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URC Daily Devotion Sunday Worship - 8th November 2020

URC Devotion - Sun, 08/11/2020 - 09:45
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Below you will find the Order of Service, prayers, hymns and sermon for today's service.   You can either simply read this or you can
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Sunday 8th November 2020

Revd. Susan Henderson Introduction
This is the day that the Lord has made,
Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
 
Good morning and welcome to the Daily Devotions Sunday Worship.  My name is Susan Henderson and I am the minister of the Inverclyde Churches of Greenock East, Greenock West and Port Glasgow United Reformed Churches, from the National Synod of Scotland.  This morning in our service we give honour and remember those who gave their lives in the two World Wars and subsequent conflicts, we remember those who remained at home, trying as hard as possible to keep some sense of normality at a time when nothing was normal.
 
Let us still ourselves before God as we begin our service.

Call to Worship

What does the Lord require of you?
On this day of all days
as we remember men and women
who gave their everything for us,
we gather here to honour their memory
and give thanks.
 
What does the Lord require of you?
On this day of all days
we come seeking peace for all
in a world that cries out for it.
We come seeking to love the unloved
and to live humbly with our Lord.
 
What does the Lord require of you?
On this day of all days
we come to him in worship and praise.
Let us worship the God of love and peace.

Hymn       All my hope on God is founded
                  ROBERT BRIDGES (1844-1930)

1 All my hope on God is founded;
he doth still my trust renew.
Me through change and chance he guideth,
only good and only true.
God unknown, he alone
calls my heart to be his own.

2 Pride of man and earthly glory,
sword and crown betray his trust;
what with care and toil he buildeth,
tower and temple, fall to dust.
But God's power, hour by hour
is my temple and my tower.

3 Still from earth to God eternal
sacrifice of praise be done,
high above all praises praising
for the gift of Christ his Son.
Christ doth call one and all;
ye who follow shall not fall.

Opening Prayer

Eternal God,
you are the shepherd of our soul,
the giver of life everlasting.
 
On this day
when we commemorate and commend to you
those who lived and died
in the service of others,
we are glad to remember
that your purposes for us are good,
that you gave us Jesus Christ
for the life of the world,
and that you lead us by his Holy Spirit
into the paths of righteousness and peace.
 
Merciful and faithful God,
your purpose is to fold both the earth and heaven
in a single peace.
 
With sorry we confess
that in our hearts we keep alive
the passions and pride
that lead to hatred and to war.
we are not worthy of you love,
nor or the sacrifices made by others on our behalf.
 
Lord, have mercy.
       Christ have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
 
Almighty God.
pardon and deliver us from all our sins,
confirm and strengthen us in all goodness,
and keep us in life eternal’
through Jesus Christ our Lord.                                   Amen.
 
God of unbounded grace,
you declare your reconciling love and power
in the death and resurrection
of our Saviour Jesus Christ.
Teach us , who live only in your forgiveness,
to forgive one another.
Heal our divisions,
cast out our fears,
renew our faith in your unchanging purpose
of goodwill and peace on earth;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns
with you and the Holy Spirit,
on God, now and for ever.               Amen.
 
Call to Remembrance
 
Let us remember the kindness of God,
and his favour to us in our time of need.
 
Let us remember the courage,
devotion to duty,
and the self-sacrifice
of the men and women in our armed forces;
the toil, endurance, and suffering
of those who were not in uniform;
the support of those who sent us help for afar,
or came and stood by our side.
 
Let us remember those
who were wounded in the fight;
those who perished in air-raids at home;
those who fell in battle,
and are buried at sea
or in some corner of a foreign field;
and especially those
whom we have known and loved,
whose place is for ever in our hearts.
 
Let us remember those who were our enemies,
whose homes and hearts are as bereft as ours,
whose dead lie also
in a living tomb of everlasting remembrance.
 
Let us remember those who came back’
those whose lives still bear the scars of war;
those who lost sight or limbs or reason’
those who lost faith in God
and hope for humanity.
Let us remember the continuing grace of God,
whose love holds all souls in life,
and to whom none is dead
but all are alive for ever.
 
The Tryst
 
‘They shall grow not old,
as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them,
nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun
and in the morning,
We will remember them.’
 
The Last Post
 
The Silence
 
Reveille
 
Let us pray.
 
Ever-living God
We remember those whom you have gathered
form the storms of war into the peace of your presence;
may that same peace calm our fears,
bring justice to all peoples
and establish harmony among the nations,
through Jesus Chris our Lord.                                     Amen.

Hymn       Lord, Make us servants of your peace
                  James Quinn

1 Lord, make us servants of your peace:
Where there is hate, may we sow love;
Where there is hurt, may we forgive;
Where there is strife, may we make one.

2 Where all is doubt, may we sow faith;
Where all is gloom, may we sow hope;
Where all is night, may we sow light;
Where all is tears, may we sow joy.
 
Dying, we live, and are reborn
Through death's dark night to endless day;
Lord, make us servants of your peace,
To wake at last in heaven's light.
 
3 Jesus, our Lord, may we not seek
To be consoled, but to console,
Nor look to understanding hearts,
But look for hearts to understand.
 
4 May we not look for love's return,
But seek to love unselfishly,
For in our giving we receive,
And in forgiving are forgiven.
 
Prayer of Illumination

Let us pray.
As we hear the words from Scripture,
we ask that you, O God,
allow the words to speak to our hearts,
allow them to stir us into action,
to be the servants that you wish us to be.
Amen.
 
Readings
 
Psalm 46 taken from Psalms Redux, Poems and Prayers, by Carla A. Grosch-Miller

Sheltering God,
I hide myself in You.
Head swathed and bowed,
I listen for the still, small voice.
 
Strengthening God,
in times of tumult and terror,
as the earth moves
ant the horizon shifts,
You call me back,
to shelter and to strengthen.
 
Your song is in the sighing of trees.
Your light is in flicker and spark,
knowing and unknowing.

Your power is in the greening,
and in its passing.
 
Those with ears to hear, listen.
Those with eyes to see, look.
 
War and peace,
trembling and tenderness,
all that we create
and all that we destroy
hold a holiness
we do not understand.
 
Illumine our being,
that our doing
might manifest You.

Matthew 5:38-48

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’  But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also;  and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well;  and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.  For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?  Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Music for reflection (Lord you have come to the seashore)

Sermon

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts
be acceptable to you,  O Lord, our  rock and our redeemer.”
 
Our readings this morning pick up on 3 ideas.  In our Psalm it is about being still with God and listening.  Really listening, not just to God but with others around us.  Our Gospel reading asks us to think about retaliation and loving our enemy.
 
Psalm 46 is one of my favourite Psalms, with phrases such as, ‘ a very present help in trouble, ‘he makes wars cease’, ‘is with us’, ‘is our refuge’.  All are images that come to mind of being cared for, of being loved, of never being forsaken.
When all around us might be changing, might be frightening, God is there as our refuge, our shelter, if we are still and listen for God.  And if I skip quickly over the words in verse 8 – I’ll let you look that up – if I don’t think about them in much detail or think about what they might mean, then this Psalm gives great hope when all around seems lost.  In a time of turmoil as we have and may be still experiencing with Covid-19 God is our refuge, our shelter and in Him we can sit out the turmoil.  The Psalmist gives us the promise that we can find God in the midst of such an event.
 
In the translation by Carla Grosch-Miller that we heard, I am especially drawn to the words, ‘Those with ears to hear, listen.  Those with eyes to see, look’.
Being in the presence of God requires us to listen, to be still with God and allow our hearts to be present with God.  Listening can be hard, it requires us to be truly present with someone.  David Montgomery form the Department of Earth and Space Sciences in the USA asks this, “Are you really listening… or are you just waiting for your turn to talk?”
I’m sure that if we really think about it most of our conversations are like this.  Waiting for our turn to put across what we think, our understanding of a situation, or just moving the conversation on from what is being said.  And for most conversations this is the natural way, there is nothing wrong with doing this.  But just sometimes we need to invest our time in really listening to what is being said, to really see the situation before us.  Being still, listening and reflecting might make us see someone or some situation in a different light, it might allow us to understand a persons actions better, it might allow us to think through our own thoughts before we retaliate with words or actions.
 
In our Gospel reading Jesus is in full flow in his ‘sermon’.  He is challenging everything that the Jewish people had been taught, had lived their daily lives by.
Jesus is not asking his hearers to abandon everything they know, but just to look at it in a different light.  One of the oldest laws in the land is that of Lex Talionis, the law of retribution, whereby a punishment resembles the offence committed in kind and degree.  Jesus quotes from the Old Testament, “You have heard that is was said, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”  It was the law which gave a private individual the right to extract vengeance, but it was a law that limited that vengeance.  Only those who committed the injury could be punished and that their punishment would not be more that the injury they inflicted or the damage they did.
It was a law that deliberately limited vengeance, a law of mercy, the punishment would fit the crime.  A saying that comes to mind that I remember learning in history classes at school is, “You might as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb”, in other words, because the punishment for a bad actions and an even worse one will be the same, our have no reason not to do the worse one!
Lex Talionis – the law of tit for tat, eliminated this, it was and still is a guide for a judge in the assessment of the penalty which any violent or unjust deed must receive.  It limits vengeance.
But Jesus challenges us not to be vengeful, not to seek retaliation, but to show love for our enemy, and to pray for those who persecute you.
Sometimes standing up for injustices, saying not to others’ actions, calling out situations, is difficult to do and hard to live with when others around you insult you or are vengeful towards you because of this.  challenging the norm is not popular.  It is said that when William Wilberforce began campaigning to free the slaves of the British Empire, ‘Some people deliberately spread slanderous rumours that he was a cruel husband and a wife-beater’.  Jesus ask us to pray for those who persecute us.
If someone hates us, or indeed, we hate someone, we need to pray for them every day.  Yes, every day, because hating someone takes up so much energy and leaves no room for love in our hearts.  If we pray for someone daily we will find it harder to hate that person when we are regularly takin the time to pray for them.  Martin Luther King Jr. said this, “We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive.  He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love.  There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us.  When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.”
We must also be very aware of the language we use to describe people who don’t look the same, think the same, or act the same as we do.  When we use ‘them’ and ‘us’ in a negative way it becomes a language that causes division.  When we use this language, we are de-humanising the other person… those people… the enemy, and we create battle lines.
It becomes what Jesus tells us not to do, retribution and revenge rather than reconciliation and understanding.  We fail to listen to someone completely.  Retribution and revenge shows no compassion, it doesn’t try to heal the brokenness, it shows no hope of a reconciling relationship.  We need to stop being fair towards one another and start loving one another, because if we are fair with people then we can be unfair, and it becomes a never-ending circle.
Our Gospel passage ends with these words, ‘Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect’.
One definition of perfect is, ‘completely free from faults’.
I don’t know about you, but I know that I am not perfect in that sense.  I try, but sometimes my actions are not mirrored in my thought.  Whereas you can see my outward actions, it is God who sees my inner thoughts.
The Greek word used in this verse is téleios, and it has different meanings.  It can mean complete or mature.  So, with this definition it is much easier to be mature and still have flaws, than it is to be without error or without flaws.  A six-year old can be mature for their age, and still have a lot of growing to do, just like a person can be ‘holy’ and have a lot to learn about spiritual maturity.  Jesus is asking, no telling us to aspire to completeness, to full maturing in our thinking and actions like God is.
 
