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URC Daily Devotion Thursday 24th September 2020 Colossians - Paul’s Labours for the Gentiles

URC Devotion - Thu, 24/09/2020 - 06:00
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  Colossians - Paul’s Labours for the Gentiles

Colossians 1: 24 - 29

I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church. I became its servant according to God’s commission that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known,  the mystery that has been hidden throughout the ages and generations but has now been revealed to his saints.  To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.  It is he whom we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone in all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ.  For this I toil and struggle with all the energy that he powerfully inspires within me.

Reflection
Paul responds to his sufferings with “rejoicing”.   He speaks from the reality of enduring persecution – literally imprisonment – as a result of his commitment to Christ.   That may not, I suspect, be exactly how many of us feel!

I recall the words on a poster I saw many years ago:  “If you were accused of being a disciple of Jesus would there be sufficient evidence to convict you?”   In his exhortation, “Gaudete et Exsultate” (Rejoice and Be Glad, 2018) Pope Francis said this:  “Jesus himself warns us that the path he proposes goes against the flow, even making us challenge society by the way we live and, as a result, becoming a nuisance.  He reminds us how many people have been, and still are, persecuted because they struggle for justice, because they take seriously their commitment to God and to others.  Unless we wish to sink into an obscure mediocrity, let us not long for an easy life, for “those who want to save their life will lose it” (Matthew 16: 25).”   He goes on to contrast the persecution we face as a result of steadfast faithfulness with suffering we bring on ourselves:  “… we are speaking about inevitable persecution, not the kind of persecution we might bring on ourselves by our mistreatment of others.  The saints are not odd and aloof, unbearable because of their vanity, negativity and bitterness.”   He concludes, “Accepting daily the path of the Gospel, even though it may cause us problems:  that is holiness”.

For Paul it is not all about himself but about Christ:  “It is he whom we proclaim”.  (Colossians 1: 28)  Elsewhere (2 Corinthians 12: 9) Paul acknowledges that it is not in his own strength that he can endure suffering but through God’s all-sufficient grace.   That grace has potential to reach and strengthen us – even in lockdown. 

Prayer

God of all grace,
enable us to live as those who are worthy of persecution:
may we not be odd and aloof
or unbearable because of our vanity, negativity and bitterness.
Enable our lives more and more to reflect the love of God seen in Jesus.
Bless all who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake:
May they know your strength and help in their suffering.
Through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.   --> Today's writer The Rev’d Geoffrey Clarke is Moderator of East Midlands Synod and a member of St Andrew’s with Castle Gate, Nottingham 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, 23/09/2020 - 11:30
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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentColumn{ padding-right:18px !important; padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnImageCardLeftImageContent,.mcnImageCardRightImageContent{ padding-right:18px !important; padding-bottom:0 !important; padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcpreview-image-uploader{ display:none !important; width:100% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h1{ font-size:24px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h2{ font-size:20px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h3{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h4{ font-size:16px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; 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Dear Friends,

Sunday’s service is led by the Rev'd Branwen Rees who serves as a minister in East Wales. Hymns include Caroline Noel’s At the Name of Jesus, Graham Kendrick’s Meekness and Majesty, David Mansell’s Jesus is Lord, Creation’s Voice Proclaims It, and Marty Haugen’s Bring Forth the Kingdom.

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

with every good wish


Andy


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

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URC Daily Devotion Wednesday 23rd September 2020 Colossians - Our Share in Salvation

URC Devotion - Wed, 23/09/2020 - 06:00
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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentColumn{ padding-right:18px !important; padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnImageCardLeftImageContent,.mcnImageCardRightImageContent{ padding-right:18px !important; padding-bottom:0 !important; padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcpreview-image-uploader{ display:none !important; width:100% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h1{ font-size:24px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h2{ font-size:20px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h3{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h4{ font-size:16px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ #templatePreheader{ display:block !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } View this email in your browser Daily Devotions from the URC --> inspiration in your inbox --> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend Wednesday 23rd September 2020
Colossians - Our Share in Salvation   Colossians 1: 21 - 23

And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled  in his fleshly body  through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him— provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven. I, Paul, became a servant of this gospel.

Reflection

“Keep the faith, baby” was a catchphrase in the church group I attended at university in the late 70s, connecting with the Liberation Theology which inspired us.  The letter to the church at Colossae expresses it more formally, exhorting listeners to “continue securely established and steadfast in the faith.” A faith that sustained people living in a mixed place, famous for the wool from its sheep, on a trading route between towns, cities and countryside. People who had found in Christ a straightforward alternative to the mystery religions common in the area. Whatever they had been before, they were now won, reconciled and redeemed by his love for them. Their response was to show that love to others.

“Keep the faith, baby” is the title of a 1967 book of sermons by, and a 2002 film about,  Adam Clayton Powell Jr, a Baptist minister who became New York’s first African-American congressman in 1944. A charismatic campaigner and controversial politician, he spoke directly against the attitudes and legislation which disenfranchised Black Americans. Combining church and society made sense.

As I write this the UK is on the verge of taking steps out of the Covid-19 lockdown. For eight weeks and counting, millions of people have restricted themselves to their homes, motivated by a desire to shield the vulnerable, protect the NHS, and save lives. Churches have closed their buildings and carried on sharing the love of God in other ways. People of all faiths and ideologies have made sacrifices as much for the sake of others as for themselves. Perhaps it is not so far off the church at Colossae being told to persevere, motivated by the hope promised to them in the good news of God’s love for the whole world. Keep the faith, baby.

