URC Devotion

Back to Egypt

3 hours 9 min ago
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over the last month we've taken a break from our meander through Genesis and Exodus with an excursion into Jonah and a wander through the Basis of Union.  Now we return to where we left off: the stories of a hard hearted Pharoah, Moses the liberator and now a plague or 10.  

When these Devotions were planned out the idea of writing about plagues didn't have the same resonance as they do now as we live through a modern day plague.

I hope the readings are fruitful for you.


with every good wish


Andy

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


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Back to Exodus

4 hours 9 min ago
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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentColumn{ padding-right:18px !important; padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnImageCardLeftImageContent,.mcnImageCardRightImageContent{ padding-right:18px !important; padding-bottom:0 !important; padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcpreview-image-uploader{ display:none !important; width:100% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h1{ font-size:24px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h2{ font-size:20px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h3{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h4{ font-size:16px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; 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Dear Friends,

I hope you've found the last two weeks' devotions on our Basis of Union useful; considering it's place in our common life it does rather deserve to be better known.

Now we've worked our way through it we return, tomorrow morning, to Exodus picking up where we left off as we start to consider the plagues sent to change Pharaohs mind.

with every good wish


Andy

Andy Braunston
Co-ordinator, URC Daily Devotions   --> Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Friday 7th August 2020 Basis of Union 23

13 hours 39 min ago
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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentColumn{ padding-right:18px !important; padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnImageCardLeftImageContent,.mcnImageCardRightImageContent{ padding-right:18px !important; padding-bottom:0 !important; padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcpreview-image-uploader{ display:none !important; width:100% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h1{ font-size:24px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h2{ font-size:20px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h3{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h4{ font-size:16px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ #templatePreheader{ display:block !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } View this email in your browser Daily Devotions from the URC --> inspiration in your inbox --> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend Friday 7th August 2020  Basis of Union 23   
Acts 20:17, 28, 31-35
 
From Miletus (Paul) sent a message to Ephesus, asking the elders of the church to meet him. When they came to him, he said to them: “… Keep watch over yourselves and over all the flock, of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God that he obtained with the blood of his own Son … Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to warn everyone with tears. And now I commend you to God and to the message of his grace, a message that is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all who are sanctified. I coveted no-one’s silver or gold or clothing. You know for yourselves that I worked with my own hands to support myself and my companions. In all this I have given you an example that by such work we must support the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, for he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
                                                                                                                                                              
Basis
 
Some are called to be elders. They share with Ministers of the Word and Sacraments in the pastoral oversight and leadership of the local churches, taking counsel together in the elders' meeting for the whole church and having severally groups of members particularly entrusted to their pastoral care. They shall be associated with Ministers in all the councils of the church. Elders elected by the church meeting are ordained to their office and are inducted to serve for such limited period as the church which elects them shall determine. All elders are eligible for re-election, and those elected shall enter upon their office by induction. On moving to another local church an ordained Elder is eligible for election by that church to the elders' meeting, and, if so elected, is inducted. The ordination and induction of elders shall be carried out in the course of public worship by a Minister of the local church (or, during a pastoral vacancy, by the interim moderator) acting with the serving elders.  (23)

Reflection

I thank God for elders – for this pattern of Christian service, and for a host of fine people who fulfil it. Eldership is one of the treasures of the URC. Here are some of the reasons we value it so highly.

Elders are both lay and ordained. With roots and experience in wider society, they lead and care for the church. Appointed as individuals, they work as a team. They are chosen by the local congregation, for a role recognised by the URC as a whole. We ordain them because this ministry – linking church and world, locally rooted, operating as a team – is an ‘essential element’ of our shared life, a key ingredient for healthy Church order.

I notice two practical themes in today’s scripture passage. One is vigilance: ‘keep watch … be alert’. An elder lives in two worlds – Church and wider society. To stand on the boundary is to see the dangers and the opportunities. The Church is not an island. We belong to the local community, and we represent Christ within it.  Elders are well placed to understand this.

The second theme is generosity: ‘God’s grace … support the weak … it is blessed to give’. Eldership is demanding. It asks people to offer to God a lot of time, energy and compassion. Pastoring needs patience. Leadership must be given in love. Caring can be costly. Supporting others will stretch us. Yet this is God’s church, brought into being through the suffering love of Jesus. We are not in this on our own. Grace and goodness are behind us, with us and among us.

Eldership is a big ask. I see many people in the URC who have given a big answer to that ask, and I thank God for them.

Prayer

For the elders among us we pray for strength and steadiness,
  to care with understanding,
  to lead with confidence,

  to guide the Church wisely and well.
We pray that in giving they will receive – 
  joy in serving, 
  the thanks of friends,
  and growth in faith, hope and love.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.   --> Today's writer The Rev’d John Proctor is a retired minister and member of Downing Place URC in Cambridge Copyright New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 6th August 2020

Thu, 06/08/2020 - 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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St Luke 24:13-35

Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem,  and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him.  And he said to them, ‘What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?’ They stood still, looking sad.  Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, ‘Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?’  He asked them, ‘What things?’ They replied, ‘The things about Jesus of Nazareth,  who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people,  and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him.  But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.  Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place.  Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning,  and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.’  Then he said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared!  Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’  Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on.  But they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.’ So he went in to stay with them.  When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’  That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together.  They were saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!’  Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Basis

Some are called to the Ministry of church related community work. After approved preparation and training, they may be called to be Church Related Community Workers in a post approved by the United Reformed Church, are then commissioned to the office of Church Related Community Worker and inducted to serve in a particular post for a designated period. This commissioning and induction shall be in accord with Schedules D & F. Church Related Community Workers are commissioned to care for, to challenge and to pray for the community, to discern with others God’s will for the well-being of the community, and to endeavour to enable the church to live out its calling to proclaim the love and mercy of God through working with others in both church and community for peace and justice in the world. Their service may be stipendiary or non-stipendiary, and in the latter case their service is given within the area of a synod and in a context it has approved.  (22)

Reflection

The ministry of Church Related Community Work has been like walking numerous Emmaus Roads in all sorts of locations and contexts. I have walked alongside individuals, groups, communities and encouraging the Church to do the same.

Many of these folks, like the disciples were often broken, grieving, feeling that there was little, if anything they can do to change their situation and that of their communities. They have stood still, paralysed, frozen, looking sad, feeling lost and helpless. So, I have travelled with them, listening to and embracing their stories – never denying, correcting or changing any of the narratives and always waiting until their stories come to an end. I have tried (and sometimes failed!) to resist the temptation to interrupt them or tell them what I think they should do.  Even when I think that we may have been heading down a cul-de-sac, I have stayed with them - sometimes reluctantly!  When we have found ourselves in unfamiliar territory (never admitting that we could be lost), we have worked out a route together.

Because through the journeying and listening to each other comes the realisation that the answer is and, always has been, right there amongst and within them. After years of being told what is best for them by professionals and despite what messages they may have been given by society and the world around them, they come face to face with the reality that they have the gifts and talents. Gifts and talents that can transform their lives and communities in the ways that they, not others, deem appropriate.

The journeys have always been two-way processes. At times, things have not been easy and there have been many bumps in the road plus a few near crashes. But along the way I have found myself being challenged and changed by the adventures with my co-travellers. Ultimately, together we have been able to discover the transformative power of God - often hidden in plain sight.

Prayer

Boundless and transformative God,
teach us to be good co-travellers.
Help us to know
when to do justice,
how to love kindness,
and remind us to walk humbly,
always with You.
Amen
(Micah 6:8)   --> Today's writer Marie Trubic is a Church Related Community Worker serving the Shawlands and Priesthill project in 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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Sunday's Coming

Wed, 05/08/2020 - 11:15
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Dear Friends,

Sunday’s service of Holy Communion is led by the Rev’d Stewart Cutler minister of St Ninian’s Church in Stonehouse, a partnership between the Church of Scotland and the United Reformed Church.   Hymns include  William Whiting’s Eternal Father, Strong to Save, Priscilla J Owens’ Will Your Anchor Hold?, Brian Wren’s I Come With Joy To Meet My Lord, a lovely Sanctus from Argentina in both Spanish and English, and Cecil Francis Alexander’s Jesus Calls O’er the Tumult

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


Andy


The Rev'd Andy Braunston
Coordinator, 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.  I am away for August and so won't be able to help if you email!

