  Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

Reflection

Ponder the image of the Holy Place from which there is the awesome possibility of being allowed into the Holy of Holies.

Maybe the Holy Place is a loved place of worship. We give it time, energy and money because it matters to the congregation and is a sign of the presence of God in the community. But we also remember those precious moments when, although sat in a very familiar place, some music, or a Bible verse, or an especially rich silence took us beyond the familiar into a stunning sense of the Emmanuel - God with us - that felt like a glimpse of the Holy of Holies. The memory sustains us when church life is difficult or simply tedious.

Such memories may also help us believe that the best of this life, even the Holy moments, are only the merest of hints of what God has in store when we go beyond the curtain of Death; go into the Holy of Holies, not accessible while we are constrained in human bodies. In contrast to the crematorium curtain that hides the coffin before it is destroyed, this curtain is thrown open to reveal the full life ahead. Without that, the writer reminds us, the Holy Place is a con.

But the Good News comes at a price. The blood of animal sacrifices was a different sort of hint of what was to come. God did not require Abraham to shed the blood of his son Isaac; for the time being a ram would serve. Yet animal sacrifices were never going to be enough to establish our relationship with God as fully as God desired. Only when his own Son’s blood was shed was the Holy of Holies opened to all.  

Prayer

Lord God
We thank you for the Holy Places that we cherish.
May we tend them so that others might find their refuge and hear their challenge.
We thank you for the special moments when we have known you close to us.
May they equip us for the hard parts of today.
We thank you for your Son’s sacrifice to open the curtain.
May I live as someone who knows your gift.

Amen.            --> Today's writer John Ellis is Synod Area Leader for West Kent and East Sussex and Secretary of Capel United 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

Tue, 17/11/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 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; font-family:inherit !important; 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Hebrews 9: 1 - 22

Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly sanctuary.  For a tent  was constructed, the first one, in which were the lampstand, the table, and the bread of the Presence;  this is called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain was a tent called the Holy of Holies.  In it stood the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant overlaid on all sides with gold, in which there were a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tablets of the covenant;  above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy-seat. Of these things we cannot speak now in detail.

Such preparations having been made, the priests go continually into the first tent to carry out their ritual duties;  but only the high priest goes into the second, and he but once a year, and not without taking the blood that he offers for himself and for the sins committed unintentionally by the people. By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the sanctuary has not yet been disclosed as long as the first tent is still standing. This is a symbol of the present time, during which gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshipper,  but deal only with food and drink and various baptisms, regulations for the body imposed until the time comes to set things right.

But when Christ came as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation),  he entered once for all into the Holy Place, not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, with the sprinkling of the ashes of a heifer, sanctifies those who have been defiled so that their flesh is purified, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to worship the living God!

For this reason he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, because a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions under the first covenant. Where a will  is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive.  Hence not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood.  For when every commandment had been told to all the people by Moses in accordance with the law, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the scroll itself and all the people, saying, ‘This is the blood of the covenant that God has ordained for you.’ And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent  and all the vessels used in worship.  Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

Reflection

Ponder the image of the Holy Place from which there is the awesome possibility of being allowed into the Holy of Holies.

Maybe the Holy Place is a loved place of worship. We give it time, energy and money because it matters to the congregation and is a sign of the presence of God in the community. But we also remember those precious moments when, although sat in a very familiar place, some music, or a Bible verse, or an especially rich silence took us beyond the familiar into a stunning sense of the Emmanuel - God with us - that felt like a glimpse of the Holy of Holies. The memory sustains us when church life is difficult or simply tedious.

Such memories may also help us believe that the best of this life, even the Holy moments, are only the merest of hints of what God has in store when we go beyond the curtain of Death; go into the Holy of Holies, not accessible while we are constrained in human bodies. In contrast to the crematorium curtain that hides the coffin before it is destroyed, this curtain is thrown open to reveal the full life ahead. Without that, the writer reminds us, the Holy Place is a con.

But the Good News comes at a price. The blood of animal sacrifices was a different sort of hint of what was to come. God did not require Abraham to shed the blood of his son Isaac; for the time being a ram would serve. Yet animal sacrifices were never going to be enough to establish our relationship with God as fully as God desired. Only when his own Son’s blood was shed was the Holy of Holies opened to all.  

Prayer

Lord God
We thank you for the Holy Places that we cherish.
May we tend them so that others might find their refuge and hear their challenge.
We thank you for the special moments when we have known you close to us.
May they equip us for the hard parts of today.
 