So, in this week of Remembrance, who will we be still for and listen to, who will we show a reconciling relationship to, who will we pray for, who will we love?
 
Amen

Hymn       Christ be our light
                  Bernadette Farrell

1 Longing for light, we wait in darkness. 
Longing for truth, we turn to you. 
Make us your own, your holy people, 
light for the world to see. 
 
Christ, be our light!
Shine in our hearts.
Shine through the darkness.
Christ, be our light!
Shine in your church gathered today.

2 Longing for shelter, many are homeless.
Longing for warmth, many are cold.
Make us your building, sheltering others,
walls made of living stone.

Christ, be our light!
Shine in our hearts.
Shine through the darkness.
Christ, be our light!
Shine in your church gathered today.

3 Many the gifts, many the people,
many the hearts that yearn to belong.
Let us be servants to one another,
making your kingdom come.

Christ, be our light!
Shine in our hearts.
Shine through the darkness.
Christ, be our light!
Shine in your church gathered today.

Affirmation of Faith

(based on Luke 21)

When nation rises against nation, and kingdom against kingdom,
the end is not violence:
for there is a God of resilient, redeeming love,
   and the Brighter Purpose is at work in the shadows,
      and the darkness cannot smother it.
Lord we believe, strengthen our timid faith.

When there are earthquakes, famines and pestilences
and collisions among the stars,
the end is not chaos:
God the Creator of the heavens and the earth has not forsaken us,
   and the harmony will again break out and gather
      to hasten towards consummation.
Lord we believe, strengthen our timid faith.

When believers are arrested and abused,
dragged before kings and governors,
the end is not injustice:
the Holy Spirit is always with you in all your trials and travail,
   and words will be given to confound your adversaries
      and shake the gates of hell.
Lord we believe, strengthen our timid faith.

When parents, brothers, sisters, relatives or friends,
betray you even unto death,
the end it not alienation:
   the crucified Christ will reconcile all things seen and unseen,
      and the glorious finale is much nearer than when you first believed.
Lord we believe, strengthen our timid faith.

~ written by Bruce Prewer, and posted on Bruce Prewer’s Home Page.  http://www.bruceprewer.com/
 
Offertory

As we acknowledge your goodness and creative love,
accept these gifts we bring today,
as we dedicate ourselves to be your people on earth.
Amen.
 
Doxology:
Praise God, from who all blessings flow;
Praise him, all creatures here below;
Praise him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
 
 
Intercessions

On this Remembrance Sunday, let us bring to God our prayers for others.
Let us pray
We give thanks that in a world so complicated we cannot understand it all, people seek peace and address evil in so many different ways, each determined and brave, each making a difference for good or ill but doing their best.  So, we give thanks and pray blessing for:
Men and women who are willing to stand between enemies to make it impossible for them to hurt each other.
The staff of United Nations agencies dedicated to the rights of children, the feeding of the hungry, the protection of the earth’s ecology, the rescue of refugees, the dignity of citizens in every country.
Charities established to support those affected by conflict: the British Legion, Help for Heroes, the Erskine Hospital, the Earl Haig Fund.
Experts in mediation, working with those who suffer brokenness in family life, in business relationships, in churches and community organisations.
People of power in countries of fragility, with the chance to keep peace and the chance to bring about war on helpless populations.
Voices of hope that speak the words that bring a sense of peace, that sing the songs that inspire justice, that describe the touch that gives gentleness to the world.
People known to us who can be impatient or aggressive when they are afraid, and who need to be loved and reassured even when they think they are in charge.
People known to us who give us stillness and quietness in our souls and make peacemakers of us by magic.
People of prayer who reach and hear and see the peace of Christ every day and carry it about as a gift to the world, free and flowing.
 
Lord, hear our prayers as we join together in the prayer your Son taught his Disciples,
 
Hymn       Thine be the glory
                  Edmond Budry

Thine be the glory
Risen conquering Son
Endless is the victory
Thou o'er death hast won

Angels in bright raiment
Rolled the stone away
Kept the folded grave clothes
Where Thy body lay

Lo! Jesus meets us, risen from the tomb
Lovingly, He greets us, scatters fear and gloom
Let the church with gladness, hymns of triumph sing
For her Lord now liveth, death has lost its sting.

Thine be the glory
Risen conquering Son
Endless is the victory
Thou o'er death hast won
  No more we doubt Thee, glorious Prince of life
Life is naught without Thee, aid us in our strife
Make us more than conquerors, through Thy deathless love
Bring us safe through Jordan, to Thy home above.
Thine be the glory
Risen conquering Son
Endless is the victory
Thou o'er death hast won

Sending out and blessing

As we end our worship
Let us go with minds that never forget,
with hearts that grow in hope,
with lives that shine Christ’s light.
Let us go to serve,
to reconcile,
to bring peace,
and to stand united
as children of the light.
 
And may the blessing of God,
Creator, Peacemaker, Peace bringer,
go with us all,
this day and every day.                                  Amen





References
Spill the Beans, © 2014 Spill the Beans Resource Team
Common Order, © Panel on Worship of the Church of Scotland 1994
Weekly Worship from the Church of Scotland
The Gospel of Matthew, Vol 1, William Barclay, Saint Andrew Press, Edinburgh
 
Thanks to:
James Whately, Carol Tubbs, John Wilcox, Ray Fraser, Melanie Hall, Anne Hewling, David Shimmin, Barbara Redmond, Dan Morrell, Rachel Harvey, Nicholas Booth and Reuben Watt for reading parts of the service.
 
All my hope on God is founded - BBC’s Songs of Praise
Lord Make us servants of your peace - Orchard Enterprises, OCP Publications
Christ be our light - Orchard Enterprises, OCP Publications
Thine be the glory – BBC’s Songs of Praise
 
Organ Pieces:
Liturgical Prelude by George Oldroyd (organ of The Spire Church, Farnham – 2020)
Procession by Arthur Wills (organ of Santa Maria dei Miracoli, Venice, Italy – 2014)
 
Both pieces played by Brian Cotterill:
http://briancotterill.webs.com
  --> Where words are copyright reproduced under the terms of Barrhead URC’s CCLI licence number 1064776,
Some material reprinted, and streamed, with permission under ONE LICENSE A-734713 All rights reserved.
PRS Limited Online Music Licence LE-0019762
  Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 8th November 2020

URC Devotion - Sun, 08/11/2020 - 06:00
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Psalm 22

In the presence of your people
I will praise your name
for alone you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
Let us celebrate your goodness
and your steadfast love;
may your name be exalted
here on earth and in heaven above.

2 All who love you sing your praises
and proclaim your power,
for alone you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
You have not ignored our suffering
but have heard our cry;
may your power be exalted
here on earth and in heaven above.

3 All who seek your rule will praise you
and be satisfied;
for alone you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
All the peoples of the nations
will bow down to you;
may your rule be exalted
here on earth and in heaven above.

v1 Brent Chambers (b1948) v2&3 Bert Polman © 1977 Universal Music

You can hear this Psalm here
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YMnp8F_U65Y

Reflection

Today’s words come from a song which is based on Psalm 22.  This Psalms is about a person who is crying out to God to save him from the taunts and torments of his enemies and then thanking God for rescuing him.

At the time of writing today’s devotion, we were still in Lockdown and so by the time you are reading this, who knows what position we will be in?  However, looking back during the worst parts of Lockdown it was very hard to hear the words of praise and adoration that is repeated in this Psalm. Praising God can be difficult to do when as we turn on our TVs, go on social media and see all the doom and gloom.  It is hard to remember all of the good things God has done especially during Lockdown.  

After going through a struggle either nationally or personally it is good to reflect and see what God has done.  As Youth Assembly Moderator looking back over the struggle of lockdown, it has been great to see small ‘pop up’ churches come into form from ones directly organised by some members of URC Youth and other ‘older’ members of the URC.  Scrolling through my Facebook feed on a Sunday morning has never been so full of churches advertising their church.  This is such a great reason to praise God.

I really hope that you have found some positives from Lockdown no matter how small and remember, as Psalm 22 says “I will praise your name for alone you are holy”. God doesn’t leave us in a time of struggle, He hears our cry and is the one that carries us through.

Prayer
Lord,
In times of hardship and trials,
reveal to our hearts the victories you have won for us.
In the presence of your people may we praise you
God is great. God is good.
Amen   --> Today's writer Reuben Watt, URC Youth Assembly Moderator 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 7th November 2020

URC Devotion - Sat, 07/11/2020 - 06:00
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Hebrews 6: 1 - 12

Therefore let us go on towards perfection,  leaving behind the basic teaching about Christ, and not laying again the foundation: repentance from dead works and faith towards God,  instruction about baptisms, laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgement.  And we will do this, if God permits.  For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit,  and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come,  and then have fallen away, since on their own they are crucifying again the Son of God and are holding him up to contempt. 

Ground that drinks up the rain falling on it repeatedly, and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God.  But if it produces thorns and thistles, it is worthless and on the verge of being cursed; its end is to be burned over.  Even though we speak in this way, beloved, we are confident of better things in your case, things that belong to salvation. 

For God is not unjust; he will not overlook your work and the love that you showed for his sake in serving the saints, as you still do.  And we want each one of you to show the same diligence, so as to realize the full assurance of hope to the very end, so that you may not become sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

Reflection

Sometimes I wonder if whoever wrote Hebrews was attempting to offer some sort of discipleship masterclass.  This chapter opens with an invitation to take a step onwards from what they perceive as the basics of the Christian faith to the harder stuff. 

Even if this is some sort of masterclass that isn’t a bad thing.  A question that I have heard asked is how should those who have come to faith, perhaps through a discipleship course, or by another route be encouraged to grow in their faith.  How do we wean children and young people attending our churches or groups led by them from milk to meat?  What about those who have been followers of Jesus Christ for longer than they or anyone else might care to remember?  What about those who were Christians once, who perhaps had a ‘strong’ faith but who no longer identify with this identity?  

Hebrews has uncomfortable words concerning such people, this passage, and others like it, have been used to justify a muscular Christianity where grace and understanding seem markedly absent.  It would seem that for those who leave a return is difficult.  It feels like this is at odds with Jesus’ own teaching particularly in stories such as that of the Prodigal Son.  We might also remember that these words were penned in a time when being a Christian was far from easy (is it ever).  The Church was being persecuted. 

It is perhaps not surprising that there were some who weighed up their options when times were tough and stepped away.  What is worth noticing here is that the faithful remnant within the Church are not asked to make judgements or opinions about those who leave.  The passage ends with an invitation to show diligence and to hold on to the assurance of hope shown and offered by Christ but through faith and patience to inherit the promise of life in all its fullness described in and through the life and ministry of Jesus.  

Prayer 

God of comings and goings, 
it hurts when friends leave, 
particularly if they apparently
turn away from you
and your promise of life.    

We pray for the ‘prodigals’ of our time.  
Give us the gifts and graces 
that we need to welcome back. 