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 Wednesday 5th August 2020 Basis of Union 21

Wed, 05/08/2020 - 06:00
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line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ #templatePreheader{ display:block !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } View this email in your browser Daily Devotions from the URC --> inspiration in your inbox --> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend Wednesday 5th August 2020 Basis of Union 21 
Ephesians 4: 11-13   The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.   Basis   Some are called to the Ministry of the Word and Sacraments.  After approved preparation and training, they may be called to be Ministers of local churches, or missionaries overseas, or to some special and approved ministry, and are then ordained and inducted to their office...They are commissioned to conduct public worship, to preach the Word and to administer the Sacraments, to exercise pastoral care and oversight, and to give leadership to the church in its mission to the world.   Their service may be stipendiary or non-stipendiary, and in the latter case their service is given within the area of a synod and in a context it has approved. (21)   Reflection   Fifteen years of my ministry have been at Westminster College, and this combination of Paul’s teaching and these invitations from the Basis have seldom been far from me, or, I suspect, from any of us devoted to the URC’s education, training and formation for ministry. The ways in which we deliver and plan it have changed dramatically (within a year of arriving at Westminster I was at the General Assembly that withdrew ministerial training from many ecumenical partnerships to focus upon Cambridge, Manchester and the Scottish College). The expectations, aspirations, demands and deployment of ministry remain in constant flux across our Synods. Congregations wrestle with many histories and much memory of previous ministries that often jar against what, now, is either possible or even useful. I have always thanked God that the URC has consistently devoted tremendous resources to equipping and sustaining ordained ministry.    None of this, I believe, denies the rightful wonder and significance of everyone who wants to follow Jesus. None of this should let us trip ourselves up by imagining that the overwhelming majority of Christians who are not ordained to these ministries are in any way lesser Christians of less significance before God. Paul’s ultimate focus in Ephesians is not the self-aggrandizement of a holy and select guild, but the equipping of every believer for their own unique ministries and the growing up of the whole Church to the spiritual and missionary maturity Christ teaches and yearns for in us all. Yes, a thousand times, we believe in the priesthood of all believers. But Paul, as our Basis, is equally clear that God calls some, and wants some, prepared to be God’s agents in this equipping and nurturing. We have always, and must continue, to test and refine how we do such calling and preparing in response to the leading of the Spirit. New circumstances and changing contexts demand our most passionate dreaming and our most energetic reinvention again and again and again. I do not know what future Ministry of Word and Sacraments will be for the URC. But neither do I believe that we have no further need of it, or that God has ceased to call people into it.   Prayer   Thank you, dear God, for the call of the Spirit in the name of your Son. Thank you for all who minister amongst us and throughout our communities and institutions. Thank you for those who have helped us to follow you. Bless them this day. Bless us as we, too, discover your claim and calling in our lives today. Amen. --> Today's writer The Rev’d Neil Thorogood is Principal of Westminster College, Cambridge, until he returns to local URC pastoral ministry at Trinity-Henleaze (Bristol) and Thornbury in summer 2020 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 TTuesday 4th August 2020 Basis of Union 20

Tue, 04/08/2020 - 06:00
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Ephesians 4.11-13

The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.

Basis

For the equipment of his people for this total ministry the Lord Jesus Christ gives particular gifts for particular ministries and calls some of his servants to exercise them in offices duly recognised within his Church. The United Reformed Church recognises that Christ gives himself to his Church through Word and Sacrament and through the total caring oversight by which his people grow in faith and love, the exercise of which oversight is the special concern of elders and Ministers. Those who enter on such ministries commit themselves to them for so long as God wills: the United Reformed Church having solemnly acknowledged their vocation and accepted their commitment shall appoint them to their particular ministry and give them authority to exercise it within the church, setting them apart with prayer that they shall be given all needful gifts and graces for its fulfilment, which solemn setting part shall in the case of Ministers and elders be termed ordination and in the case of Church Related Community Workers be termed commissioning. In the United Reformed Church all ministries within the life of the Church shall be open to both men and women. Appropriate affirmations of faith shall be made by those entering upon all ministries within the life of the Church. (20)

Reflection

‘So do you feel any different?’ was one of the first questions I remember family and friends asking me once we got back to the manse after attending the worship service at which I was ordained as a minister and inducted to my first post.  I don’t remember feeling any different and my memory of that day is a bit of a blur.  

Reading through this section of the Basis of Union I am struck by the concept of ‘total ministry’.  A ministry that no one individual is able to carry or fulfil alone.  Each individual has a unique constellation of abilities, interests, and talents; and what’s more all of those are needed for the Church to fully live out its mission and witness.  The idea of ‘every member ministry’ is a popular one in many denominations; the idea that everyone has a part to play in living and sharing the good news of Jesus Christ in the places we live out our lives.  As the Church once again shifts its shape this is an important idea to remember and to try to live out.  

And yet, the URC is a church that does set people aside in particular ministries.  The largest body of ordained people in the URC are the people we name elders.  According to the 2020 Year Book there are 8079 serving elders - far more than Ministers.  All of these are people who have been called in some way to serve the Church and this has been solemnly recognised through prayer and the giving of authority.  We name this solemn setting apart ‘ordination’ for Ministers and elders, and ‘commissioning’ for Church Related Community Workers.  Ordination (and Commissioning) is an act of the whole Church and is an act that almost irrevocably changes the relationship an individual has with the Church, with the wider community, and sometimes even with family and friends. 

More recently someone asked me what I thought about something ‘not as a Minister’.  I found their question impossible to answer.  Why?  Because I am a Minister.  It showed me how ordination means something but doesn’t itself change anyone.  Ordination and Commissioning is a form of naming.  It points out something already present, sharpened and polished through training and experience identifying who someone is but not changing who they are.  Part of our task as Christian people is to continuously be alert to who we are called to be and what are we called to do.  This is true for everyone, for the few who are ordained and commissioned, and for everyone else, called to play their part in the total ministry of Christ’s Church. 

Prayer 

We will grow together 
in humility, gentleness and patience; 
we will nurture each other in faith;
we will bear with one another in love; 
we will make every effort 
to maintain the unity of the Holy Spirit 
in the bond of peace, 
so that we may faithfully proclaim the gospel of Christ. 

(from the Ordination and Induction of Elders, Worship from the United Reformed Church, 2004)   --> Today's writer The Rev’d Sarah Moore is Assistant Clerk of the General Assembly and Transitional Champion for the National Synod of Scotland  Copyright New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Monday 3rd August 2020 Basis of Union 19

Mon, 03/08/2020 - 06:00
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1 Peter: 4: 7-11

The end of all things is near; therefore be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers. Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins.  Be hospitable to one another without complaining.  Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.  Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

Basis

The Lord Jesus Christ continues his ministry in and through the Church, the whole people of God called and committed to his service and equipped by him for it. This service is given by worship, prayer, proclamation of the Gospel, and Christian witness; by mutual and outgoing care and responsibility; and by obedient discipleship in the whole of daily life, according to the gifts and opportunities given to each one. The preparation and strengthening of its members for such ministry and discipleship shall always be a major concern of the United Reformed Church. (19)

Reflection

I am particularly drawn to the vision of ‘Jesus continuing his ministry in and through the Church’. Perhaps it would do us good to reflect, at regular intervals, on this truth.

Do we see Jesus continuing his ministry in the churches we are part of?
Are there areas of our church life where we most certainly do not?
Might the answers to these questions give us enough impetus to change where needed?

The global pandemic has given many areas of our human life a necessary wake-up-call. We have discovered, as we humans do when pushed, that we can indeed change and adapt when it is clear we need to – or when we are left with no choice!

Surely asking ourselves if Jesus’ ministry can be seen in and through our local churches, is just the kind of stimulus we need to stay focused on our ‘worship, prayer, proclamation of the Gospel, Christian witness, care and discipleship in our daily lives’.

As I engaged with this section of the Basis of Union, I heard words from 1 Peter reflected back to me: ‘Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.’ 

You and I are stewards of God’s grace. We are guardians and enablers of Jesus ministry in the church. Whilst that is a whole lot of responsibility, we are empowered with the unique and glorious gifts that God has given each of us. All of us, in our technicolour variety are important to the flourishing of the church.
 
In the last sentence of this section, we are reminded and encouraged as a denomination, to build-up, cherish and embrace the amazing array of gifts that we each possess: gifts that God has given so that we can indeed continue the ministry of Christ.

There is real excitement and creative hope in these words.

Take a moment to look inward: to seek and know what amazing and unique God-given gift you can bring to the ministry of the church.