We thank you for your Son’s sacrifice to open the curtain.
May I live as someone who knows your gift.

Amen.        --> Today's writer John Ellis is Synod Area Leader for West Kent and East Sussex and Secretary of Capel United 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 17th November 2020

Tue, 17/11/2020 - 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; 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Tuesday 17th November Hebrews - The Earthly and Heavenly Sanctuaries
  Hebrews 9: 1 - 22

Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly sanctuary.  For a tent  was constructed, the first one, in which were the lampstand, the table, and the bread of the Presence;  this is called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain was a tent called the Holy of Holies.  In it stood the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant overlaid on all sides with gold, in which there were a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tablets of the covenant;  above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy-seat. Of these things we cannot speak now in detail.

Such preparations having been made, the priests go continually into the first tent to carry out their ritual duties;  but only the high priest goes into the second, and he but once a year, and not without taking the blood that he offers for himself and for the sins committed unintentionally by the people. By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the sanctuary has not yet been disclosed as long as the first tent is still standing. This is a symbol of the present time, during which gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshipper,  but deal only with food and drink and various baptisms, regulations for the body imposed until the time comes to set things right.

But when Christ came as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation),  he entered once for all into the Holy Place, not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, with the sprinkling of the ashes of a heifer, sanctifies those who have been defiled so that their flesh is purified, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to worship the living God!

For this reason he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, because a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions under the first covenant. Where a will  is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive.  Hence not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood.  For when every commandment had been told to all the people by Moses in accordance with the law, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the scroll itself and all the people, saying, ‘This is the blood of the covenant that God has ordained for you.’ And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent  and all the vessels used in worship.  Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

Reflection

Ponder the image of the Holy Place from which there is the awesome possibility of being allowed into the Holy of Holies.

Maybe the Holy Place is a loved place of worship. We give it time, energy and money because it matters to the congregation and is a sign of the presence of God in the community. But we also remember those precious moments when, although sat in a very familiar place, some music, or a Bible verse, or an especially rich silence took us beyond the familiar into a stunning sense of the Emmanuel - God with us - that felt like a glimpse of the Holy of Holies. The memory sustains us when church life is difficult or simply tedious.

Such memories may also help us believe that the best of this life, even the Holy moments, are only the merest of hints of what God has in store when we go beyond the curtain of Death; go into the Holy of Holies, not accessible while we are constrained in human bodies. In contrast to the crematorium curtain that hides the coffin before it is destroyed, this curtain is thrown open to reveal the full life ahead. Without that, the writer reminds us, the Holy Place is a con.

But the Good News comes at a price. The blood of animal sacrifices was a different sort of hint of what was to come. God did not require Abraham to shed the blood of his son Isaac; for the time being a ram would serve. Yet animal sacrifices were never going to be enough to establish our relationship with God as fully as God desired. Only when his own Son’s blood was shed was the Holy of Holies opened to all.  

Prayer

Lord God
We thank you for the Holy Places that we cherish.
May we tend them so that others might find their refuge and hear their challenge.
We thank you for the special moments when we have known you close to us.
May they equip us for the hard parts of today. 
We thank you for your Son’s sacrifice to open the curtain.
May I live as someone who knows your gift.

Amen.       
  --> Today's writer John Ellis is Synod Area Leader for West Kent and East Sussex and Secretary of Capel United 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 16th November 2020

Mon, 16/11/2020 - 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 16th November Hebrews - Christ our Mediator  Hebrews 8: 6 - 13
But Jesus  has now obtained a more excellent ministry, and to that degree he is the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted through better promises.  For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no need to look for a second one.

God finds fault with them when he says:

‘The days are surely coming, says the Lord,
    when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel
    and with the house of Judah;
not like the covenant that I made with their ancestors,
    on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt;
for they did not continue in my covenant,
    and so I had no concern for them, says the Lord.
This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
    after those days, says the Lord:
I will put my laws in their minds,
    and write them on their hearts,
and I will be their God,
    and they shall be my people.
And they shall not teach one another
    or say to each other, “Know the Lord”,
for they shall all know me,
    from the least of them to the greatest.
For I will be merciful towards their iniquities,
    and I will remember their sins no more.’

In speaking of ‘a new covenant’, he has made the first one obsolete. And what is obsolete and growing old will soon disappear.