Strengthen us and help us to grow 
in faith and discipleship, 
so that when we need to hear hard things 
we can do so with open hearts and minds.
Amen   --> Today's writer The Rev’d Sarah Moore serves as Transition 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 5th November 2020

URC Devotion - Fri, 06/11/2020 - 06:00
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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentColumn{ padding-right:18px !important; padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnImageCardLeftImageContent,.mcnImageCardRightImageContent{ padding-right:18px !important; padding-bottom:0 !important; padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcpreview-image-uploader{ display:none !important; width:100% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h1{ font-size:24px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h2{ font-size:20px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h3{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h4{ font-size:16px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; 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Hebrews 5: 11 - 14

About this we have much to say that is hard to explain, since you have become dull in understanding. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic elements of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food;  for everyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is unskilled in the word of righteousness.  But solid food is for the mature, for those whose faculties have been trained by practice to distinguish good from evil.

Reflection

The ‘this’ about which much should be said and which is hard to explain is presumably that which has been referred to in the preceding verses, it is the reference to Christ being a ‘high priest according to the order of Melchizedek’.

In this passage the writer relates to the readers in a direct way. They were long-standing Christians, they should be able to teach the faith to others, but as far as the writer is concerned, they lack understanding and they need someone to teach them basic principles or as the Revised English Bible puts it, they need someone to teach them ‘the ABC of God’s oracles all over again’.

The distinction between infants who live on milk and the mature who live solid food, is found in Greek writings as well, and is used by Paul in 1 Corinthians (3:1-20). Paul could only speak to the Corinthians as infants in Christ, for they could not take solid food..

Speaking of those who live on milk, the reference to ‘righteousness’ is about living in the way that is required by God, They are unskilled, in living in his way, whereas the mature are trained by their practice of the faith and come to understand the difference between right and wrong.

The writer thinks his readers are failing to understand, but the hope of the writer is that through persistent prodding they will come to understand the deep theological message that is to be unfolded in the epistle.

Thinking about how this might relate to us in this present day, it is a challenge to today’s disciples, not only to learn of God, but also to be teachers, ready to speak of our faith.

 Prayer

Merciful God,
forgive us when we have been slow to learn of you and your ways.
May our minds be open to learn.
May our mouths be ready to speak.
In Christ’s name.
Amen   --> Today's writer The Rev’d Dr David Whiting, Minister, Sunderland and Boldon URC Partnership   Copyright New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 4th November 2020

URC Devotion - Thu, 05/11/2020 - 06:00
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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentColumn{ padding-right:18px !important; padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnImageCardLeftImageContent,.mcnImageCardRightImageContent{ padding-right:18px !important; padding-bottom:0 !important; padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcpreview-image-uploader{ display:none !important; width:100% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h1{ font-size:24px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h2{ font-size:20px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h3{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h4{ font-size:16px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; 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Hebrews 5: 1 - 10

Every high priest chosen from among mortals is put in charge of things pertaining to God on their behalf, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is subject to weakness; and because of this he must offer sacrifice for his own sins as well as for those of the people. And one does not presume to take this honour, but takes it only when called by God, just as Aaron was.

So also Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him,

‘You are my Son,
    today I have begotten you’;

as he says also in another place,

‘You are a priest for ever,
    according to the order of Melchizedek.’

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.  Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered;  and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him,  having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

Reflection

This reading seems made for the kind of “compare and contrast” questions beloved by GCE “O” levels when I sat exams.   That phrase “priest after the order of Melchizedek” has always seemed curious to me; it rolls off the tongue so neatly, that it is “by God” sounds so complete.  Except - why Melchizedek; why had the Psalmist taken the reference from Abram being blessed (Gen 14:18-20) and therefore why had the writer of Hebrews?   Our reading points out that only Aaron of the tribe of Levi was called priest by God, the others could not presume their elevation to High priest.  

The first 4 verses are full of allusions to the setting of the cultic standard of Judaism but they do not bring together the attributes of Christ as “Son” and “High priest” as is now done by placing verses from 2 psalms (Pss 2:7 and 110:4) in juxtaposition.   (This is the start of a theme developing as the letter continues.)   In terms of the ritual Jesus, being of the line of David was not a Levite, and therefore following the cult could not be appointed High Priest.   By contrast as a Son his elevation is made by God and is forever, his sacrifice is of himself not for himself as the High priest sacrifices on the Day of atonement.  

In contrast to Aaron, Melchizedek was completely other: a King of Salem, not an intermediary like Jewish High Priests between people and God.  In contrast, Melchizedek brought an offering of bread and wine and blessed Abram and God    There are times when doing the right thing is done because it is right, not because doing the right thing is the done thing.  Melchizedek  did the right thing because it was right and not because, as far as we can judge, it was the usual ritual.   Jesus is made perfect and does the right thing which is not ritual but the source of eternal salvation.    


Prayer

Creator God, we give praise and thanks that Jesus being made perfect is the source of eternal salvation.  May we be able to share this as an honour for all.   Amen    --> Today's writer The Rev’d Ruth Browning, retired minister worshipping at Thornbury URC Copyright New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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Sunday's Coming

URC Devotion - Wed, 04/11/2020 - 16:15
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Dear Friends,

Sunday’s service will be led by Revd. Susan Henderson. Susan is minister of 3 churches in the Inverclyde region west of Glasgow, Greenock East, Greenock West, and Port Glasgow URC's.

This Sunday is Remembrance Sunday so will include traditional times of silence, pieces of music (The Last Post), and The Tryst. Hymns include a rousing rendition of All my hope on God is founded, Lord make us servants of your peace, Bernadette Farrell's Christ Be Our Light (Longing for Light), concluding with a sumptuous Songs of Praise special, Thine Be The Glory.

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

with every blessing,


Dan


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

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

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


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Sign up for Sunday Services in Advance

URC Devotion - Wed, 04/11/2020 - 11:18
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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,

the new restrictions across our nations means that many churches won't be able to meet in person for a bit and others are deciding not to meet.  The Daily Devotions audio services have continued (and are planned to continue until Pentecost.)  These are, as you know, sent out each week.  However, I maintain a list for local church contacts to get the material early so they can send out via CD, memory stick, telephone service or just in print ahead of time.  This evening I will resend the November material to that list and it is likely the December material will be ready to go in a week or so.

If you'd like to receive this material early so you can distribute locally please sign up here.  I intend to resend the November material this evening so if you'd like that please sign up before 7pm.

best wishes

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


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URC Daily Devotion Wednesday 4th November 2020

URC Devotion - Wed, 04/11/2020 - 06:00
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Hebrews 4: 14 - 16

Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.  Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Reflection

Imagine walking through rough and rugged territory. Then you pause and lift your eyes. You see that the path leads on to bright uplands. You know that your leader has already gone ahead and prepared the way. And your energy is renewed. Your fears fall away. That moment of pause, of looking up, is 4:14 of Hebrews.

Chapters 3 and 4 took us into the desert, to the Exodus journey, to the lonely lands between escape and arrival. A desert is dangerous. A pilgrim needs determination to get through. The Christian way, the letter suggests, is like the Exodus pilgrimage. There are dangers. We are fragile. Yet get through we must. 

Then at 4:14, we lift our eyes. The way goes upward and Jesus has taken it. He is, by the strange geography of grace, both far ahead and near at hand. He has ‘passed through the heavens’. He is risen and ascended, above the pressures, pains and powers of earth. Yet he remains one of us. He was himself a traveller, a learner, a sufferer, flesh and blood. He knows our weakness. He was tested to destruction, but not to sin. He sympathises. He can sustain us.

This Jesus is majestic and mighty – up high, as Hebrews puts it. He is also tender, approachable and compassionate – within reach. This is what Hebrews means by calling him priest. Jesus connects earth and heaven. He nurtures contact between the majesty of God and the experience of earth. He belongs to both realms and he bridges, he mediates, between them.

The theme of Jesus as priest will be explored and developed in the chapters ahead. For the moment the message is direct and straightforward. You can trust Jesus. He will help you. Keep the faith. Draw near.

Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, 
  tested and troubled as one of us,
  risen and glorious as one with God,
      we ask for confidence 
        to draw near to you and hold firm to you.
When we are beset with need, with fears, with tiredness,
    may we seek your presence and find your strength.
Journey with us, we ask, that we may follow you. 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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Tuesday 3rd November 2020 Rev’d Lindsey Sanderson,

URC Devotion - Tue, 03/11/2020 - 06:00
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Hebrews 4: 1 - 13


Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest is still open, let us take care that none of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For indeed the good news came to us just as to them; but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. For we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said,

‘As in my anger I swore,
“They shall not enter my rest”’,

though his works were finished at the foundation of the world. For in one place it speaks about the seventh day as follows: ‘And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.’  And again in this place it says, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’  Since therefore it remains open for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience,  again he sets a certain day—‘today’—saying through David much later, in the words already quoted,

‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.’

For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not speak later about another day.  So then, a sabbath rest still remains for the people of God;  for those who enter God’s rest also cease from their labours as God did from his. Let us therefore make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one may fall through such disobedience as theirs.

Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account.

Reflection

I opted to reflect on this passage in March and resolved to write it, close to the submission deadline, five months later, wondering whether the Lockdown experience would give me any new insight into the idea of ‘The rest God promises.’  My experience was not as I imagined.  I didn’t experience lockdown as any type of extended sabbath.  My ways of being with and communicating with my pastorate changed but continued, the everyday necessary activities of household life continued, albeit with reduced frequency but often greater time commitment as queueing became part of the supermarket experience, and the caring responsibilities I have for my mother-in-law increased as other care provisions were reduced.  

I noticed the importance of rhythm and pattern.  I found myself living with new rhythms – Thursday evening became the new Sunday - the time I ‘met’ folk from my churches; Friday morning became recording time rather than being in school; Wednesday afternoon became a time to worship together rather than have ‘Coffee and Chat’.  I found stability in new rhythms and patterns when everything around was in a state of flux and uncertainty.

The writer of Hebrews affirms that the rest God promises is an experience promised to believers as part of their faith but is experienced at a point after death. It is participation in God’s own rest, as described in Genesis, when God rested upon completion of the work of Creation. So God’s people having completed their service on earth, enter into God’s rest.
Can Lockdown suggest anything to us about the promise of God’s rest? The author suggests that we must keep working at our discipleship, remain faithful and obedient in order to receive the promise of rest. Perhaps emerging into the new normal we need to be attentive to the new rhythms and patterns we create, that we remain true to our calling to love God and neighbour, that we discern fresh ways to ‘walk the way, living the life of Jesus today?

Prayer

Resting God,
you promise that we shall enjoy rest in you.
Until that time comes
hold us in your love and tend us with compassion;
keep us faithful to the Word of life;
enable us to discern new rhythms and patterns for the world in which we now find ourselves. Amen.    --> Today's writer

The Rev’d Lindsey Sanderson,
Minister, East Kilbride and Hamilton Joint Pastorate. 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 2nd November 2020

URC Devotion - Mon, 02/11/2020 - 06:00
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Hebrews 3: 7 - 19

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,

‘Today, if you hear his voice,

do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,

    as on the day of testing in the wilderness,

where your ancestors put me to the test,

    though they had seen my works for forty years.

Therefore I was angry with that generation,

and I said, “They always go astray in their hearts,

    and they have not known my ways.”

As in my anger I swore,

    “They will not enter my rest.”’