Prayer

Ever-creating God,
we pray that we may find and own the gifts you have given us.
We pray that, once found, we may be brave to use them, even if they are surprising and unappreciated.
We pray that we will continue to build each other up and to recognise the gifts of others as we are church together.
Make us brave to continue the ministry of Jesus and creative when change is needed to follow him more closely.
Call us again and inspire us through your Spirit, we pray.
Amen   --> Today's writer The Rev’d Martin Knight is minister of St Paul’s URC, South Croydon and South Croydon United Church (Methodist/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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Sunday Worship 2nd August 2020

Sun, 02/08/2020 - 09:45
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Below you will find the Order of Service, prayers, hymns and sermon for today's service.   You can either simply read this or you can
  click here
to listen to the service and sing along with the hymns.  This will open up a new screen, at the bottom of the screen you will see a play symbol.  Press that, then come back to this window so you can follow along with the service.   Sunday Worship for the URC Daily Devotions
August 2nd 2020     The Rev’d Dr Kirsty Thorpe
Introduction   
 
Good morning, and welcome to this act of worship. I’m Kirsty Thorpe, the minister of Wilmslow United Reformed Church. This small town grew from an agricultural village during the 19th century once the railway came. That meant people could live in leafy Cheshire and work in Manchester, a few miles to the north. Our church began 176 years ago, with a strong focus on worship and educating young people. It’s founders began and housed a local school which was on the church site until the early 1900s. In the last five years we’ve discovered a fresh call to serve young people through a new charity, in partnership with another church nearby. Source Youthwork reaches out to the 2000 plus pupils of the High School a few hundred yards down the road from our front door. It’s after school cafes and counselling sessions usually fill the social space under our worship area with young people several afternoons and evenings a week in term time. Since March the church buildings have been very quiet. We’re keen to see the youth work re-start. It worries us to think about the loss of confidence and wellbeing there will be among the school pupils, especially those who struggled with their mental health before the pandemic began. Meanwhile, behind our church are a large health centre and pharmacy. Early on in the lockdown one of the GPs asked if we could help to steward the pharmacy queue.  That grew into three months of volunteering. As a result, I spent hours marshalling outside the pharmacy and looking at our buildings from a distance. I gained a whole range of new perspectives on our place in the community. That’s a good preparation for coming before God to worship.
 
Call to Worship
 
One:         To all who are imprisoned,  God says, “Come out.”
 
One:         To all who are living in darkness, God says, “Show yourselves.”
 
One:         To all who hunger and thirst,
Many:      God gives food and springs of water.
 
One:         To all who are far away,
Many:       God makes smooth the way home.
                God will not forget us,
                we are inscribed on the palms of His hands.

 
Hymn:      Let All the World, In Every Corner Sing
                George Herbert 1593-1633
  Let all the world in every corner sing,
"My God and King!"
The heavens are not too high,
His praise may thither fly;
the earth is not too low,
His praises there may grow.
Let all the world in every corner sing,
"My God and King!"

2 Let all the world in every corner sing,
"My God and King!"
The Church with Psalms must shout:
no door can keep them out.
But, above all, the heart
must bear the longest part.
Let all the world in ev'ery corner sing,
"My God and King!"   Prayers of Approach and Confession    
 
Gracious and generous God, we are glad to gather in your presence, drawn together through your loving invitation in Jesus and united as your people in the power of your Holy Spirit. We remember those people we like to see on Sundays, the gatherings we think of as our spiritual home, and the aspects of worship that feed and nurture us. As part of your Church - worldwide, multi coloured, diverse, past, present and to come - we place our lives before you. Help us now to put aside those things that distract us from you, prevent us from sensing your presence, limit our understanding and confine our vision.  May we look at our lives in the light of God’s love –  the faults and failings we recognise in ourselves but struggle to change - our lack of trust in the possibility of transforming forgiveness. In the silence we seek God’s compassion and goodness - we remember his slowness to anger and his steadfast love.
 
Silence
 
We start again, gracious God, as we receive your gift of forgiveness, forgive ourselves and extend forgiveness to one another. We celebrate our new life in Jesus Christ as we say the prayer he taught us:  Our Father…
 
Prayer of Illumination
 
God of light and understanding,  speak to us now through your word in Scripture. Give us open hearts and minds to hear and open hands to respond to your call.
 
Readings

Isaiah 55: 1-5
 
Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which does not satisfy?  Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live. I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. See, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples. See, you shall call nations that you do not know, and nations that do not know you shall run to you, because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you.   St Matthew 14: 13-21

Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.’ Jesus said to them, ‘They need not go away; you give them something to eat.’ They replied, ‘We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.’ And he said, ‘Bring them here to me.’ Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.
 
Hymn:      Holy Wisdom, Lamp of Learning
                Ruth C Duck (b. 1947) © The Pilgrim Press.
  Holy Wisdom, lamp of learning,
bless the light that reason lends.
Teach us judgment as we kindle
sparks of thought your Spirit sends.
Sanctify our search for knowledge
and the truth that sets us free.
Come, illumine mind and spirit
joined in deepest unity.
 
2.Vine of truth, in you we flourish;
by your grace we learn and grow.
May the word of Christ among us
shape our life, your will to know.
Joined to Christ in living, dying,
may we help the Church convey
witness to the saving gospel,
bearing fruit of faith today.   Sermon
        
Sometimes people imagine Christian faith is all about spiritual things. Today’s readings give the lie to that idea through two pieces of scripture - one two thousand years old and the other at least five hundred years older – which can speak to us and touch us today. They are about real needs and the God who knows what we human beings must have to lead a healthy life. They remind us that God offers us a lasting relationship within which to grow and flourish as part of a community of faith. They show us that this way of living is not a secret to be kept to ourselves but an offer to be broadcast widely. When that happens others can gain relationship with God and join us in serving the wider community. So the world becomes a better place for all those alive now and generations yet to come.
 
People don’t always get this message – they never have done – and God gives us freedom to accept or to reject relationship with him. Over the centuries, faith-filled people have offered others their take on God’s good news. One of these was the prophet Isaiah – a man of prayer and insight who tried to give God’s perspective on events to God’s people in his day. The words we heard from him in our reading were probably written for people far from home, whose grandparents and great grandparents had been taken off into exile by the Babylonians when the city of Jerusalem was overrun and the Jewish nation collapsed before a strong, invading army. ‘Now’, the prophet says, ‘God wants to lead you back from exile’. A long journey lies ahead, with much rebuilding work to restore their homeland when they get back once more but the prophet assures them that God will provide for them.  We cannot survive without water.  We need grain to make bread.  Milk is a staple that helps our bodies to grow and drinking wine both makes the feast and boosts morale. Isaiah says that God is offering all these things – water, grain, wine and milk – even though people have no money with which to buy them. God holds out the promise of a good life and there is no great mystery about how to secure this. It is the fruit of building a lasting relationship with him – a covenant – where we offer our love and faithfulness in return for God’s care and provision for us.
 
It sounds like an attractive offer on the face of it so why do people hold back from saying ‘yes’ to God? Perhaps one favour the Covid 19 experience has done for many of us is to demolish the idea that anyone can be totally self-sufficient.  Those people who say they do not need God or other people, and can get all they want brought to their doorstep with a few online orders, may now have some re-thinking to do.

Our communities are fast rediscovering the value of neighbourliness, mutual help and care for one another. It is interesting that worship on the internet is attracting back people who have lost touch with church in person and reaching others who may be searching for God in a new way. Maybe one obstacle to establishing a lasting relationship with God for some of us is that question of time span which Isaiah mentions. In a world that has not yet done the risk assessment for next week’s activities, how can we honestly enter into an ‘everlasting covenant’ with God? It is hardly believable that God should be bothered about each one of us in the first place. Did those who heard Isaiah’s words wonder why God was giving his people this new chance at a relationship, when their forebears had failed so often to be faithful in the past? Perhaps one reason we draw back from promising ourselves to God is our awareness that if we say ‘yes’ then we’ll have no control over who else receives the same offer – some of them far from being our first choice of co-worshippers. A temptation to put everything in terms of ‘them and us’ is always lurking at the back of our minds to trip us up and prevent us from establishing intimacy with God.
 
Our second reading from Matthew’s gospel shows us God’s offer of nourishment and lasting relationship in the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. At the start of today’s passage Jesus has just heard the sad and troubling news that his cousin, John the Baptist, has been brutally murdered by the puppet ruler of Galilee, Herod Antipas. Jesus wants time alone, to mourn and perhaps to consider the even greater threat now to his own ministry. Going further around the shore of the Sea of Galilee on his own in a boat is not enough to guarantee him solitude. A large crowd gathers in this isolated place, bringing with them people in need of healing. Jesus responds compassionately to those who are suffering but the day draws on. As the shadows lengthen the disciples alert Jesus to the other need of the people before them – that for food.
 