Reflection

As a child I remember being struck by a particular prayer that spoke of Jesus as our mediator and advocate. As one of three sisters there was often a need for mediation at home.

A mediator is one who brings people together, who fosters understanding and brings about reconciliation by helping parties to find common ground. For humanity Jesus as mediator brings about the promise of a new covenant.

We are used to advertising that offers us ‘new improved versions’ of goods that still have value and worth. It seems that built-in obsolescence is the hidden basis to spur economic growth. Most things are not built to last.

However God’s New Improved Offer is a genuine development - it offers something better for all God’s people. We are being invited to have a deeper renewed relationship with God.

This Covenant transferred from tablets of stone to hearts and minds is enabled by the presence of the mediator - the writer of Hebrews quotes Jeremiah, picking up threads of the Old Testament for those familiar with it, and establishing a longer pedigree for those new to Jesus’s thought.

We need a new improved covenant because the old one wasn’t working - that relationship had broken down through inability of humanity to keep the terms. The new arrangement had been talked about by the latter prophets is being put in place with Jesus. It is still on offer - we too can leave the slavery of our Egypt. God comes close through this new living way.

As we continue to work out how to be God’s people today, let us not return to what is obsolete but jettison what is no longer helpful and let the Spirit of Jesus lead us into a deeper relationship with God.

“Past put behind us, for the future take us,
Lord of the years to live for. Christ alone.”

Prayer

Lord, in these times of change, 
help us to embody your promises and explore what they mean for us today. 
As we ponder anew how to be your people, 
draw close to us and enable our hearts and minds to be renewed by your Spirit.
For Jesus’ sake and for the transformation of the world
Amen

    --> Today's writer The Rev’d Viv Henderson is Minister of Minehead URC & a mental health chaplain with Elysium Healthcare in Wellington   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 Sunday Worship - 15th November 2020

Sun, 15/11/2020 - 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. URC Daily Devotion Worship for Sunday 15th November

Revd. Catherine McFie
  Introduction

Hello and welcome to worship.
My name is Catherine McFie and I am a minister within Mersey Synod. Half my time is dedicated to being the minister of two congregations: St Columba, Hunts Cross and St George’s, Maghull both of which are in Liverpool. A quarter of my time is dedicated to the role of Pastoral Office within the Liverpool Area. The final section of my time is allocated to Synod Directed ministry. I moved to the area at the start of March this year and was inducted to this varied ministry, 2 days before the country went into lockdown.
 
I am recording this in the study of the Manse, which is in the Liverpool suburb of Wavertree.  My study has patio doors, so the space is light and airy. While I am working, I often find myself looking out at the garden especially when I see the movement of a bird or squirrel out of the corner of my eye.
 
Let us come and worship God.
 
Call to worship
 
The wisdom of God calls to us, from the heights, along the paths, and at the crossroads. Come into God’s presence to worship, sing, and pray.
 
From our scattered places we come. Let us worship God.

Hymn       Jesus Is the name we honour
                  Philip Lawson-Johnston
  1 Jesus is the name we honour;
Jesus is the name we praise.
Majestic Name above all other names,
The highest heaven and earth proclaim
That Jesus is our God.
 
We will glorify,
We will lift Him high,
We will give Him honour and praise.
We will glorify,
We will lift Him high,
We will give Him honour and praise.
 
2 Jesus is the name we worship;
Jesus is the name we trust.
He is the King above all other kings,
Let all creation stand and sing
That Jesus is our God.
 
We will glorify...
 
3 Jesus is the Father's splendour;
Jesus is the Father's joy.
He will return to reign in majesty,
And every eye at last shall see
That Jesus is our God.
 
We will glorify…
Prayers of approach, confession and forgiveness
Loving God, what a delight it is to be in your presence once again,
Even though you are with us every second of every day
It is good to make time to come before you with our praise and worship.
We come with hearts full of thanksgiving as we remember your generosity to us,
Thank you for the gift of this new day and the opportunities it holds to serve you,
Thank you for your faithfulness to us
Thank you for your love which surrounds us and keeps us close to you
 
Thank you most of all for the gift of your Son Jesus.
We remember his example and teaching
We remember his sacrifice on the cross
We remember the joy of the resurrection
There are not enough words to express our gratitude for all that you have done for us,
for all that you have given us
But know that these simple words come from the depths of our hearts – thank you, Lord.
 