Take care, brothers and sisters, that none of you may have an evil, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.  But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today’, so that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partners of Christ, if only we hold our first confidence firm to the end.  As it is said,

‘Today, if you hear his voice

do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.’

Now who were they who heard and yet were rebellious? Was it not all those who left Egypt under the leadership of Moses? But with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, if not to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.

Reflection

This reflection is written during the Black Lives Matter campaign.  Racial inequality is by no means a new experience.  We all have different tastes, sometimes not very helpful tastes. I was brought up in the South Wales town of Barry.  In the 1950’s there were no fewer than 30 churches, mainly non-conformist, serving a population of about 50,000.  Competition between the denominations was strong.  For example, to join a church’s youth organisation you had to attend that particular church. This was further complicated by some churches worshipping and working through the medium of the Welsh language.  A member of one such congregation once said to me that it was pointless in going to heaven without the Welsh language because without Welsh you wouldn’t understand what was being said or going on!  They regarded Welsh as “The language of heaven”.

A not dissimilar conflict was going on in the early Church in that Christians that came from a Hebrew background were attempting to persuade those of a Gentile background to follow their traditions. In his letter to the Hebrews, Paul challenges this situation by, in effect, asking “Who is the greater in your beliefs, Moses or Jesus?” I am confident that the Christians from a Gentile background would respond “Jesus”, but what about those from a Hebrew background? What were their hopes of heaven?

This raises the question as to what is your vision of heaven - “The land of rest”? Does it include people and situations that make you feel ill at ease? Clearly, the early Christians facing the Hebrew/Gentile division were not facing that issue, are you in that same trap?

Prayer

Lord, how often have You heard us sing in our worship J. G. Whittier‘s hymn “Dear Lord and Father of mankind, forgive our foolish ways.” You inspired these words so that we have the opportunity to repent, to turn around, yet still we continue in our old habits. Open our eyes that we might see the foolishness of our greedy attitudes, seeking wealth or fame rather than perfect rest with You. Again, we seek forgiveness trusting in Your love and compassion. Amen

--> Today's writer The Rev’d Colin Hunt is a retired minister and member of Hutton & Shenfield Union Church, Essex Copyright New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotions Sunday Worship - 1st November 2020

URC Devotion - Sun, 01/11/2020 - 09:45
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Below you will find the Order of Service, prayers, hymns and sermon for today's service.   You can either simply read this or you can
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to listen to the service and sing along with the hymns.  This will open up a new screen, at the bottom of the screen you will see a play symbol.  Press that, then come back to this window so you can follow along with the service. URC Daily Devotion Worship for Sunday 1st November
All Saints Day 2020
The Rev'd Andy Braunston
 Introduction
 
Good morning and welcome to worship, my name is Andy Braunston and I work with four URC churches in and around Glasgow in the central belt of Scotland.  Today the service comes from my study and has been recorded with the help of various people from my churches.  We come together today to mark All Saints’ Day when we think of all those who have gone before us and now cheer us on in the heavenly places.
 
Call To Worship
 
The wisdom of God calls to us, from the heights, along the paths, and at the crossroads. Come into God’s presence to worship, sing, and pray.
 
From our scattered places we come. Let us worship God.
  Hymn:      For All The Saints
William Walsham How (1864)   For all the saints
who from their labours rest,
who thee by faith
before the world confessed,
thy name, O Jesus,
be forever blest.
Alleluia! Alleluia!
 
2 Thou wast their rock,
their fortress, and their might;
thou, Lord, their captain
in the well-fought fight;
thou, in the darkness drear,
their one true light.
Alleluia! Alleluia!
 
3  O blest communion,
fellowship divine,
we feebly struggle,
they in glory shine;
yet all are one in thee,
for all are thine.
Alleluia! Alleluia!
 
4  And when the strife is fierce the warfare long
steals on the wear
the distant triumph-song
and hearts are brave again
and arms are strong,
Alleluia! Alleluia
5: But lo! there breaks a yet more glorious day;
the saints triumphant
rise in bright array;
the King of glory
passes on his way.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

Prayers of Approach, Confession, and Forgiveness 
 
God of grace and glory,
whom saints and angels delight to worship in heaven,
we bless you, we magnify you,
we adore you as Lord of heaven and earth.
We bless and thank you for all those made saints through Jesus Christ,
who have testified to your love,
and shared the gifts with which you graced them.
May your Spirit be powerfully at work
through the communion of your saints to build us all up in faith and love,
for loving service to each other and to the world you so love,
through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
 
Eternal God, in every age
you have raised up women and men to live and die in faith.
Forgive our indifference to Your will.
You have commanded us to speak, but we have been silent.
You have called us to do what is just, but we have been fearful.
Have mercy on us, Your faithless servants.
Keep before us faithful people for us to follow
so that, by the power of your Holy Spirit,
we may grow in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,
to the praise of Your holy name. Amen.
 
Listen, you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. Rejoice then in the freedom that is yours, and learn to live lives that are holy and true, Amen.
 
Prayer of Illumination
 
In your Word, O God, show us heaven.
By your Spirit, O God, show us truth;
through Christ, the Living Word,
in whom we see your face, O God.  Amen.
 
Reading:  Revelation 7: 9-17         
 
After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God,  singing,
 
“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour
and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
 
Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?” I said to him, “Sir, you are the one that knows.” Then he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
 
For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them.  They will hunger no more, and thirst no more;  the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; for the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
 
Hymn:      How Shall I Sing That Majesty?
Ken Naylor (1931-1991)

1 How shall I sing that majesty

which angels do admire?

Let dust in dust and silence lie;

sing, sing, ye heavenly choir.

Thousands of thousands 

stand around

thy throne, O God most high;

ten thousand times 

ten thousand sound

thy praise; but who am I?


2 Thy brightness 

unto them appears,

whilst I thy footsteps trace;

a sound of God comes to my ears,

but they behold thy face.

They sing, because 

thou art their Sun;

Lord, send a beam on me;

for where heaven is 

but once begun there alleluias be.

 

3 How great a being, Lord, is thine,
which doth all beings keep!
Thy knowledge is the only line
to sound so vast a deep.
Thou art a sea without a shore,
a sun without a sphere;
thy time is now and evermore,
thy place is everywhere.
  Sermon 
 
Religious folk like saints.  We like the tales of those who have gone before us and have led heroic lives of sanctity.  Some of us may have been raised on the stories of saints – Columba the Irish man who founded a monastery on Iona, then in the middle of the water highway of the age and who evangelised Scotland.  Aiden, another Irish man, who founded a monastery on the holy isle of Lindisfarne and evangelised Northumbria.  Augustine of Canterbury, the Italian who came to evangelise England only to find the Gospel was already here, Augustine of Hippo, the African theologian and reluctant convert, Patrick the English man who converted the Irish and drove out the snakes (evidently) or George, the Turk, who slayed the dragon.  Or we may have heard tales of Gladys Aylward an evangelist in China in the 1930s and 40s, or David Livingstone, the Congregationalist Evangelist in Africa or countless others who have given up much to spread the Gospel. 
 
Some Christians simply recognise the sanctity of those who have gone before us, others have rather elaborate systems to determine if someone should be recognised as a saint.  The Catholic Church, for example insists on a number of things.  Firstly, the person has to be dead.  Second they have to have had lived a holy life – if they have they are declared a Servant of God.  Then a deeper investigation into their life is held and if they pass this second exam they are declared Venerable.  Then there is a two part practical exam – Christians can ask a Venerable to pray for them for healing and if one miraculous healing is confirmed by doctors the Venerable is promoted to a Blessed and then, after another miracle the person is declared a saint.  The idea is that saints are in God’s presence and so can intercede for those on earth. 
 
Other, older, traditions simply held one was a saint if the faithful declared you one.  The most recent example is St Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador who was gunned down by government forces whilst celebrating Mass in 1980.  The people immediately declared him a Saint but the Vatican took almost 40 years to catch up and formally declare him a saint.
 
This older tradition is based on the idea that if one has died as a result of persecution for the faith one is immediately a saint, washed in the blood of the Lamb as our reading from Revelation has it.
 
Revelation was written during a difficult time in the life of the early Church where those who had turned to Christ has to reject much of what went on in their contemporary society.  Against the frequent assertions of the divinity of the Emperor, Christians believed that only Jesus is Lord.  Against, the worship of many deities, Christians – like Jews – believed that only God was to be worshipped.  This set them apart from their fellow citizens who became suspicious of them seeing them as anti-social.  Romans were a superstitious lot and not taking part in the Imperial religious cults meant you were seen as endangering Roman society.  Of course all that talk about equality contained seeds that would undermine a society based on a strict social order and the enslavement of people.  From time to time Christians were subject to persecution – sometimes killed, often given the chance to recant by saying a prayer and burning some incense to the Emperor.  The weak would give in, the more robust wouldn’t.  Those who turned away and those who were killed left behind faithful struggling Christians and Revelation was written to give strength and the promise of an eternal reward.
 
We, of course, live in happier times.  No one is persecuted for their Christian faith in the West.  In fact, those of us who confess Christ are seen as quaint, maybe a bit odd, we might even be seen as antisocial and views projected onto us (which we might not hold) which are seen as out of step with contemporary culture.  Instead of persecution we live with indifference.  In other parts of the world, however, Christians still live with persecution – in Pakistan scores can be settled by accusations against Christians of blasphemy – a capital crime.  In Iran the ancient churches are left alone (especially if they worship in liturgical languages not spoken in everyday life) but more evangelical churches who worship in Farsi struggle.  Recently I was asked to give a character reference for my friend Ali who is on the verge of gaining British citizenship.  He fled Iran 7 years ago after his house church was discovered.  He has no idea what happened to his friends in that small church which was held together by a radical faith that Jesus makes a difference, that true happiness and purpose, in this world and the next, is found only in Christ.  A modern way of saying that only Jesus is Lord.  Christians have to worship in secret in some Gulf countries, in some African countries Christians are hassled and discriminated against.  In China one can be a Christian but only if part of one of the government controlled churches where bishops are appointed by the state ensuring the social order isn’t critiqued. 
 
The writer of Revelation holds out a promise of glory for those who suffer for the Gospel, the writer of the Psalm set for today shows the qualities of those who trust in the Lord.  We hear it now sung to a Genevan tune written when the nascent Reformed Church was living in a time of persecution   The LORD I will extol,
At all times bless His holy name.
I will not cease to sing His praise;
His goodness I proclaim.
I glory in the LORD;
Let the afflicted hear my voice.
O magnify the LORD with me!
With me in Him rejoice.
 
I sought the LORD in prayer;
He heard my plea & answered me.
From all my worries and my fears
The LORD has set me free.
Those who on Him rely
Will never hang their heads in shame.
When this poor man
cried out for help,
The LORD delivered him   The Angel of the LORD ever encamps around all those
Who fear him and exalt His name; God saves them from their woes.
O come, then, taste and see that He, the LORD, is good and just.
Blest is the one who turns to Him and puts in Him his trust.
 
We too, like the saints of old and the saints who are persecuted around the world are called to live in trust.  We trust that God isn’t finished with us, that God still has a purpose for His Church in the West.  We trust that times will change, that in God’s good time more of the Kingdom will break in overthrowing unjust regimes, irrational prejudices and deadly persecution.  Like the saints of old we proclaim the Kingdom to a world which is indifferent in its pain.  Like the saints of old we put our trust in the One who will never betray us.  Will you pray with  me?
 