The ensuing dialogue between Jesus and the disciples tells us a lot about the way God’s love operates. We discover how deeply God is concerned about our practical, bodily needs alongside all the other things we lack in our lives. By accepting the challenge of feeding large numbers of people in an isolated place, Jesus opens himself up to fresh attention from the authorities as a disturbing, crowd-gathering influence who needs to be watched and quite possibly put out of action. The gospel writer makes it clear the large-scale feeding is not something Jesus achieves by acting totally alone. He starts by asking the disciples what they can bring to the feast – ‘You give them something to eat’, he says to them.
 
There is no reason why God in Jesus should invite us to cooperate with him in changing the world but that is how he chooses to do things. We are God’s partners, God’s chosen collaborators, and God makes us the vehicles through which people’s lives can be transformed. No wonder that, when the first people heard Matthew’s gospel and his version of this story, they understood the parallels between this feeding and the meal he celebrated with his disciples before his death. On that occasion too Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it and divided it out amongst people. When we come to share communion now we normally sit in rows of seats indoors rather than outdoors. Our stomachs are usually full after breakfast rather than empty at the end of a long day. Perhaps it would help us to understand God’s nourishing love better if we were less comfortable sometimes.
 
I am less concerned about the logistics of this large meal than I am interested to see there was enough for everyone and twelve baskets of leftovers too. This story of Jesus feeding a large number of people confirms for me the importance of practical outreach in church life and community life. People who bring us a meal when we’re isolated and alone, who come to our door with a food delivery when we’re unable to go out, who stock the local foodbank and give food to destitute refugees and asylum seekers, are all reminding us of God who seeks us out in love and meets our needs.
 
Communities with very few resources are often those who understand this ministry best. I think of two places where I have seen hospitality in action over the years. One was a lunch club in a small Reformed Presbyterian Church in Cuba, far from Havana and the tourist trail. The cooking facilities in the small rooms at the back of the church were very basic – a small gas hob and two electric slow cookers. Power cuts quite often meant the cooks had to rely instead on a charcoal barbeque. The supply of food they had was not plentiful either, but the meal was welcome as a supplement to the ration card food everyone was getting. Some people were able to get in to church for their lunch, while others had food taken to them at home. What struck me was the contrast between the limited facilities and food, and the determination and cheerfulness of the women who prepared the meals.
 
I also think of Rose Anne, a Haitian nurse who founded a charity called Aprosifa almost 30 years ago in a poor community on the edge of Port au Prince. Rose Anne was away from Haiti when the earthquake struck in January 2010, and her first priority was to get home and start helping. As soon as she could return, and once she knew her own family were safe, she started to set up an emergency food system for people in the area where she works. With help from Christian Aid her charity employed 60 people to cook meals for up to 6,000 people, five days a week, until two months after the disaster. It was a way of getting families back on their feet – a temporary help that kept people together under the stresses and strains of the disaster. A group of us from the UK met Rose Anne when Christian Aid took us to visit rebuilding projects eighteen months after the earthquake. ‘You never go to Aprosifa without being fed’, the local staff member told us. She was right. That’s a sign of followers of Jesus at work building the Kingdom of God.
 
Hymn         Lead Us, Heavenly Father, Lead Us
                 James Edmeston (1821)
  Lead us, heavenly Father, lead us
o'er the world's tempestuous sea;
guard us, guide us, keep us, feed us,
for we have no help but thee;
yet possessing every blessing,
if our God our Father be.
 
2 Saviour, breathe forgiveness o'er us:
all our weakness thou dost know;
thou didst tread this earth before us,
thou didst feel its keenest woe;
lone and dreary, faint and weary,
through the desert thou didst go.

3 Spirit of our God, descending,
fill our hearts with heavenly joy,
love with every passion blending,
pleasure that can never cloy:
thus provided, pardoned, guided,
nothing can our peace destroy.
 
Affirmation of Faith
 
We believe in God, creator of all,
whose word sustains the life of humanity,
and directs our history. God is our life.

 
We believe in God’s Son,
born amongst the poor, light in our night,
first-born from the dead. He is alive.

We believe in the Holy Spirit,
who gives birth to the new life of God,
who breathes life into the struggle for justice,
who leads us to hope, who is a living force.

 
We believe in the holy universal Church,
herald of the Good News
which frees people and brings new life.
We believe in the coming of a new world
where Jesus Christ, our Lord, will be all in all. Amen

 
Offering  
 
Generous God,  you give us the gift of life,  you send Jesus your son to share our life on earth, and you have given us the gift of this new day. Bless the gifts we bring to your table – our hopes and prayers, our dreams and visions, and help us to use the resources you place in our hands to feed one another and nourish new growth. Amen.
 
Prayers of Intercession
 
In a world that is hungry for truth, righteousness and justice, we hold before you the leaders, the movers and shakers, the ideas people and those who put plans into action. Help us to build communities where each person has a voice, where the needs of those on the edges are seen and met, and the rich and powerful learn what it means to wait rather than pushing to the front of the queue.
 
In a world that is hungry for bread we pray for those in food poverty, depending on hand outs, on food banks and aid programmes.
Help us to renew our commitment to the global bodies and international charities that address the causes of poverty and give people tools for self-reliance.
 
In a world that is hungry for contact and care, we pray for those who find themselves isolated by grief, loss of paid work, sickness of mind or body. Help us to reach out in love to those in need, even the people we find it hard to help, so your light and hope break into their lives.
 
Hymn:      The Kingdom of God is Justice and Joy
                Bryn A Rees (1911-1983)
  The Kingdom of God is justice and joy;
for Jesus restores what sin would destroy.
God's power and glory in Jesus we know
and here and hereafter the kingdom shall grow.   2 The kingdom of God is mercy and grace;
the captives are freed, the sinners find place,
the outcast are welcomed God's banquet to share;
and hope is awakened in place of despair.
 
3 The kingdom of God is challenge and choice:
believe the good news, repent and rejoice!
His love for us sinners brought Christ to his cross:
our crisis of judgement for gain or for loss.
 
4 God's kingdom is come, the gift and the goal;
in Jesus begun, in heaven made whole.
The heirs of the kingdom shall answer his call
and all things cry 'Glory!' to God all in all.
Blessing
 
Let us go in peace, to love and serve God. And may the Holy God surprise us on the way, Christ Jesus be our company, and the Spirit lift up our lives. Amen. Sources and Thanks  
Call to Worship from Feasting on the Word Year A  Affirmation of Faith from the Reformed Church of France. All other liturgical material by Kirsty Thorpe. Let All The World and Lead Us Heavenly Father Lead Us from BBC’s Songs of Praise.  Holy Wisdom by the OCP Choir, The Kingdom of God, St Barnabas Church Dulwich.
 
Thanks to John Young, David Shimmin, Kathleen Haynes, Carol Tubbs, Ruth Watson and to the choir of Barrhead URC for recording the Lord’s Prayer, to Kathleen & Callum Haynes, Elfreda Tealby-Watson & Greg Watson, David & Christine Shimmin, Elizabeth Kemp,  Marion Thomas, Tina Wheeler and Myra Rose for recording, virtually, the Call to Worship and Affirmation of Faith.
 
Organ Pieces  Opening: Ein Feste Burg (“A mighty fortress”) by Max Reger (organ of Basilica Santo Spirito, Florence, Italy – 2016).  Closing Procession by Arthur Wills  (organ of Santa Maria dei Miracoli, Venice, Italy – 2014).  Both played by Brian Cotterill
  --> 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 2nd August 2020 Psalm 8

Sun, 02/08/2020 - 06:00
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O Lord, our Lord, throughout the earth how glorious is your name,
and glorious too where unseen heavens your majesty proclaim.
On infant lips, in children’s song, a strong defence you raise
to counter enemy and threat, and foil the rebel’s ways.

When I look up and see the skies which your own fingers made,
and wonder at the moon and stars, each perfectly displayed;
then must I ask, “why do you care? Why love humanity?
And why keep every mortal name in your memory.

Yet such as us you made and meant and meant just less than gods to be;
with honour and with glory, Lord, you crowned humanity.
And then dominion you bestowed for all made by your hand,
all sheep and cattle, birds and fish that move through sea or land.

John Bell © 1993 Wild Goose Resource Group, Iona Community
You can hear a verse of this Psalm here 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TCq3bETGz8E

Reflection

Why do you care? Why love humanity?

I was asked similar questions by commuters when I was part of a project run each Holy Week a couple of years ago in Stockport.  We offered free coffee/orange juice and a hot cross bun to commuters on their way to the local station between 6-8am.  Within the bag contained a short ‘meaning of Easter’ card and why we’re doing what we’re doing.

It was fascinating seeing the ‘progression’ of people during the week.  From hesitancy, to acceptance, to appreciation, despite this progress, still pure confusion at times!  Of course, people never really had time to stop and chat.  We were well aware of that.  The main thing is they knew we care.