We also come to say we are sorry.
We are sorry for the times when we have turned away from you to follow our own path
We are sorry for the words we have said that have hurt others and have not glorified you
We are sorry for the things we have left undone, thinking not of others but ourselves.
Gracious God, we seek your forgiveness.
 
Sisters and brothers,
Because we belong to Jesus we do not have to fear,
He lived, died, and was raised for us,
Believe the promise of his words when he says “your sins are forgiven”
My we forgive each other and forgive ourselves.             Amen.

Prayer of illumination
God of words and action,
As we prepare to listen to Matthew’s gospel,
As we think about parables
As we seek understanding
As we wait for you to lead us,
Open our hearts and our minds,
Fill us with your Spirit that we may be ready to learn from you.
In Jesus name we pray.
Amen.

Reading – Matthew 25: 14 – 30
14 ‘For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; 15 to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. 17 In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. 18 But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20 Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, “Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.” 21 His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” 22 And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, “Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.” 23 His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” 24 Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, “Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.” 26 But his master replied, “You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. 29 For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 30 As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Hymn       Lord for the years
                  Timothy Dudley Smith (1926- )
 
1 Lord, for the years your love has kept and guided,
urged and inspired us, cheered us on our way,
sought us and saved us, pardoned and provided:
Lord of the years, we bring our thanks today.
 
2 Lord, for that Word, the Word of life which fires us,
speaks to our hearts and sets our souls ablaze,
teaches and trains, rebukes us and inspires us:
Lord of the Word, receive your people's praise.
 
3 Lord, for our world, when we disown and doubt you
loveless in strength, and comfortless in pain,
hungry and helpless, lost indeed without you:
Lord of the world, we pray that Christ may reign.

4 Lord, for ourselves; in living power remake us
self on the cross and Christ upon the throne;
past put behind us, for the future take us,
Lord of our lives, to live for Christ alone.
             
Sermon
This week’s reading from Matthew focuses on Jesus’ teaching about the end times and is the third of four parables on this theme. Much has happened since Jesus triumphant entry into Jerusalem, earlier in the week. Jesus has cleared the moneychangers out of the temple and cursed a fig tree. He answered questions about paying taxes, resurrection and talked about which commandment was the greatest. Jesus denounced the Scribes and the Pharisees, wept over Jerusalem, and told the disciples the temple would be destroyed. Now it was time to prepare the disciples for the future, a future that would not include him, but a future that held the hope and promise of Jesus’ return. And so he began his parable.
 
The man in the parable was going on a journey and while he was away, he needed someone to watch over his property and ensure that his business interests were protected so he summoned three of his slaves.  He recognised the different abilities of the three people and gave them each talents accordingly – to the first he gave five talents, the second two, and to the third he gave one talent. A silver talent was valued at six thousand denarii and would be about sixteen and a half years wages for a manual labourer. Looking at talents this way helps us to understand the large responsibility the man gave his slaves but also suggests an abundance that is difficult to imagine. No instructions are given with the money so the slaves must have known from experience, what the master expected of them.
 
Once the man left on his journey, the first two slaves began at once to trade and make more money. This was probably not a risk-free activity, but they were willing to take chances, put in the effort and their hard work paid off. Over time they both generated enough of a profit to double what they have been given. The third slave took a different approach and was focused on just keeping the money they had safe. At a time when safety deposit boxes did not exist, the safest place to keep such a large sum of money was in the ground. So the third slave dug a large hole, buried the talent and waited quietly for the master’s return.
 
A long time passed but the master did return and he was anxious to settle accounts with those he had trusted to look after his property.  Each slave had the opportunity to speak to the master and give a summary of what they had been doing during his absence.
 
Although the first two slaves received a different number of talents, their story to the master was the same. They had taken the money, made some sound business decisions and had managed to double the money that they had been given. They were excited to tell the master that they now had ten and four talents respectively. The master was very well pleased with both these slaves and the work they had done. They had proven themselves to be hard working and trustworthy and as a reward they were to be given more responsibility. The master also invited them to share in his joy.
 
I wonder how the third slave felt as he listened to the others wax lyrical about what they had done and how much they had gained during the master absence. Now that it was his turn to speak about what he had achieved, did he regret simply burying the talent. As he began his account he didn’t tell the master about his actions, but instead began with a critique of the master’s business practices. He called the master a harsh man and accused him of stealing from other farmers, suggesting he was not a man to be trusted. The slave used this critique as an excuse for his inaction and admitted that he made his choices out of fear. He was afraid of losing any of the master’s money, so he simply buried it. He returned the 1 talent to his master and felt his duty had been adequately discharged.
 