God whose holy name defies our definition,
but whose will is known in freeing the oppressed,
make us to be one with all who cry for justice,
that we who speak your praise, may struggle for your truth,
through Jesus Christ, Amen.
 
Affirmation of Faith
 
Do you believe in the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who gathers, protects, and cares for the Church through Word and Spirit. This God has done since the beginning of the world and will do to the end. We do
 
Do you believe that God is the One who wishes to bring about justice and true peace among people. We do.
 
Do you believe that God, in a world full of injustice and enmity, is in a special way the God of the destitute, the poor, and the wronged? We do.
 
This is the faith of the Church!  We are proud to confess it in Jesus Christ, our Lord.   Amen.
 
Hymn:      Jesus Invites His Saints
                  Issac Watts (1674-1748)   1 Jesus invites his saints
to meet around his board;
here pardoned rebels sit, and hold
communion with their Lord.
For food he gives his flesh,
He bids us drink his blood;
amazing favour! Matchless grace
of our descending God!
 
2 This holy bread and wine
maintains our fainting breath,
by union with our living Lord,
and interest in his death.
Our heavenly Father calls
Christ and his members one;
we the young children of his love,
and he, the first-born Son.
3 We are but several parts
of that same broken bread;
one body has its several limbs,
but Jesus is the Head.
Let all our powers be joined,
His glorious name to raise;
pleasure and love fill every mind
and every voice be praise.
  Intercessions
 
Father of the universe, hear our prayer this day,  as we gather together separate but one. Send your Spirit to prompt our prayers. May our voices join the voices of those scattered far from here so that in all that we are,
and wherever we might be, we may join with the saints throughout the ages in serving and praising your holy name.
 
We give thanks, O Maker, for all who have gone before us marked by the sign of faith.  For those who taught and inspired us, those whose lives and faith changed us, and those from of old who have proclaimed your Kingdom.  Help us to love and inspire others with the glad tidings of your coming realm. 
 
We pray, O Lord of the Ages, for those saints who now are persecuted for your Name’s sake.  We think this day, for Christians gathering in secret for fear of the authorities, for Churches having to adjust their life and their actions for fear of the state, for faithful ones living in fear of being accused of blasphemy to settle old scores.  We pray, O God, that you give strength and peace to all who suffer in your name.  We pray too, O God, for those who oppress – the cold civil servants making policy, the efficient agents of the state to hunt down your people, the torturer and jailors who maintain fear that you bring them to judgement along with the leaders and politicians who endorse and lead in evil policies. 
 
We remember before you, God of Mercy, those who lead and govern our own nations: Elizabeth our Queen, Boris our Prime Minister and Nicola our First Minister, that they, and all who are elected to serve at local, and national levels, may work for the common good, uphold the law and promote peace and prosperity for all. 
 
We bring to you now, O God, the names of those we love who are in any kind of need……and we bring ourselves and our own needs before you….
 
Accept our prayer, Loving God,
for the sake of your son, our saviour, Jesus Christ,
who taught us to pray saying
 
Our Father….
 
Offering
 
We bring our offerings to God – ourselves, our love, our work, the money we give either through standing order or our envelopes and we ask God to accept these gifts.
 
Loving God, all things come from you, and of your own do we give you,
accept our gifts and use them for your service.  Amen.
Holy Communion
 
It is right, our duty and our joy always and everywhere to give you thanks, holy Maker, almighty and eternal God, surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses and glorified in the assembly of your saints.
 
The glorious company of apostles praise you. The noble fellowship of prophets praise you. The great robed army of martyrs praise you. We, your Holy Church, acclaim you. In communion with angels and archangels, and with all who served you on earth  and worship you now in heaven, we raise our voice to proclaim your glory, for ever praising you and singing:
 
Holy is the Lord (Holy is the Lord) Holy is the Lord (Holy is the Lord)
Holy is the Lord (Holy is the Lord) Holy is the Lord (Holy is the Lord)
 
Righteous and mercy,
judgement and grace,
faithfulness and sovereignty
 
Holy is the Lord….
 
Father, you are holy indeed,  and all creation rightly gives you praise.
All life, all holiness comes from you  through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, by the working of the Holy Spirit.  From age to age you gather a people to yourself, so that from east to west an offering of praise and thanksgiving may be made to the glory of your name.
 
And so, Lord,  we bring you before you this bread and wine.  We ask that as we break this bread and drink this wine, you lift us up into the holiness of your presence, where with the angels and saints we may praise you forever.
 
We remember the night when Jesus was betrayed,  he took bread and gave you thanks and praise.  He broke the bread, gave it to his disciples, and said:
 
Take this, all of you, and eat it:
this is my body which will be broken for you.
 
When supper was ended, he took the cup.  Again he gave you thanks and praise,  gave the cup to his disciples, and said:
 
Take this, all of you, and drink from it: this is the cup of my blood,
the blood of the new and everlasting covenant.
It will be shed for you and for all  so that sins may be forgiven.
Do this in memory of me.
 
Father, calling to mind the death your Son endured for our salvation,  his glorious resurrection and ascension into heaven,  and ready to greet him when he comes again,  we offer ourselves in thanksgiving as we eat and drink in your presence. May he make us an everlasting gift to you  and enable us to share in the inheritance of your saints,  with the apostles, the martyrs, and all your people in every age. Welcome into your kingdom our departed sisters and brothers,  and all who have left this world in your friendship.  We hope to enjoy for ever the vision of your glory, through Christ our Lord, from whom all good things come. Through him, with him, and in him,  in the unity of the Holy Spirit,  all glory and honour is yours,  almighty Father, for ever and ever. Amen.
 
So as the music plays I invite you to share this meal, this food is to give us strength and our journey. So eat the bread of salvation,  and the drink the wine of passion. Taste and see that God is good.
 
[Music]
 
 
Prayer after Communion
 
Creator of all ages as we sit at your table we thank you for the faithful witness of your apostles, prophets, and martyrs throughout the history of your Church and throughout the world even today united with us through your Holy Spirit. Through their witness we see and hear your truth. We bless you for all who bless your name through their writing, speaking, art, and music. Through their work we glimpse your beauty. We praise you for all who serve you without recognition or honour, offering encouragement to the lonely, the sick, and the fearful. Through their lives we see your faithfulness and sense your comfort. Now we pray that you will use even us to reflect the glory we see in Jesus Christ. May the voices of all your saints, made holy in Christ, swell in joyous praise to you, the giver of all good gifts, through Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
 
Hymn:      Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones
Athelstan Riley, 1906. Tune: “Lasst uns erfreuen”, 1623.


1 Ye watchers and ye holy ones,
bright Seraphs, Cherubim
and Thrones,
raise the glad strain, Alleluia!
Cry out, Dominions,
Princedoms, Powers,
Virtues, Archangels,
Angels’ choirs, Alleluia!
 
2: O higher than the Cherubim,
more glorious than the Seraphim,
lead their praises, Alleluia!
Thou bearer of the eternal Word,
most gracious,
magnify the Lord,
Alleluia!
 
3: Respond, ye souls
in endless rest,
ye Patriarchs and Prophets blest,
Alleluia, Alleluia!
Ye holy Twelve,
ye Martyrs strong,
all Saints triumphant,
raise the song, alleluia!

4: O friends, in gladness
let us sing,
supernal anthems echoing,
Alleluia, Alleluia!
To God the Father, God the Son,
And God the Spirit, Three in One,
Alleluia!

Blessing
May the One who has given us, in the lives of the saints,
patterns of holy living and victorious dying,
strengthen your faith and devotion
and enable you to bear witness to the truth against all adversity;
and the blessing of Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
be with you and all whom you love,
now and always, Amen.
 
 
 
 
Sources
 
Call To Worship from Worship Aids for the Revised Common Lectionary from the Presbyterian Church of the USA
Affirmation of Faith from selected sections of the Belhar Confession of Faith.
Prayers of Approach, Confession and Forgiveness, and Post Communion Prayer Adapted by Andy Braunston from The Worship Source Book 2nd Edition, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship et al. 2013.
Prayer of Illumination from Feasting on the Word Worship Companion Year A Volume 2.
Eucharistic Preface and Prayer adapted by Andy Braunston from the Roman Missal.
Metrical Version of Psalm 34 written by William Helder © 1980 and sung by Michael Owens.
Post sermon prayer by Janet Morley from All Desires Known.
Sanctus from Vineyard.  Agnus Dei from Marty Haugen’s Mass of Creation (revised 2010).
 
Hymns
For all the Saints - from BBC’s Songs of Praise’s Big Sing
How Shall I Sing That Majesty? - from BBC’s Songs of Praise
Jesus Invites His Saints - Phil and Lythan Nevard
Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones - Choir of Belfast Cathedral
 
Organ Pieces:
Lobt Gott Ihr Christen (“Praise God ye Christians”) by Johann Gottfried Walther (organ of The Spire Church, Farnham - 2020)
Toccata from Suite Gothique by Leon Boëllman (organ of St Thomas-on-The Bourne, Farnham – 2016)
 
Both pieces played by Brian Cotterill: http://briancotterill.webs.com
 
 
Thanks to
 
Jonnie Hill and Adam Scott, Ruth and Kingsley Browning, Phil, Lythan and Carys Nevard for recording the Call to Worship and Affirmation of Faith and to Myra Rose, Jamie Stewart, Gordon Smith, Margaret Higton and Dan Morrell for reading various spoken parts of the service.
 

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URC Daily Devotion Sunday 1st November 2020

URC Devotion - Sun, 01/11/2020 - 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 Sunday 1st November Psalm 21

To Your unequaled strength, O LORD,
Your chosen ones aspire;
Bring to the just victory,
and grant their hearts’ desire.

2 The rulers of the LORD’s elect
wear crowns of finest gold;
Their lives, once empty,
now through faith
shall burst with wealth untold.

3 The ones who honour You as LORD,
to such honour come;
And those in whom goodwill abides
in You will find a home.

4 In wrath our enemies will fall,
Your arm puts them to flight;
We gain our blessings by Your grace,
and victory through Your might.

You can hear the tune suggested for this Psalm, Detroit, to a decent speed here
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2PSdfAPLlcQ

Reflection
 
Psalm 21 is offering praise to God after battle and is a sequel to Psalm 20 which is a prayer before battle. Here, David is praising God for the blessings given to him as King. He has depended on God’s strength throughout and God had given David a release from the pressures and constraints that bound him.  Besides the joy of temporary deliverance from physical conditions, David also looks forward to ultimate spiritual salvation.  He tells of the good acts of God on his behalf: kingship (a crown of pure gold), victory, desire of his heart, long life (forever and ever through salvation), deliverance, honour and majesty, blessings, God’s presence and unfailing love.  David asserts that his enemies are also God’s enemies because they intend evil against God. 
 
The emphasis of Psalm 21 is that David's crown and David's wreath comes from the Lord.  The credit goes not to David but to the Lord. The Lord has saved him from the hands of the enemy. The Lord has given him the victor's wreath and ruler's crown.
 