It went down in history, people remembered us from one year to the next.  A tiny little thing to really brighten up someone’s, inevitably uneventful, commute.

Studies have shown that depression is far more common amongst commuters.  Indeed a potentially mind-numbing part of many people’s day.  Of course, we’re now in a world where many companies are considering abolishing the commute.  COVID-19 has taught us valuable lessons on the productivity of working from home.

But they’re not alone, depression and anxiety exists in all areas of our society.  As a church we are called to love our neighbour.  In a world desperate for prayer, desperate to know someone cares, we must show that.

People are inquisitive.  People were genuinely interested to hear about our story.  And boy do we (all) have a good story to tell!
We care. We love humanity. And, so important it was mentioned twice: “O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (NRSV). 

Prayer

Caring God, You love each one of us.
Even when we feel inadequate, You love each one of us.
Even when we feel alone, You love each one of us. 
Even when we are at our wit’s end, You love each one of us.
O Lord, our sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth.
Give us strength to continue to praise you. Amen --> Today's writer Dan Morrell, Media for Ministry Consultant (Yorkshire Synod), member of St Andrew’s Roundhay, Leeds. Copyright New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Saturday 1st August 2020 Basis of Union 18

Sat, 01/08/2020 - 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 Saturday 1st August 2020  Basis of Union 18 
Basis

The United Reformed Church, under the authority of Holy Scripture and in corporate responsibility to Jesus Christ its ever living head, acknowledges its duty to be open at all times to the leading of the Holy Spirit and therefore affirms its right to make such new declarations of its faith and for such purposes as may from time to time be required by obedience to the same Spirit. At the same time the United Reformed Church accepts with thanksgiving the witness borne to the catholic faith by the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds. It recognises as its own particular heritage the formulations and declarations of faith which have been valued by Congregationalists, Presbyterians and members of Churches of Christ as stating the Gospel and seeking to make its implications clear. (18)

Reflection

Words and their meaning change over time.  For instance, in the late 14th century, the French word flus (meaning ‘a heavy flow’) and the Latin fluxus (which generally meant ‘a little loose or slack’) were the roots for the English word flux, coined to describe a certain unpleasant condition that kept people hovering near their village cesspit.  Fast forward 300 years in 1620 ‘flux’ was recorded as meaning‘a continuous change’, the definition we are familiar with today.

The same kinds of change are true in the way that we use language to speak of God.  The Basis of Union contains a Statement of Faith drafted in the late 1960s, based upon a similar statement agreed by the Presbyterian Church of England in 1956.  By the 1990s deficiencies were obvious, such as using “men” when we meant “people”.  The first General Assembly that I attended in 1996 began the process of agreeing a new Statement of Faith, not so much changing the theology but changing the language used to speak of God in ways that were more easily understood by more people.

For some of us today, the ancient Creeds of the Church universal (of which we were a part for the fifteen centuries before the Reformation), and the Confessions that our Reformed ancestors wrote in the seventeenth century clearly speak of God, while others find it much harder to discern God through them.  This is why each generation requires, or at least demands, its own ways to speak of God, almost to borrow a phrase from the preface of the Congregational Hymnary (1916).

What language do you need to borrow to speak of God today?

Prayer

God, may your Spirit speak to me in language my heart can embrace,
in language my mind can understand,
and in the language of silence that sinks deep into my soul.
God, may your Spirit speak to me
words of transformation,
words of empowerment,
words of grace;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.   --> Today's writer The Rev’d Michael Hopkins, Minister of a group of Methodist and United Reformed Churches based around Farnham, Surrey, and Clerk of the URC General Assembly. Copyright New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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Gone Camping

Fri, 31/07/2020 - 14:15
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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentColumn{ padding-right:18px !important; padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnImageCardLeftImageContent,.mcnImageCardRightImageContent{ padding-right:18px !important; padding-bottom:0 !important; padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcpreview-image-uploader{ display:none !important; width:100% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h1{ font-size:24px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h2{ font-size:20px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h3{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h4{ font-size:16px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ #templatePreheader{ display:block !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } View this email in your browser Daily Devotions from the URC --> inspiration in your inbox --> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend Gone Camping....
Dear Friends,

it's always a pleasure to hear from you but, until the end of August, I will be away!  We're catching up on deferred annual leave and have taken ourselves off to far flung northern isles.  Now, of course, this doesn't mean the Daily Devotions will stop.  They are all queued up ready to be sent each morning.  The services, similarly, are ready to be distributed.  I will be turning off my email and so won't be able to help with any queries.

If a Devotion doesn't arrive please, first, check your Spam/Junk folder.  As we send out over 4,300 emails a day some spam mail filters see these as unsolicited.  By adding this address to your contacts and to a safe senders' list you cut down the possibility of this happening.  Sometimes this doesn't work and emails go missing.  If this happens fear not as you can also see each Devotion and Service in three other ways:-
  1. On Facebook the Daily Devotions have a presence - just search for Daily Devotions from the URC and "like" the page.  
  2. The United Reformed Church has a Facebook page (look for the organisation not the groups) and "like" that page.  They also distribute the link to the service and daily reflections.
  3. You can go to devotions.urc.org.uk and read the daily reflection and see the weekly service there too.
I will be back at my computer, hopefully not dealing with a mountain of emails, in September.

with every good wish



Andy --> Today's writer Sed ut perspiciatis unde omnis iste natus error sit voluptatem accusantium doloremque laudantium, totam rem aperiam, eaque ipsa quae ab illo inventore veritatis et quasi architecto beatae vitae dicta sunt explicabo. 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 31st July 2020 Basis of Union 17

Fri, 31/07/2020 - 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 Friday 31st July 2020  Basis of Union 17 
Scripture Acts 5.12-16

Now many signs and wonders were done among the people through the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. None of the rest dared to join them, but the people held them in high esteem. Yet more than ever believers were added to the Lord, great numbers of both men and women, so that they even carried out the sick into the streets, and laid them on cots and mats, in order that Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he came by. A great number of people would also gather from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all cured.

Basis

The United Reformed Church gives thanks for the common life of the Church, wherein the people of God, being made members one of another, are called to love and serve one another and all people everywhere and to grow together in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Participating in the common life of the Church within the local church, they enter into the life of the Church throughout the world. With that whole Church they also share in the life of the Church in all ages and in the communion of saints have fellowship with the Church triumphant. (16)

Reflection

Recently I read New Testament scholar Paula Gooder’s book, ‘Phoebe’, that imagines the story of the deacon named thus referred to by St Paul in Romans 16.1.  Gooder, an Anglican laywoman currently serving as Canon Chancellor at St Paul’s Cathedral in London, imagines the Church and churches at the time of Acts as tight knit communities of people for whom encounter with Jesus Christ quite literally brought a sense of liberation.  These communities in many ways shared a very obvious common life, of meals, service, study and worship spent together.  Baptism was a big deal which came with a high cost particularly for those coming to Christian faith from the higher echelons of imperial Roman society.  In many ways early Christians had little choice but to stand together. 

We might ponder what this idea of ‘common life’ referred to in the Basis of Union means for us now.  Perhaps as we live now with Covid 19 and the experience of lockdown and how our churches had to respond to that we are better place to think again about what it means to live as Christian community.  The idea that we might belong to each other is a tricky one for our modern ears.  We might well struggle with any suggestion that someone else can tell us what we should(n’t) do with our energy, time, and money.  A more helpful way of looking at this might be around mutual accountability.  I am accountable to you as you are accountable to me.  We are called to love and serve each other and all people.  We are called to engage in Church through the local church.  We are interconnected and interdependent as individuals and as local churches and as denominations.  There is a sense that when one limps we all limp but also when one limps others can help carry that friend until they have regained their strength and if they can’t we can help carry our friend.  Our relationship with Christ is deeper, our friendships are stronger, our service is more effective, when we pray, stand, and serve side by side.  

Prayer 

Creator God, 
we give thanks for the relationships between us. 
Help us to remember and celebrate these relationships 
in good times and bad.  
Remind us to celebrate one another. 
Help us to depend on one another 
both in good times and bad.  