There was no word of praise for the third slave as the master declared him to be wicked and lazy. This does seem a bit harsh considering the slave had not lost the master any money, but when his actions are compared to those of the other slaves we can understand the master’s point of view. The master does not confirm or deny the accusations levelled against him but the way he says “you knew did you…” suggests that maybe, the third slave’s opinions was not accurate. The slave is told that the bank would have been a better alternative because there would have been interest that accrued.  This slave had not proven himself trustworthy and the responsibility that he had been given was taken away. The one talent was given to the slave who had accumulated ten talents. This time the actions of the third slave had different consequences. He was to be thrown out into the outer darkness, away from the safety of the master’s home and denied the opportunity to share in the master’s joy with the others.
 
When I first read though this passage there was much that worried me. There is a sense that only those who work get the blessing. There is a sense of unfairness – why should those who have receive more and vice versa? There is a sense of confusion – why was the third slave described as wicked for keeping the master’s money safe? There is sense that this passage could easily be abused to justify a materialistic or capitalistic approach to life. Yet, while all these concerns are on my mind, I remember that this is a parable and so it isn’t supposed to be taken literally. The story has a deeper meaning beyond the obvious. We have to look beyond Jesus’ words to seek out what he is telling us about the end times.
 
The first lesson from the parable is that the waiting, the time between now and when Jesus returns, is not a time of inactivity. In our communities there is work to be done for the kingdom, and as disciples this is our work to do. The master did not treat the three slaves the same and God does not treat us the same. The work we are given to do will consider our abilities but we all will have work to do. The third slave faced the judgement of the master not because he hadn’t made any money but because he had been inactive, he had not made the most of the responsibilities and the opportunities he had been given.
 
Today, this parable is a prompt for us to think about how we are working for the kingdom. Are we making the most of the responsibility and the opportunities God has given us to build the kingdom in our areas?
 
The second lesson comes from looking the way the slaves emulated the master. I have assumed that the master had a successful business because he was able to hand over 8 talents to his slaves. The first two slaves emulated the master by trading, taking risks and by making a success of what they attempted. Their focus was on doing something for the master.  The third slave made no attempt to trade, took no risks, and didn’t try to make any money. His actions were the opposite of the master. His focus was on himself and what was best for him rather than on what was best for the master.
 
So do we try to emulate Jesus in the work that we do for the kingdom? For example, do we challenge injustice, show compassion, question those in authority, help those in need, take risks to make a difference? It is easy to fall into a pattern of discipleship that is safe and based on what we need, what time we are happy to give and what we are willing to do. This style of discipleship that doesn’t reflect the characteristics or values of Jesus because it is focused on the wrong things. Our actions and view are centred on our needs and wants rather than on the will of God and the needs of the kingdom.
 
Finally, it was a surprise to hear the third slave being so critical of the master and openly accusing him of bad business practices. For someone who took no risks during the master absence he appears to be taking a big risk speaking in such a way publicly. We don’t know if the accusations were true or false but if they were false, why did the third slave have such a negative view of his master? While the third slave’s words are a surprise they shouldn’t really be. Experience has taught me that even within the church and amongst disciples there are those who have a false view or limited view of God or Jesus. This can occur when we are inactive in our discipleship, when we focus on ourselves and reflect the values of the world rather than the values of our master.
While we will never truly understand God, we can be active in trying to know God more. As we seek answers and as we learn more, we gain a different and deeper understanding of God and we change as people. Our values and attitudes begin to emulate that of our master, and we are eager to work for the kingdom. The opposite is also true. If we don’t seek to know more about God, we can find that the little knowledge and understanding we do have, gives a limited idea of who God is and what God can do. We also stop seeing changes in our own lives, it becomes difficult to emulate the master and we struggle to actively work for the kingdom.  
 
This parable teaches us how we, as Jesus’ disciples today, should spend our time while we wait for his return. How will the master respond when we are asked to settle our account? Will we be invited into the joy of the master or will be cast out into the outer darkness? Amen.
 
Affirmations of Faith
 
Do you believe in the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who gathers, protects, and cares for the Church through Word and Spirit. This God has done since the beginning of the world and will do to the end. We do
 
Do you believe that God is the One who wishes to bring about justice and true peace among people. We do.
 