Psalms 20 & 21 together also declare the fullness of the Gospel message. The Messiah Who suffers in Psalm 20 rejoices in Psalm 21.  Christ is risen and has ascended into great joy. At His right hand are eternal pleasures and He is filled with joy.  Heaven is a joyful place! The King of heaven is filled and overflowing with joy.
 
As I write this, it is early morning. The beginning of yet another day during lockdown.  Like you no doubt, I yearn for the time when my life can begin again on its familiar tracks and I can see my friends and family in their usual places.  I can worship my God in church together with my church family.  Will our hearts be filled and overflowing with joy?  I know mine will!
 
Prayer
 
Crown us, O God, 
not with treasure of gold and silver 
but with humility.
Robe us with compassion, 
that, as you call us into the kingdom of your Son, 
we may strive to overcome all evil by the power of good
and so walk gently on the earth with you, our God, for ever.
Amen --> Today's writer Ann Barton, Lay Leader and member at Whittlesford URC in the Eastern Synod Copyright New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Saturday 31st October 2020

URC Devotion - Sat, 31/10/2020 - 06:00
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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentColumn{ padding-right:18px !important; padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnImageCardLeftImageContent,.mcnImageCardRightImageContent{ padding-right:18px !important; padding-bottom:0 !important; padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcpreview-image-uploader{ display:none !important; width:100% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h1{ font-size:24px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h2{ font-size:20px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h3{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h4{ font-size:16px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; 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Hebrews 3: 1 - 6

Therefore, brothers and sisters, holy partners in a heavenly calling, consider that Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession,  was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses also ‘was faithful in all God’s house.’  Yet Jesus is worthy of more glory than Moses, just as the builder of a house has more honour than the house itself.  (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.)  Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that would be spoken later.  Christ, however, was faithful over God’s house as a son, and we are his house if we hold firm the confidence and the pride that belong to hope.

Reflection

In this passage we are reminded to give Jesus, as one who is to be revered, the glory, and also to give God the ultimate glory as the creator of all things. Mention is made of being ‘faithful’ to God and of having confidence, pride and hope.

I Googled the word ‘faithful’ and words such as: loyal, constant, steadfast, resolute, firm in adherence, and unwavering regardless of extenuating circumstances, were used; such strong powerful and positive words reflecting the God we seek to serve. 

In recent months, positivity and confidence have been lacking as we reflect on, the impact of the pandemic, on the actions of some of those in power and on the unrest caused by inhumane treatment of our fellow human beings. Many of the emotions that we are sharing across the world are anything but positive. At times, it is easier and feels more familiar to stay in the negative, thereby enabling us to connect on the latest thing to worry about.

But by focussing on God, we can drag ourselves out of this negativity. We can regain confidence; confidence that all these worldly occurrences are happening for a reason, potentially to encourage us to be a source of light in a troubled world- a world that quite frankly needed a reboot; a world that needed us to focus on HIM and the hope that he instills in us.  But this can be a challenge.
But I have hope; hope that we, as Christians across the world, can start a movement of positivity in our daily interactions and conversations focussing on the elements of Joy, Peace, and Love that this time of ‘re-set’ has brought about, thus reflecting the very qualities that we see in our God. 

Prayer 

God of Faith and Hope, lead us to better times;
Let your Love spread rapidly and uncontrollably across the world;
Give us the confidence to inject positivity into our everyday encounters and to infect all who we come into contact with, with your Joy and Love.
Amen   --> Today's writer Alexandra Priddy is an Elder and Children's Church Leader at Trinity Mill Hill  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 30th October 2020

URC Devotion - Fri, 30/10/2020 - 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 30th October 2020 - Hebrews - More on Redemption
Hebrews 2: 10-18

It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters, saying,

‘I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters, 
    in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.’
And again,
‘I will put my trust in him.’
And again,
‘Here am I and the children whom God has given me.’

Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death.  For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham. Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.

Reflection

Eight  words: “Like his brothers and sisters in every respect”  [verse 17]. Yet so significant. Years of doctrine and dissent, creeds and Christology, argument and antagonism and theology on an industrial scale – so much packed into so short a sentence. Who is this risen Jesus? Is he just a ghostly spirit or flesh and blood? Is he for real here and now? The questions have been debated for centuries and the answers are central to the truth or otherwise of the Gospel. The author of Hebrews put it to his fellow Greek speaking sophisticates quite simply – “He too shared in our humanity”.

They lived in a world where they believed angels and devils, principalities and powers ruled under God, and often made a mess of it. The ultimate beauty and perfection of creation was spoilt. That’s why bad things happened. We don’t believe in that anymore. We believe in GDP, Market Forces, global warming and social revolution, and all the nonsense tomorrow’s tricking and treating will bring when it is saints we should be remembering, not ghostly apparitions. The world is still in a mess and not the better place we believe it could be. Into the middle of this imperfection comes the perfect figure of Jesus Christ: conceived, born, crucified, dead and buried – and then risen, not as a ghost or a spirit or an angel, but as a flesh and blood human being like the  rest of us. In sharing our physical humanity he affirms that God rules and redeems the human race, and Christ is still one of us despite the mess we make of it. Eight  words in eight short verses, affirming that he is the way, the truth and the life - and that’s salvation in a nutshell.
 
 Prayer
 
Come my way my truth my life
Such a Way as gives us breath,
Such a Truth as ends all strife,
Such a Life as killeth death.
                                                George Herbert --> Today's writer The Rev’d Peter Moth is a retired minister and member of St Andrew’s URC Kenton, Newcastle upon Tyne 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 29th October 2020

URC Devotion - Thu, 29/10/2020 - 06:00
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Hebrews 1: 5 - 9

Now God did not subject the coming world, about which we are speaking, to angels. But someone has testified somewhere,

‘What are human beings that you are mindful of them,
    or mortals, that you care for them?
 You have made them for a little while lower than the angels;
    you have crowned them with glory and honour,
subjecting all things under their feet.’

Now in subjecting all things to them, God left nothing outside their control. As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to them,  but we do see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honour because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

Reflection

How many churches talk about angels these days? Admit it: to most of us sophisticated and rational human creatures, angelology in our churches is one of those irrationalities we hide under the rugs. Yet in the 21st century angels still matter to people. From pop songs calling their lover “angel” to the ubiquitous cards, angels continue to hold sway over our subconscious, religious or not.

In the Abrahamic religions, angels have historically been the basis of wars and at the same time markers of our interconnectedness.

The loved one who describes their deceased beloved as an “angel” or that they have been “taken up to the angels” is particularly present in times of grief. Angels have not lost their ability to change the course of events and to impress our imagination. Many have a closer connection to an angel than they will have to God.

The writer of Hebrews is neither challenging or encouraging a belief in angels. He is distinguishing Jesus from an intermediary messenger. We now have a direct line to God through Jesus.

Hebrews has been called more of a sermon than a letter, and I once heard a pastor in Nashville define preaching as “braggin’ on God”. I like that definition. We don’t know who wrote Hebrews, but I feel their passion and joy in this commentary on Psalm 8 and when the writer proclaims that Jesus comes to us, not as an angelic being, but as one of us. In spite of us, God’s plan is fulfilled through Jesus for us. The writer is braggin’ on our dark-skinned Palestinian liberator. Theologians call it “high Christology”; my pastor in Nashville would say the writer is gloating on tiptoe!

It is the passion and joy in our proclamation and maintaining close proximity to our experience and identity with Jesus which allows the church to persevere. Jesus must always be the main attraction!

Prayer

We look to other thrones to lead us, and far-away beings to love us, when The One who will truly save us meets us where we are.  Be our King, Jesus. But more importantly, be our Kin, Jesus. Amen.   --> Today's writer The Revd William Young, pastor, Covenant Baptist United Church of Christ, Washington DC Copyright New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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Sunday's Coming

URC Devotion - Wed, 28/10/2020 - 15:45
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Dear Friends,

This Sunday’s service is the first edited by myself, Dan. But the service is being led by our very own Revd. Andy Braunston! So you have both of us to blame for any issues this week. This Sunday is All Saints Day so we'll be looking at those who have gone before us, living model lives for us to take inspiration from. Hymns include the classic, rousing For all the Saints, Ken Naylor's How Shall I Sing That Majesty, Isacc Watts' Jesus Invites His Saints to a well-known tune and Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones.

This service will include Holy Communion. So please, if you wish, have some bread and wine at hand so we can share together.

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

with every blessing,


Dan


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

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URC Daily Devotion Wednesday 28th October 2020

URC Devotion - Wed, 28/10/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion Wednesday 28th October 2020 p{ margin:10px 0; padding:0; } table{ border-collapse:collapse; } h1,h2,h3,h4,h5,h6{ display:block; margin:0; padding:0; } img,a img{ border:0; height:auto; outline:none; text-decoration:none; } body,#bodyTable,#bodyCell{ height:100%; margin:0; padding:0; width:100%; } .mcnPreviewText{ display:none !important; } #outlook a{ padding:0; } img{ -ms-interpolation-mode:bicubic; } table{ mso-table-lspace:0pt; mso-table-rspace:0pt; } .ReadMsgBody{ width:100%; } .ExternalClass{ width:100%; } p,a,li,td,blockquote{ mso-line-height-rule:exactly; } a[href^=tel],a[href^=sms]{ color:inherit; cursor:default; text-decoration:none; } p,a,li,td,body,table,blockquote{ -ms-text-size-adjust:100%; -webkit-text-size-adjust:100%; } .ExternalClass,.ExternalClass p,.ExternalClass td,.ExternalClass div,.ExternalClass span,.ExternalClass font{ line-height:100%; } a[x-apple-data-detectors]{ color:inherit !important; text-decoration:none !important; font-size:inherit !important; 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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentColumn{ padding-right:18px !important; padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnImageCardLeftImageContent,.mcnImageCardRightImageContent{ padding-right:18px !important; padding-bottom:0 !important; padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcpreview-image-uploader{ display:none !important; width:100% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h1{ font-size:24px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h2{ font-size:20px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h3{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h4{ font-size:16px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; 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Hebrews 2: 1 - 4

Therefore we must pay greater attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it.  For if the message declared through angels was valid, and every transgression or disobedience received a just penalty,  how can we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? It was declared at first through the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard him,  while God added his testimony by signs and wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit, distributed according to his will.

Reflection

At the end of this passage we get a wonderful summary of what we might call God’s self-revelation. God has been revealed to humanity both in the person of Jesus Christ and in the testimony of those who encountered Jesus in the flesh (recorded for us in the Gospels), and we can see God today in the gifts we are given by the Holy Spirit. God is not far off and distant, but close to us. However, I’ve missed something out here that troubles me – signs, wonders and miracles. Are miracles a problem for modern Christians? They certainly can be. If we insist that a belief in miracles is necessary to be a Christian we force people to make a false decision between believing in God and believe in science. If we define a miracle as an event which breaks the scientific rules of the universe* then I’m certain I’ve never witnessed one, and I’ve never come across a convincing account of a miraculous event. For me – and you may well believe something different – miracles are not a part of my faith. Insisting on the literal truth of the miracles in scripture means reading the gospels as straightforward history, as journalism rather than poetry. What if we read the miracle stories as theology packed with deep symbolism, stories which explain Jesus to us rather than relate a literal truth? For myself, I believe that there is a God who knows and loves me and was born on the earth as a vulnerable human being, and that in itself is absolutely miraculous enough without, like Alice, adding more impossible things to believe before break God is always beyond our complete understanding. (If you are reading this before breakfast, I hope you enjoy it.)