Build up our common life, 
for the sake of our witness to your Son 
and for the sake of his kingdom. 
In the strength of the Holy Spirit we pray.  
Amen.     --> Today's writer The Rev’d Sarah Moore is Transition Champion for the National Synod of Scotland, and the Assistant Clerk of the General Assembly.  Copyright New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Thursday 30th July 2020 Basis of Union 16

Thu, 30/07/2020 - 06:00
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St Matthew 26:26-28

While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
Basis

The United Reformed Church celebrates the gospel sacrament of the Lord's Supper. When in obedience to the Lord's command his people show forth his sacrifice on the cross by the bread broken and the wine poured for them to eat and drink, he himself, risen and ascended, is present and gives himself to them for their spiritual nourishment and growth in grace. United with him and with the whole Church on earth and in heaven, his people gathered at his table present their sacrifice of thanksgiving and renew the offering of themselves, and rejoice in the promise of his coming in glory. (15)

Reflection

The breaking of the bread and the pouring of the wine play a key role in Jesus’ life and ministry.  This offering takes place at a particular moment on Jesus’ path of suffering leading to the Cross.  Yet it is also a gift given for all of time.  It is the gift of Jesus’ renewing presence and points to the nourishment Jesus gives, week in, week out, day in, day out.

In some traditions of the Church, the daily offering of bread and wine emphasises the closeness of Jesus and the regular receiving of his renewing life which is possible.  In other traditions, a quarterly offering emphasises the key significance of the bread and wine, a gift binding the people of God together, but not to be taken for granted by too regular reception.

While in the United Reformed Church, Holy Communion was traditionally offered on a monthly basis, the union with the Churches of Christ brought into the URC the practice of a weekly celebration. The Basis of Union does not refer to the regularity of the celebration, only to the significance of this.  Local congregations have the freedom to decide how regular this celebration might be.

The Lord’s Supper lies at the heart of the Churches’ life.  It draws together, through the power of the Holy Spirit, both the brokenness of Jesus’ body and the new life promised in the resurrection.  Holy Communion is both the point of renewal and of the sending out of God’s people.  At the Holy Table, the people are gathered together as one people in one place, to receive again the new life in Christ, and drawn into God’s offering of love reaching out across the world, in each place and at all times.

Prayer

Loving God,
You are ever present in bread and wine.
In and through this holy sacrament,
may I know again that I am forgiven.
Renew my life,
build the life of the community,
draw me into sharing in your offering for the world.
Open my heart to receive you.
as I receive, may my life overflow with your love for all people.
Amen.   --> Today's writer The Rev’d Dr Elizabeth Welch, retired from pastoral charge, active ecumenically and theologically, member of St Andrew’s Church, Ealing. 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, 29/07/2020 - 11:15
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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentColumn{ padding-right:18px !important; padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnImageCardLeftImageContent,.mcnImageCardRightImageContent{ padding-right:18px !important; padding-bottom:0 !important; padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcpreview-image-uploader{ display:none !important; width:100% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h1{ font-size:24px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h2{ font-size:20px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h3{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h4{ font-size:16px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; 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Dear Friends,

Sunday's service is led by the Rev'd Dr Kirsty Thorpe, minister of our church in Wilmslow.  Hymns include:  Let All the World In Every Corner Sing, Ruth Duck’s Holy Wisdom, Lamp of Learning, James Edmeston’s Lead Us Heavenly Father Lead Us, and Bryn Rees’ The Kingdom of God is Justice and Joy.

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


Andy


The Rev'd Andy Braunston
Coordinator, 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.  I am away for August and so won't be able to help if you email!

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 Wednesday 29th July 2020 Basis of Union 15

Wed, 29/07/2020 - 06:00
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St John 3.22-29

After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he spent some time there with them and baptised. John also was baptising at Aenon near Salim because water was abundant there; and people kept coming and were being baptised— John, of course, had not yet been thrown into prison.

Now a discussion about purification arose between John's disciples and a Jew. They came to John and said to him, ‘Rabbi, the one who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you testified, here he is baptising, and all are going to him.’ John answered, ‘No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven. You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, “I am not the Messiah, but I have been sent ahead of him.” He who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice. For this reason my joy has been fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease.’

Basis

...The United Reformed Church includes within its membership both persons whose conviction it is that baptism can only be appropriately administered to a believer and those whose conviction it is that infant baptism also is in harmony with the mind of Christ. Both convictions are honoured by the church and both forms of baptism are understood to be used by God in the upbuilding of faith. Should these differences of conviction within the one church result in personal conflict of conscience it will require to be pastorally reconciled in mutual understanding and charity, and in accordance with the Basis of Union, in the first instance by the elders' meeting of the local congregation, and if necessary by the wider councils of the church. Whether the baptism is of an infant or a believer, whether it is by pouring or immersion, it shall not be such to which a conscientious objection is taken either by the person administering baptism, or by the person seeking it, or by the parent(s) requesting it for an infant…(14)

Reflection

The Baptism section of the Basis of Union is one of the few that has been substantially revised since the original 1972 agreement. This paragraph hints at the issue.

When Congregational and Presbyterian traditions united to create the United Reformed Church, both had infant baptism as the norm, whilst recognising adult baptism as also theologically valid for those not baptised as infants. However, when the Churches of Christ sought to join the young URC, Baptism was a major issue in the negotiations as the Churches of Christ tradition did not recognise infant Baptism. This paragraph explains how this issue was resolved: accepting both stances as legitimate while protecting individuals from being pushed into a position they did not themselves hold.

The paragraph modestly fails to trumpet what an extraordinary agreement this was. Many churches in the Congregational tradition had split in previous centuries because some members came to believe in believers’ baptism and it was widely assumed that it was impossible to have a church where both convictions could live alongside each other. The enlarged URC decided it was both possible and honouring God’s will.

This struggle has echoes in other Church traditions. The passage in John 3 where Jesus and John are both baptising, leading to questions about what sorts of baptism are valid or superior, shows that such debates have a long history.

While URC debates around Baptism may have been intense a generation ago, nowadays this feature of the URC’s life is rarely commented on. Different congregations have chosen their own emphases within the flexibility the Basis deliberately offers and we live at peace together.

This part of the URC story might be a hopeful sign on other questions that have perplexed and sometimes divided the Church. Holding within one Body views that seemed irreconcilable to one generation may seem routine to another.   
    
Prayer

Creator God,
who chose to make us all different,
we thank you for our diversity.
Give us graceful patience with those who fail to understand our convictions.
Make us as keen to test our convictions as we are to test those of others.
Show us a vision of your Church with the boundaries you want.
We pray in the name of the only Head of the Church, even Jesus Christ. Amen.      --> Today's writer John Ellis is Secretary of Capel United Church in Kent  Copyright New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Tuesday 28th July 2020 Basis of Union 14

Tue, 28/07/2020 - 06:00
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Ephesians 4.1-6

I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.

Basis

The United Reformed Church observes the gospel sacrament of baptism into Christ as a gift of God to his Church, and as an appointed means of grace. Baptism is administered with water in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. It is the sacrament of entry into the Church and is therefore administered once only to any person.

When the Church observes this sacrament it makes explicit at a particular time and place and for a particular person what God has accomplished in Christ for the whole creation and for all humankind - the forgiveness of sins, the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit and newness of life in the family of God. In this sacrament the Church affirms its faith in the action of God in Jesus Christ; and takes corporate responsibility for those receiving baptism, promising to support and nourish them as it receives them into its fellowship. Baptism may be administered in infancy or at an age of responsibility. Both forms of baptism shall be made available in the life of every worshipping congregation. In either case the sacrament of baptism is a unique part of the total process of Christian initiation. When baptism is administered at an age of responsibility, upon profession of faith, those baptised enter at once upon the full privileges and responsibilities of membership. When baptism is administered to infants, upon profession of faith by their parent(s), they are placed under the nurture of the Church that they may be led by the Holy Spirit in due time to make their own profession of faith in Christ as their Saviour and Lord, and enter upon the full privileges and responsibilities of membership. These two patterns of Christian initiation are recognised by the United Reformed Church...(14)

Reflection

The Baptism section of the Basis of Union places the United Reformed Church squarely in the mainstream of Christian teaching and, in particular, in the Protestant stream.  This recognises only two sacraments out of the seven rituals deemed sacraments by the medieval Catholic Church.

Baptism is intended to be one of the unifying features of Christ’s Church.  It helps reconciliation across other differences, as Paul describes when encouraging the Ephesians to see what united them, rather than what divided them.  It was one of the earlier successes of the twentieth century ecumenical movement in Britain to achieve a single Baptismal certificate that was recognised as valid by a wide range of Christian denominations.

The pastoral difficulty of these paragraphs often arises from the unequivocal statement that Baptism is “administered once only to any person”. This also reflects common Christian teaching across many traditions. However, in an individualistic age, the idea that the Church not the individual decides whether they can be baptised can seem puzzling and insensitive.  Especially if infant Baptism took place in a context where the supposed faith of the parents was questionable, adult believers often seek another Baptism in which they can witness to their own faith.  Different congregations resolve this tension in different ways.