Do you believe that God, in a world full of injustice and enmity, is in a special way the God of the destitute, the poor, and the wronged? We do.
 
This is the faith of the Church!  We are proud to confess it in Jesus Christ, our Lord.   Amen.

Hymn       Lord of creation
                  Words: John Copley Winslow, Tune: Slane
 
1 Lord of creation, to you be all praise!
Most mighty your working, most wondrous your ways!
Your glory and might are beyond us to tell,
and yet in the heart of the humble you dwell.
 
2 Lord of all power, I give you my will,
in joyful obedience your tasks to fulfill.
Your bondage is freedom, your service is song,
and, held in your keeping, my weakness is strong.
 
3 Lord of all wisdom, I give you my mind;
rich truth that surpasses and knowledge to find.
What eye has not seen and what ear has not heard
is taught by your Spirit and shines from your Word.

Offertory introduction and prayer
God has entrusted us with different gifts and resources
Let us offer to God a generous measure of what we have received
with a thankful heart and in an attitude of praise.
 
Generous God, for all that you are and all that you do
We give you our heartfelt thanks
We wait in hope for the return of your Son, Jesus,
And offer our time, talents and the fruit of our labours
And pray that you use them to further your kingdom on earth.
 
In Jesus name we pray. Amen.

Intercessions
 
Almighty God, you welcome us into your joy and entrust us with your Gospel.
In hope and with love, we bring before you our prayers for the world
 
For those who live in fear this day…may they have courage.
For those who have questions and doubts…may they be reassured.
For those who have little…may they receive a fair share of the world’s resources
For those who have been enslaved…may they be given freedom
For those who are out of work…may they find employment
For those who seek your will for their lives…may they receive guidance
For us, your church…may we be faithful workers for your kingdom.
Faithful God, we offer up these prayers and the prayers of our hearts in the name of Jesus. Amen
 
The Lord’s Prayer

Hymn
       Forth in thy name, O Lord, I go
                  Charles Wesley

1 Forth in Thy name, O Lord, I go,
My daily labour to pursue;
Thee, only Thee, resolved to know
In all I think, or speak, or do.
 
2 The task Thy wisdom hath assigned,
O let me cheerfully fulfil;
In all my works Thy presence find,
And prove Thy good and perfect will.

3 Thee may I set at my right hand,
Whose eyes mine inmost substance see,
And labour on at Thy command,
And offer all my works to Thee.
 
4 Give me to bear Thy easy yoke,
And every moment watch and pray,
And still to things eternal look,
And hasten to Thy glorious day.

5 For Thee delightfully employ
Whate’er Thy bounteous grace hath given;
And run my course with even joy,
And closely walk with Thee to Heaven.

Blessing
God of patience and opportunities
Guide us as we seek to learn more about you,
Encourage us as we work to build your kingdom,
Challenge us to know your will.
 
May the blessing of Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be with you today and always. Amen.





Thanks to
Jonnie Hill and Adam Scott, Ruth and Kingsley Browning, Phil, Lythan and Carys Nevard for recording the Call to Worship and Affirmation of Faith. Melanie Hall, Ray Fraser, Carol Tubbs, Anne Hewling for reading other parts. Evie Richardson (aged 5) for the offertory prayer.
 
Fugue in G Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach
(organ of The Spire Church, Farnham – 2020)
Komm Gott Schӧpfer Heiliger Geist (“Come God, creator Holy Ghost”) by Johann Sebastian Bach (organ of Basilica Santa Maria Dei Assunta, Montecatini Terme, Italy – 2016)
 
Both pieces played by Brian Cotterill: http://briancotterill.webs.com
 
Jesus is the name we honour (CH4 481 – words + tune by Phil Lawson-Johnston) - Performed by Ingrid DuMosch
Lord for the years (CH4 159 – words by Timothy Dudley Smith) – from BBC’s Songs of Praise
Lord of creation, to you be all praise! (CH4 500 – Words by John Copley Winslow), performed by Seventh Day Adventist Choir from Sacramento
Forth in thy name, O Lord, I go (CH4 529 – words by Charles Wesley), performed by St Michael’s Choir, Absolute Marketing Int. Ltd.


  --> Where words are copyright reproduced under the terms of Barrhead URC’s CCLI licence number 1064776,
Some material reprinted, and streamed, with permission under ONE LICENSE A-734713 All rights reserved.
PRS Limited Online Music Licence LE-0019762
  Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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