*See David Hume, ‘Of Miracles’ - Section X of An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding. https://davidhume.org/texts/e/10

Prayer

Loving God,
we give thanks to you today, and all days,
that you came to pitch your tent among us,
to show us that you love us.
We give thanks for the gifts we receive from you
and remember just how amazing and miraculous is your grace.
Amen.   --> Today's writer The Rev’d Dr Nick Jones is minister at Heswall URC & St. George’s URC, Thornton Hough 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 27th October 2020

URC Devotion - Tue, 27/10/2020 - 06:00
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Hebrews 1: 5 - 14

For to which of the angels did God ever say,

‘You are my Son;
    today I have begotten you’?

Or again,

‘I will be his Father,
    and he will be my Son’?

And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says,

‘Let all God’s angels worship him.’

Of the angels he says,

‘He makes his angels winds,
    and his servants flames of fire.’

But of the Son he says,

‘Your throne, O God, is for ever and ever,
    and the righteous sceptre is the sceptre of your kingdom.
You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has anointed you
    with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.’

And,

‘In the beginning, Lord, you founded the earth,
    and the heavens are the work of your hands;
they will perish, but you remain;
    they will all wear out like clothing;
like a cloak you will roll them up,
    and like clothing they will be changed.
But you are the same,
    and your years will never end.’

But to which of the angels has he ever said,

‘Sit at my right hand
    until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet’?

Are not all angels  spirits in the divine service, sent to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?

Reflection

“You know how Jesus is the Son of God and the son of Mary?” The four-year-old at my church is in a questioning mood. “So that means he is a demi-God like Hercules!”  No amount of argument dislodges the little one from his newly formulated theory today, but he’ll understand given time.

The Hebrews reading this letter love Jesus; they are impressed by him, honour him, and follow him. But still they need to be shaken out of the idea that Jesus is an angel. Perhaps it is hard for us to imagine Jesus as ‘just another angel’ or angel-in-chief, but a 2nd century Jewish-born Jesus follower would know that the angels of Genesis 6 are described as sons of God. They might know well the variety and apparent hierarchy of angels in the Bible. They might know that angels are unable to eat food (see Judges 13 and the book of Tobit). Gospel-writer Luke seems to know these angel traditions and is very careful to show how Jesus, even once resurrected, eats and drinks unlike the angels (Luke 24:41-43).

We can assume that these Hebrews are also deeply aware of the monotheistic claim that our God is the only God, a jealous God, who does not share the status of God with any other. The writer wants them, and us, to understand that Jesus, as Son of God and heir of God, is sharing God’s throne – that God and Jesus act as God together. To summarise these verses is to undersell them, but the thrust is that Jesus is above every angel, is seated on God’s throne (not below it), and is eternal. Like God. Being God. With God.
Perhaps these arguments seem strange today, if it is some time since you first became convinced that Jesus is more than a prophet, not merely a good man, and more interesting than Hercules. Imagine sitting down with a child who wants to understand what Jesus is – how would you answer?
 
Prayer

In this hymn prayer, first translated to English by D. T. Niles, the chant “Saranam” means finding refuge and surrendering to God. For the tune and a modern translation see https://music.churchofscotland.org.uk/hymn/573-saranam

Jesus, Saviour, Lord, to thee I fly;
Saranam, Saranam, Saranam;
thou the Rock, my refuge that’s higher than I:
Saranam, Saranam, Saranam.
In the midst of foes I cry to thee,
from the ends of earth wherever I may be;
my strength in helplessness, O answer me:
Saranam, Saranam, Saranam.   --> Today's writer The Rev’d Dr ’frin Lewis-Smith is a healthcare chaplain in Salford and a member of Tonge Moor URC Copyright New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Monday 26th October 2020

URC Devotion - Mon, 26/10/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion Monday 26th October 2020 p{ margin:10px 0; padding:0; } table{ border-collapse:collapse; } h1,h2,h3,h4,h5,h6{ display:block; margin:0; padding:0; } img,a img{ border:0; height:auto; outline:none; text-decoration:none; } body,#bodyTable,#bodyCell{ height:100%; margin:0; padding:0; width:100%; } .mcnPreviewText{ display:none !important; } #outlook a{ padding:0; } img{ -ms-interpolation-mode:bicubic; } table{ mso-table-lspace:0pt; mso-table-rspace:0pt; } .ReadMsgBody{ width:100%; } .ExternalClass{ width:100%; } p,a,li,td,blockquote{ mso-line-height-rule:exactly; } a[href^=tel],a[href^=sms]{ color:inherit; cursor:default; text-decoration:none; } p,a,li,td,body,table,blockquote{ -ms-text-size-adjust:100%; -webkit-text-size-adjust:100%; } .ExternalClass,.ExternalClass p,.ExternalClass td,.ExternalClass div,.ExternalClass span,.ExternalClass font{ line-height:100%; } a[x-apple-data-detectors]{ color:inherit !important; text-decoration:none !important; font-size:inherit !important; 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Hebrews 1: 1 - 4

Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets,  but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son,  whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

Reflection

The letter to the Hebrews is a one-off surprise book of Scripture.  

No introduction, no greetings, no information about who is writing it or why it's being written?  Not really a letter at all, really?  Just ‘bang’ straight into the text, the argument, the message. 
 
And what a message!  It’s almost as if the writer hasn’t got the time or patience for such niceties and just wants to jolly well get on with telling the reader about the main and sole topic of the letter i.e. Jesus?

The book is effectively a bridge between the apparently very different Covenants recorded in the Old and New Testaments, with that same Jesus portrayed as the new, better and perfect Covenant … and then excitedly, though methodically and logically, telling us how God’s Covenant is fulfilled in Jesus.  

The one who is the ‘very imprint of God’s very being’ is portrayed as the  absolute supreme person in all the holy writings that make up our Scriptures:  Greater than Moses and the other Prophets, superior to Angels, higher than any High Priest … and how the death on the cross was a greater-that-ever-before and a once-and-unrepeatable Sacrifice.  

Welcome to the breathless excitement of the Letter to the Hebrews!

Prayer

As we start our journey into the writer’s understanding of your Son, Jesus the Christ, may our hearts and minds be opened to the mystery, wonder and glory of you as Creator and Covenant-setter, Saviour and ever-present Comforter.  Amen    --> Today's writer The Rev’d Peter Clark is the URC Minister within the Dorset South and West Circuit 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 25th October 2020