We might want to reflect on how we decide whether and when the Church’s stated theology should be bent to suit pastoral pressures.  When does choosing to ignore parts of the Basis of Union compromise the integrity of the United Reformed Church, which claims to have the Basis as unifying common ground?  

Prayer

Lord Jesus,
who was baptised in the Jordan,
I thank you for my Baptism:
for the faith that embraced it
and for those who have kept their promises.
I pray for those preparing for Baptism and entry into your Church. 
And I pray for Ministers and Elders confronted with hard decisions
about Baptismal requests. Amen.
--> Today's writer John Ellis is Secretary of Capel United Church in Kent Copyright New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Monday 27th July 2020 Basis of Union 13

Mon, 27/07/2020 - 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 27th July 2020 Basis of Union 13   St Luke 4:16-21   When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:  ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,    because he has anointed me      to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives    and recovery of sight to the blind,      to let the oppressed go free,  to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’  And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’   Basis   The United Reformed Church believes that, in the ministry of the Word, through preaching and the study of the Scriptures, God makes known in each age his saving love, his will for his people and his purpose for the world.  (13)   Reflection   Scripture: the Old and New Testaments, as it says in the previous article of the Basis. Our Basis of Union does not describe in detail what Scripture is. It talks more fully of what Scripture does, how we should use it and what we might gain from it.    Study matters to our Church. The Bible deserves the most careful attention we can give and the best thinking we can do. But study is not an end in itself. It is a way of tuning our ears to the voice of God.   The ministry of the Word is important for our Church. We help one another to drink deep from the Bible’s wisdom - wisdom stored from ancient times, yet ever fresh and never stale.   Preaching matters in our Church. The message of God’s goodness is worth sharing, with one another and with the world. Faithful preaching is a bridge between Scripture and living, attending honestly and seriously to both.   Would Jesus have been at home in our Church? Certainly he knew his Bible, his people’s Testament of faith in God. He found a fresh word in it, to direct and inform his own living and serving. He believed in preaching, speaking from and through Scripture of God’s purpose and power in his own day.   So Jesus might have been at home with at least this bit of our Basis. But when I read his sermon in Nazareth, and his commitment to people whom life had dented and damaged, it challenges and stirs me. It reminds me of God’s loving and demanding will. It tests and energises my love for God’s world today. It reminds me to follow more truly. For it is in following that we shall be at home with Jesus.   Prayer   Lord Jesus Christ,   we ask you to beckon us forward,   sharing your Word,   serving your world,   seeking your will.   Help us to make a difference   in damaged places. Help us to discover   more of your truth and purpose. Help us to discern   your demand and promise.   For your love’s sake. Amen. --> Today's writer The Rev’d John Proctor is a retired minister and member of Downing Place URC in Cambridge. Copyright New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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Worship for Sunday 26th July 2020

Sun, 26/07/2020 - 09:45
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Below you will find the Order of Service, prayers, hymns and sermon for today's service.   You can either simply read this or you can
  click here
to listen to the service and sing along with the hymns.  This will open up a new screen, at the bottom of the screen you will see a play symbol.  Press that, then come back to this window so you can follow along with the service. Sunday Worship from the URC’s Daily Devotions
26th July 2020    
  The Rev’d Ruth Whitehead  
Introduction
 
Welcome to this act of worship. My name is Ruth Whitehead. I am a minister of the United Reformed Church, currently serving as Moderator of the South Western Synod. The Synod stretches from Cornwall up beyond Swindon, and I live more or less in the middle, in Taunton in Somerset. In today’s worship we are going to celebrate the Biblical concept of the breath of God.
 
Introit:  Down to the River To Pray
 
As I went down in the river to pray studying about that good ol' way
and who shall wear the starry crown (robe and crown)
good Lord, show me the way.
  O sisters, let's go down
let's go down, come on down
O sisters, let's go down
down in the river to pray
 
O brothers, let's go down…
O fathers, let's go down
 
O mothers, let's go down…
 
O sinners, let's go down…   Call to Worship
 
We meet in the name of God, the Holy Trinity of Love who knows our needs, hears our cries, feels our pain,  and heals our wounds.
 
God is our light and our salvation. In God’s name we light this candle and are reminded of Jesus, the Light of the World, God’s own Voice who came to live with us. May our hearts be open to you, O God, now and always. Amen
 
Hymn  Breathe on Me Breath of God  Edwin Hatch (1835-1889)
  Breathe on me, Breath of God,
fill me with life anew,
that I may love
what Thou dost love,
and do what Thou wouldst do.
 
2: Breathe on me, Breath of God,
until my heart is pure,
until with Thee I will one will,
to do and to endure.

3: Breathe on me, Breath of God,
till I am wholly Thine,
until this earthly part of me
glows with Thy fire divine.
 
4: Breathe on me, Breath of God,
so shall I never die,
but live with Thee the perfect life
of Thine eternity.   Prayer of Approach
 
God of all,
in the beginning you breathed over the void, and fashioned creation.
You breathed into the dust of the ground, and made earthlings,
You spoke your word and gave form to your law.
We praise you for all you have done.
 
God of love,
You took your first human breath as Jesus, born of Mary.
You called and taught and healed ordinary people.
You breathed your last on the cross, yet sprang to life from the tomb.
We praise you for all you have done.
 
God of life,
You are the Spirit who breathes life into your people.
You are the great wind of Pentecost.
You are the soft sigh of the dove’s wings.
We praise you for all you have done.
 
As we come to praise you this morning, receive our praise and breathe life and love into us all. In your name, Father Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
 
Prayer of Illumination
 
God whose breath is life to us
You spoke and the world came into being
You spoke and your prophets heard your voice
You spoke in Jesus Christ and people came to follow.
Speak now through your Holy Word and help us to be your people, hear your voice and follow in your path. Amen.
 
 Reading  Romans 8:26-39
 
The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
 
We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.
 
What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written,
 
“For your sake we are being killed all day long;
we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.” 
 
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
 
Hymn:  Not Far Beyond the Sea  George Caird (1917-1984)
  Not far beyond the sea, nor high
above the heavens, but very nigh
Your voice, O God, is heard.
For each new step of faith we take
You have more truth
and light to break
forth from Your holy word.
 
2. The babes in Christ
Your scriptures feed
with milk sufficient for their need,
the nurture of the Lord.
Beneath life's burden and its heat
the fully grown find stronger meat
in Your unfailing word.

3. Rooted & grounded in your love,
with saints on earth & saints above
we join in full accord:
to grasp the breadth, length,
depth and height,
the crucified and risen might
of Christ, the incarnate Word.
 
4. Help us to press toward that mark,
and, though our vision now is dark,
to live by what we see.
So, when we see You face to face,
Your truth & light our dwelling place
forevermore shall be.
 
Sermon
 
A sigh can convey so much.
A sigh of resignation – ‘I don’t know what else to do…sigh.’
A sigh of boredom – ‘I just feel…sigh’.
A sigh of frustration – ‘Why don’t you just…sigh.’
 
But we need this passage from Romans to remind us that a sigh can be a prayer and a gift from God..
 
‘We do not know how to pray as we ought but the Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words’.
 
Whatever we are facing today, however many words we use in this act of worship, for God to hear our prayer we just need the soft sighing of the Holy Spirit, carrying our deepest concerns from our hearts to the heart of God the Father.

So maybe instead of a sermon I could just sigh and let the Holy Spirit do the rest.
 
But there are such amazing words here, we shouldn’t miss out on thinking about them.
 
Many of the phrases in today’s readings may have been quoted to us at one time or another:
 
‘We know that all things work together for good for those who love God’
 
‘If God is for us, who shall be against us?’
 
‘We are more than conquerors through him who loved us’
 
‘Nothing can separate us from the love of God’…
 
But if we just trot out the familiar phrases, we may hear the Holy Spirit sigh… words alone are not everything.  Facebook seems full of encouraging Bible verses taken out of context, but the Bible is not meant to be merely a treasury of encouraging words.  In the Bible we find a wonderful collection of stories, poems and letters which tell us about the God who loves us and who wants to be in relationship with us.  And like any love, God’s love is expressed in more than just inspirational sound bites.
 
So what is Paul trying to say in this letter to the church in Rome?
 
In the verses just before this, Paul has referred to the children of God ‘groaning inwardly’ while waiting for adoption as daughters and sons of God. We groan.. but the Spirit sighs.
 
God sends the Spirit to help us: supporting us in our weakness, helping us to pray, speaking out on our behalf.  This is the God who reaches out to relate to us, sending us the Spirit to turn even our groaning hopelessness into sighs of prayer.  We groan, the Spirit sighs, and then God speaks.
 
Paul explains that God calls each of us and forms us into the likeness of Jesus, God’s Son. This call is all we need – for God is on our side, like one speaking out for us in a court of law.
 