URC Devotion - Sun, 25/10/2020 - 09:45
96 Worship for Sunday 25th October 2020 p{ margin:10px 0; padding:0; } table{ border-collapse:collapse; } h1,h2,h3,h4,h5,h6{ display:block; margin:0; padding:0; } img,a img{ border:0; height:auto; outline:none; text-decoration:none; } body,#bodyTable,#bodyCell{ height:100%; margin:0; padding:0; width:100%; } .mcnPreviewText{ display:none !important; } #outlook a{ padding:0; } img{ -ms-interpolation-mode:bicubic; } table{ mso-table-lspace:0pt; mso-table-rspace:0pt; } .ReadMsgBody{ width:100%; } .ExternalClass{ width:100%; } p,a,li,td,blockquote{ mso-line-height-rule:exactly; } a[href^=tel],a[href^=sms]{ color:inherit; cursor:default; text-decoration:none; } p,a,li,td,body,table,blockquote{ -ms-text-size-adjust:100%; -webkit-text-size-adjust:100%; } .ExternalClass,.ExternalClass p,.ExternalClass td,.ExternalClass div,.ExternalClass span,.ExternalClass font{ line-height:100%; } a[x-apple-data-detectors]{ color:inherit !important; text-decoration:none !important; font-size:inherit !important; 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Below you will find the Order of Service, prayers, hymns and sermon for today's service.   You can either simply read this or you can
  click here
to listen to the service and sing along with the hymns.  This will open up a new screen, at the bottom of the screen you will see a play symbol.  Press that, then come back to this window so you can follow along with the service. Sunday Worship from the United Reformed Church
for Sunday 25th October 2020     The Rev’d Jayne Taylor   Introduction    Hello, my name is Jayne and until recently I was minister to three churches in the Cotswolds. At present I’m on Sabbatical and speaking from my home in Cirencester.   Call to Worship    The wisdom of God calls to us, from the heights, along the paths, and at the crossroads. Come into God’s presence to worship, sing, and pray.   From our scattered places we come. Let us worship God.
Gather Us In Marty Haugen 1982 © GIA Publications   Here in this place, new light is streaming, now is the darkness vanished away. See, in this space, our fears and our dreamings, brought here to you  in the light of this day. Gather us in the lost & forsaken, gather us in the blind & the lame. Call to us now, and we shall awaken, we shall arise at the sound of our name.   2: We are the young our lives are a mystery, we are the old who yearn for your face. We have been sung throughout all of history, called to be light to the whole human race. Gather us in the rich and the haughty, gather us in the proud and the strong. Give us a heart so meek and so lowly, give us the courage to enter the song.
3: Here we will take the wine and the water, here we will take the bread of new birth. Here you shall call your sons and your daughters, call us anew to be salt for the earth. Give us to drink the wine of compassion, give us to eat the bread that is you. Nourish us well, and teach us to fashion lives that are holy and hearts that are true.   4: Not in the dark of buildings confining, not in some heaven, light years away, but here in this place, the new light is shining; now is the Kingdom, now is the day. Gather us in and hold us forever, gather us in & make us your own. Gather us in all peoples together, fire of love in our flesh and our bone.   Prayers of Confession and Forgiveness   Loving Gracious God. You are the one true God, there is no other, almighty Creator, merciful Christ, everlasting Comforter. You alone are worth our worship. Everything we have, everything we experience, everyone we know comes from you.   Yet Lord, we acknowledge our ungratefulness and confess that we all fall short of your purposes for us. If we say we are without fault, we deceive ourselves and, we deceive you. And Lord we accept responsibility for the consequences of sin in this world, for all the pain and the suffering, for all the injustice.    We admit that we have hurt others, sometimes deliberately, and by doing so, have hurt you. We have also contributed to the pain and suffering of others by our silence and our inaction.    Lord, we cry out to you for forgiveness. And even though we don't deserve your love and your forgiveness, you give it to us. Help us to accept your forgiveness, your gift of grace given freely to us. We thank you and praise you because at the very heart of your character is love. 
  And that love was shown to us by and through your son, Jesus Christ, and as he taught us, so we now pray…   Our Father…   Readings   Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18      The LORD said to Moses, speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: 'Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.   'Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favouritism to the great, but judge your neighbour fairly.   'Do not go about spreading slander among your people.' Do not do anything that endangers your neighbour's life. I am the LORD.   'Do not hate your brother in your heart. Rebuke your neighbour frankly so that you will not share in his guilt.   ‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbour as yourself. I am the LORD.   St Matthew 22:34-46   When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, ‘“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’   Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question:  ‘What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?’ They said to him, ‘The son of David.’  He said to them, ‘How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying,  “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet’”?   If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?’ No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.     Brother, Sister Let Me Serve You Richard Gillard (b 1953) © Integrity Music Inc   Brother, sister,  let me serve you; let me be as  Christ to you; pray that I may  have the grace  to let you be  my servant too.   2. We are pilgrims  on a journey, and companions  on the road; we are here to  help each other walk the mile  and bear the load.   3. I will hold  the Christlight for you in the night time  of your fear; I will hold my  hand out to you, speak the peace  you long to hear.   4. I will weep  when you are weeping; when you laugh  I'll laugh with you; I will share your joy  and sorrow, till we've seen this  journey through.   5. When we sing to God in heaven,
we shall find such harmony, born of all we've known together
of Christ's love and agony.   Sermon   I guess we all have our own image of what Jesus is like. To many, he’s white, European looking with shoulder length brown hair and piercing blue eyes. I guess all of us see Jesus as we think he ought to look. 
  I remember spending time in India a few years ago, and on one occasion I ventured into a Hindu Temple. The first thing my eyes laid upon was a picture of Jesus. It was the Sacred Heart painting, if you know what I mean. Here was a very Western-looking Jesus surrounded by very Indian imagery.  It was quite a shock.    Today I hope I can challenge some of our assumptions about Jesus; his mission and his character.    To put the Matthew reading in its context, we should really start in the previous chapter. Jesus arrives in Jerusalem, on a donkey, crowds cheering, palms waving. And what’s the first thing he does? He confronts the moneychangers in the temple courts, overturns their tables and tells them to get out.   Surely not gentle Jesus, meek and mild, as the hymn goes…   He starts healing and preaching and the chief priests and elders confront him. “"By what authority are you doing these things?” they ask. In other words, “Just who do you think you are?”    Jesus responds with three parables that directly attack their leadership. He tells them to their faces that the Kingdom of heaven will be taken away from people like them and given to a people who will produce its fruit.    Gentle Jesus, meek and mild…   The Pharisees try to trap Jesus by asking him if it is lawful to pay taxes to Caesar. If he says it is right to pay taxes, then they will accuse him of betraying his people by agreeing to finance the Roman oppression. If he says it is wrong to pay taxes, he will be charged with tax evasion and sedition. What does he do? He asks them to show him a Roman coin and asks them whose face is on it. They have a coin, Jesus doesn’t. 
  The coin bears Caesar’s image, of course, probably Tiberius, and the inscription would have read: "son of the divine Augustus" They are immediately undone by showing him that they are carrying around an idol, dedicated to a son of a god. Jesus tells them to render, literally to pay back to Caesar what is his and to render to God what is rightfully his. What is Caesar’s, his taxes, what is God’s, everything, our whole lives.   Gentle Jesus, meek and mild…   Next, the Sadducees try to trap him with a question about resurrection and the afterlife, they didn’t believe in it, and he silences them.   Then the Pharisees have one more go at him, that’s where we come in. You can see a pattern emerging here, I hope?   They ask him, “What is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Sounds like a reasonable question to ask you might think? But we know that they’re trying to trap him, so what are they playing at?   In order to understand that, we have to think about just who the Pharisees were. They were a Jewish group who believed passionately in the Law, or Torah, and its application in every circumstance. In this respect, Jesus could easily have been part of that group. But they sometimes took this to extremes, and applied the Law as legal requirement, rather than as a gift of love from God. 
  Remember in John’s gospel, it was the Pharisees who brought the woman caught in adultery to Jesus asking him whether she should be stoned. Their response would, no doubt, have been at odds with Jesus’.
  So, if you had to pick one Law which was the greatest, then loving God seems like a pretty safe bet, doesn’t it?    It comes from Deuteronomy and is commonly called the Shema: "Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might". Every Jewish person would memorise the Shema as a child.   The Pharisees were obviously expecting this answer, so why was it a trap? I believe they were ready with a reply. I think they were going to say something like, “we love God by obeying all his commandments – why don’t you? Why do you challenge us? Do you not love God?”
  But before they have the chance, Jesus tells them what the second greatest commandment is. It is to “love your neighbour as yourself”, which comes from our Leviticus reading.    Jesus goes on to say that all of the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. In other words, without love for others as well as love for God, adherence to all the other laws was futile. In their endless arguments over which law took precedent over another in particular situations, they had left out the most important – love. And in the words of Peter, “love covers a multitude of sins”. It was a stinging attack on them.   Gentle Jesus, meek and mild…   As if that wasn’t enough, Jesus then asks them a question. Now this is bad news, for them at least. Whenever Jesus asks someone a question, you know that he is going to challenge their worldview.   He asks what seems to be a straightforward question, “whose son is the Messiah”. They reply that he is the son of David. Their assumption is that the Messiah would be like a warrior king, another David, who would lead them in battle against the Romans to free them from oppression. 
  Jesus then gives a reply, which gets a little lost in translation but bear with me.    Jesus quotes Psalm 110, a Psalm attributed to David, as saying “the Lord said to my Lord”.    The point is that the first of the two Lords is God. But if the first Lord is God, then who is the second Lord in this verse?  It cannot be a second god, because the Hebrew Bible makes it clear that there is only one God.  It cannot be David's son, because David would never refer to his own son as Lord.  The only possibility, then, is that the second Lord of Psalm 110 is the Messiah of God, who is not David's son but David's Lord, someone greater than David.     Therefore, the Pharisees, these highly trained religious experts who tried to embarrass Jesus, are wrong when they answer that the Messiah is David's son.   This all sounds very technical and dry to us, but to the Pharisees it would have been an absolute bombshell. Could they be wrong about Messiah? It’s no wonder that from that day on, we are told, no one dared to ask him any more questions.   Gentle Jesus, meek and mild…   The story doesn’t end there. If you read the next chapter of Matthew there is a section which is often described as the seven woes,  because it’s a withering attack on the Pharisees in which seven times Jesus starts, “Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees”. In six of these outbursts, the next word is hypocrites! His charge is that they say one thing and do another, that their faith is skin deep, in other words.   You see, if we are to love God, then that love has to be real. And if that love is real, then it will naturally overflow into a love for our neighbour. In Luke’s account of this scripture, Jesus is asked “Who is my neighbour”, and goes on to give the parable of the Good Samaritan. Our neighbour is not only the person who lives next door to us or even those people we like. Anyone who is in need is our neighbour and is to be loved.   I believe there are Pharisee-like people, as Jesus saw them, in the Church today. These are the people who delight in declaring who is in and who is out of the kingdom of God. People who will sing ‘all are welcome’ in the church, when they mean ‘people like us’ are welcome in the church.   It’s important, I think, that we see people as God sees people, and we need to see God in others; those from all the corners of this earth, those who society looks down upon, and sees as being ‘less’. Only when we can do that can we say that we truly love the lord our God with all of our heart, our soul and our mind.   Lord of Creation Jack Copley Winslow (1882-1974)   Lord of creation, to you be all praise! Most mighty your working, most wondrous your ways! Your glory and might are beyond us to tell, and yet in the heart of the humble you dwell.
2: Lord of all power, I give you my will, in joyful obedience your tasks to fulfill. Your bondage is freedom, your service is song; and, held in your keeping, my weakness is strong.   3: Lord of all wisdom, I give you my mind, rich truth that surpasses our knowledge to find. What eye has not seen and what ear has not heard is taught by your Spirit and shines from your Word.   Affirmation of Faith   Do you believe in the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who gathers, protects, and cares for the Church through Word and Spirit. This God has done since the beginning of the world and will do to the end. We do   Do you believe that God is the One who wishes to bring about justice and true peace among people. We do.   Do you believe that God, in a world full of injustice and enmity, is in a special way the God of the destitute, the poor, and the wronged? We do.   This is the faith of the Church!  We are proud to confess it in Jesus Christ, our Lord.   Amen.   Offertory    Loving God we thank you for the many blessings you give us. We owe you everything we have. Help us to in turn to give back a token of your love for us in the giving of our time, our efforts and also in our offering, as we seek to love our neighbour as we do ourselves. May our money be used wisely, we ask, in Jesus’ name. Amen   Intercessory Prayers   Gracious God, as your Jesus reached out to those on the margins, so now in our prayers we do likewise: We pray for all who have little love in their lives those who are lonely and isolated, those who are addicted and feel trapped, those who grieve and mourn, those whose relationships have been shattered.   Loving God, We pray for those who love things which are unhelpful those who worship their wealth or possessions, and where greed has taken over, those who find love only in the approval of others, in flattery, or in power, those who can only love themselves those for whom bitterness and hatred reign   Compassionate God, We pray for those who give totally of themselves for the sake of others those who are persecuted or outcast those who face prejudice because of the colour of their skin,  those who face discrimination because of their gender  those who face harassment for their sexuality   Merciful God, help us to strive to see others as you see us,  help us to reach out in love to our neighbour help us to live as Christ would have us live  help us to walk the way of Jesus As we ask these things in his name, Amen.   When I needed a Neighbour Sydney Carter © 1965 Stainer & Bell,   When I needed a neighbour, were you there, were you there? (repeat)   And the creed and the colour  and the name won't matter, Were you there?   2: I was hungry and thirsty, were you there, were you there?   3: I was cold, I was naked, Were you there, were you there?   4: When I needed a shelter Were you there, were you there?   5: When I needed a healer, Were you there, were you there?   6: Wherever you travel, I'll be there, I'll be there. Wherever you travel, I'll be there. And the creed and the colour And the name won't matter, I'll be there.     Blessing   May the God in whose image we are made, Strengthen us in our struggle, Embrace us in our weakness, And inspire us with hope for a different future: As we work, separately and together For the freedom of the whole creation. Amen    Sources, Copyright and Thanks Sources   Call To Worship from Worship Aids for the Revised Common Lectionary from the Presbyterian Church of the USA Affirmation of Faith from selected sections of the Belhar Confession of Faith. Blessing from Encircled in Prayer by Jan Berry All other prayers by Jayne Taylor   Copyright and Performance   Here in This Place by Marty Haugen (b1950) © 1982 GIA Publications sung by the composer. Brother Sister Let Me Serve you by Richard Gillard (b 1953) © Integrity Music Inc, sung on the BBC’s Songs of Praise. Lord of Creation by Jack Copley Winslow performed by Song leaders from Granite Bay and Sacramento Central Seventh-Day Adventist Churches When I needed a Neighbour by Sydney Carter sung by Dominic Kelly and the St Martins Church Choir on the BBC’s Songs of Praise.   Where words are copyright reproduced under the terms of Barrhead URC’s CCLI licence number 1064776   Thanks To…   Jonnie Hill and Adam Scott, Ruth and Kingsley Browning, Phil, Lythan and Carys Nevard for recording the Call to Worship and Affirmation of Faith, and to John Young, Kathleen Haynes, Carol Tubbs, Anne Hewling, and John Wilcox for recording other spoken parts of the service.   Opening Organ Piece Prelude in E Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach (organ of The Spire Church, Farnham – 2020)Closing:  Trumpet Voluntary in D by John Baston (organ of Basilica Santo Spirito, Florence, Italy – 2016)  Both played by Brian Cotterill.  http://briancotterill.webs.com --> Where words are copyright reproduced under the terms of Barrhead URC’s CCLI licence number 1064776,
Some material reprinted, and streamed, with permission under ONE LICENSE A-734713 All rights reserved.
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