We can trust in this love – the love that came in Jesus Christ, that accepted the suffering of the cross and overcame death. Paul is clear -  nothing can separate us from the love of God. God is closer to us than breathing – our helper, our saviour and our companion.
 
It was Alfred, Lord Tennyson who wrote the lines: Speak to Him, thou, for He hears, and Spirit with Spirit can meet-  Closer is He than breathing, and nearer than hands and feet. 
 
However amazing the words, however wonderful the ideas, however deep the sighs of prayer, the greatest truth is that here, as well as guidance and inspiration, we have something even more precious – we have hope.
 
God is closer than breath itself, and God breathes life into us, into our words, into our prayers and into our lives.
 
The God of love is with us -  Spirit, Son & Father. Coming as a sigh to convert our groans into prayer. Coming to breathe our air - living and dying and rising for us. Coming closer even than breath - our inseparable and loving God. We have only to let out a sigh –  Amen.
 
Hymn:  How Can I Keep From Singing 
(adapted from an American Shaker Hymn)
 
Many of us are missing singing in church in this time of lockdown. As we prepare to pray for the world, let’s listen to this old Shaker hymn “How Can I Keep from Singing’ and reflect on the words of Augustine “Who sings, prays twice.”
  My life goes on in endless song
above earth's lamentation.
I hear the real, though far-off hymn
that hails a new creation.
 
No storm can shake
my inmost calm,
while to that Rock, I’m clinging.
Since Love prevails
in heaven and earth,
how can I keep from singing?
 
2: While though the tempest
round me roars,
I know the Truth, it liveth.
And though the darkness
round me close,
songs in the night it giveth.
 
3: I Lift my eyes.
The cloud grows thin;
I see the blue above it.
And day by day, this pathway smooths,
since first I learned to love it.

No storm can shake my inmost calm, I hear the music ringing.
It sounds an echo in my soul. How can I keep from singing?
 
Affirmation of Faith
 
We believe in God.
Despite His silence and His secrets we believe that He lives.
Despite evil and suffering we believe that He made the world
so that all would be happy in life.
Despite the limitations of our reason and the revolts of our hearts,
we believe in God.
 
We believe in Jesus Christ.
Despite the centuries which separate us
from the time when he came to earth, we believe in His word.
Despite our incomprehension and our doubt,
we believe in His resurrection.
Despite his weakness and poverty, we believe in His reign.
 
We believe in the Holy Spirit.
Despite appearances we believe He guides the Church;
despite death we believe in eternal life;
despite ignorance and disbelief,
we believe that the Kingdom of God is promised to all. Amen.
 
Prayer of Intercession
 
“We do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit intercedes for us, with sighs too deep for words”
 
Living God, hear our prayer. Hear our words, our groans, our sighs and our silence, we pray. So may your kingdom come.
 
We pray that here, in this moment, in our homes, we may know you close. We bring to you the deepest burdens of our hearts… for our health, our dear ones, our future…
Living God, hear our prayer and may your kingdom come.
 
We pray that you may be known in love of friend and neighbour. We bring to you prayers for our communities… for our neighbours, our sisters and brothers in Christ, and those who serve us…
Living God, hear our prayer and may your kingdom come.
 
We pray that you may speak in the life of our nation. We bring to you prayers for those in government, local and national, for emergency services, for justice in financial affairs..
Living God, hear our prayer and may your kingdom come.
We pray that your kingdom will be known among the nations of this world. We bring to you prayers for all whose health or health services are poor, for those who work to support the weakest, for all who care for our fragile planet..
 
Living God, hear our prayer and may your kingdom come.
 
Living God, take these prayers and shape them and us to build your kingdom, in Jesus name and by the power of the Spirit. Amen.
 
The Lord’s Prayer
 
The Offertory
 
In worship we offer our prayers, our time and our praise to God. Normally the symbol of this is the giving of money for the work of the kingdom. We pause today to remember our offering of ourselves and our gifts.
 
Living God, show us how best to serve your kingdom.
We offer our lives, our gifts and our money
and ask you to show us how best to give them to you.
So may your kingdom come. Amen.
 
Hymn:  Guide Me O Though Great Redeemer  William Williams 1717-91
  Guide me, O thou great Redeemer,
pilgrim through this barren land;
I am weak,
but Thou art mighty,
hold me with Thy powerful hand;
Bread of Heaven, Bread of Heaven
feed me till I want no more;
feed me till I want no more. 
 
2: Open now the crystal fountain
whence the healing
stream doth flow;
let the fire and cloudy pillar
lead me all my journey through:
Strong Deliverer, Strong Deliverer;
be Thou still my strength and shield;
be Thou still my strength and shield.
3: When I tread the verge of Jordan,
bid my anxious fears subside;
death of Death, and Hell's destruction
land me safe on Canaan's side:
songs of praises, songs of praises,
I will ever give to thee;
I will ever give to thee.
 
Blessing
 
May the God of all life and power
breathe into your heart, mind and soul.
And may the love of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit
Be with you and all those you love
now and evermore. Amen.
 
  Sources and Copyright  
Call to Worship from the Church of England’s New Patterns of Worship.
Affirmation of Faith from the Reformed Church of France (translated by Andy Braunston) all other liturgical material by Ruth Whitehead.
 
Organ Pieces  Opening: Nun Komm Der Heiden Heiland (“Now the Gentile saviour comes”) by Johann Sebastian Bach (organ of The Spire Church, Farnham – 2020). Closing Nun Danket Alle Gott – Marche Triomphale (“Now thank we all our God”) by Sigfrid Karg-Elert
(organ of All Saints’, Odiham – 2020) Both played by Brian Cotterill.  http://briancotterill.webs.com
 
Thanks to Anne Hewling, David Shimmin, Ray Fraser, Jonnie Hill and Karen Smith for recording various spoken parts of the service.  Thanks also to members of the Nevard family for recording the hymn Not Far Beyond
 
Copyright
 
Down by the River to Pray – Alison Kraus
Breathe on me Breath of God and Guide Me O Though Great Redeemer from the BBC’s Songs of Praise, Not Far Beyond sung by various members of the Nevard Family, How Can I Keep From Singing by the New York City Virtual Choir. 
  --> 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 26th July 2020

Sun, 26/07/2020 - 06:00
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Plaintive is the song I sing
Woeful the lament I bring
All my anguish I lay bare
God my Saviour hear my prayer

My pursuers take delight
In their malice and their spite
They accuse me without cause
Held as in a lion's claws

Try me put me to the test
If I ever have oppressed
Those who taunt me and deride
Then they might be justified

Seated on Your lofty throne
Summon all the lands each one
Hold high court lay motives bare
Give just judgment firm but fair

Leading to a different way
Where revenge no more holds sway
And where Christ will set us free
Free to build community

Norman J Goreham © 2010 Faith Alive Christian Resources  CCLI Number 1064776

You can hear the tune for this Psalm here
https://hymnary.org/media/fetch/157581


Reflection

In stanza 1, a complaint is made to God.  A lament is not mere whinging or a slight upset, but rather a gut wrenching cry of anguish because no remedy can be seen.  Stanza 2 tells us that false accusations are being made against the person.  Like lion’s claws, these false accusations threaten the person.  Stanza 3 is a plea to God to check the person’s heart for any sense that they may have somehow caused these false accusations or given their accusers cause to accuse them.  Stanza 4 asks God to make a “firm but fair” judgement in the matter.  Stanza 5 is a call to stop the culture of revenge and a plea for a new way forward that would be better for everyone in the community, where Christ Jesus “sets us free.”

False accusations are a vicious form of gossip.  Gossip is a community killer - see James 3:5-10 and the Apostle Paul’s ‘what not to do’ lists.  Gossip is like a drug that at first makes us feel good with that ‘high’ of knowing something about someone else, but the effect soon wears off.  We need more and more.  The old news doesn’t quite have the same edge as new news.  Gotta get me some of that new news…

Gossip hurts people.  The person gossiping is stuck in the lion’s claws just as much as the person being talked about.  Stopping gossip requires a complete shift in the community’s thinking.  It requires a desire to seek the real truth and to care about each other enough to know what the truth actually is.  It requires justice.  Can we make Jesus - aka “The Truth”- the heart of our communications?

If you have a gossip problem, you are not alone, but get help before gossip wrecks you and your community.
 
Prayer

God of justice and truth
we have a gossip problem.
Teach us to use words that give life and not kill (Proverbs 18:21).
Change how we speak to and of each other.
Amen
--> Today's writer The Rev’d Angela Rigby, Minister at Christ Church URC Tonbridge and St Johns Hill URC Sevenoaks 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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