Prayer

God, Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer
you have helped us to keep the faith.
When life has been cruel,
in times of desolation and heartbreak,
when we have been weary and resentful,
in places of threat and isolation,
when injustice has become routine.
 
Today, whatever we encounter
whether  joy or ecstasy or terror or boredom
help us to keep the faith.
Amen   --> Today's writer The Rev’d Fiona Thomas is a freelance learning facilitator, and member of Christ Church in Bellingham.  Copyright New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Tuesday 22nd September 2020 Colossians Christ is the Head of All Creation

URC Devotion - Tue, 22/09/2020 - 06:00
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Colossians  Christ is the Head of All Creation

Colossians 1: 15-20

He is the image of the invisible God,
   the firstborn of all creation;
for in him all things were created
   in heaven and on earth,
things visible and invisible,
   whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers
all things have been created through him and for him.

   He himself is before all things,
       and in  him all things hold together.
   He is the head of the body,
       the church.

He is the beginning,
   the firstborn from the dead,so that he might come to have first place in everything.
For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,
   and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things,
whether on earth or in heaven,
   by making peace through the blood of his cross.

Reflection

Many Bibles set this passage out as prose, but I’ve laid the words out as a poem to emphasise that is a poem, based on the different meanings of the Hebrew word for ‘head’.  As in English, so in Hebrew, the relevant word can carry several different ideas, and Paul is cleverly exploring and exploiting some of them.

Jesus Christ, he says, is the firstborn.  That’s the first meaning, which comes twice.  Jesus Christ is supreme.  Jesus Christ is the head of the body, which is the Church.  Jesus Christ is the beginning.  Paul uses this to remind the Colossians that the more they get to know, and know about, Jesus Christ, the more they will understand who the true God is and what he’s done; who they are as a result; and what it means to live in and for him.

There are three things in particular which the poem reminds us about Jesus:

It’s by looking at Jesus that we discover who God is.  Jesus is ‘the image of God, the invisible one’.  Nobody has ever seen God, but in
  1. Jesus he has come near to us and become one of us.
  2. Jesus holds together the ordinary world that we live in, and the new world that is to come.
  3. Jesus is the blueprint for the genuine humanness which is on offer through the gospel.
As the head of the body, the Church; as the first to rise again from the dead; as the one through whose cruel death God has dealt with our sins and brought us peace and reconciliation; and, above all, as the one through whom the new creation has now begun.  in all these ways, Jesus is himself the one in whom we are called to discover the fullness of what the best of being human means.

Prayer

Loving heavenly Father, we have not seen you.  We don’t even know what it might mean to see you, but you have shown us Jesus, and because we have seen him, we have seen you.
Help us grasp what it means that everything was created by him who was before all things, and that all these things hold together through him.
In Jesus' name we pray.  Amen. --> Today's writer The Rev’d Michael Hopkins, Minister of a group of Methodist and United Reformed Churches based around Farnham, Surrey, and Clerk of the URC General Assembly. Copyright New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Monday 21st September 2020 Colossians - Greetings

URC Devotion - Mon, 21/09/2020 - 06:00
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Colossians 1: 1 - 14

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the saints and faithful  brothers and sisters  in Christ in Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father. In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the gospel  that has come to you. Just as it is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God.  This you learned from Epaphras, our beloved fellow-servant.  He is a faithful minister of Christ on your  behalf, and he has made known to us your love in the Spirit. For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s  will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,  so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God.  May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully  giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son,  in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Reflection

This letter was written in the context of a different empire from that of today, in a time when Christianity was only just beginning to grow and develop and there were many challenges to faithful following and believing. Yet today, with the decline of Christianity in the west, some of the challenges remain the same – the challenge to find a distinctive Christian identity and to speak and live out the Christian faith with wisdom and understanding.

One of the challenges today is the contemporary emphasis on the ‘turn to the self’, where ‘what I think’ or ‘what I do’ is what matters most, rather than having a loving care for, or being in relation to, one another and God’s world.

This letter opens with words that remind us of our mutual belonging – both to God and to one another. This mutual belonging is embodied in our prayer, prayer that opens our lives to God and what God makes possible in our lives.

There were many ups and downs in the life of the early church, as the epistles often demonstrate. What’s interesting is that this letter starts not with criticism, but with thanksgiving, followed by a prayer for the people of Colossae, that they may be strengthened in their faith. It’s based on the understanding that the people are united in Christ, whatever their differences may be, and that God will lead each one to grow in the knowledge of God and the ability to live out this knowledge in service of others. People are not left on their own. Each one has a place and a purpose in God’s love.

In an increasingly polarized world, the possibility that the Christian faith offers for mutual belonging and affirmation, for thanksgiving and wisdom, is an ever more valuable gift.

 Prayer:

Wise and loving God,
fill me with your wisdom and understanding,
may I grow daily in my knowledge of you.
May my life be pleasing to you.
May I bear your fruit in the actions I take.
May I be strong with your strength.
May I be patient when faced with challenges and in times of difficulty.
Fill my heart with thanksgiving for the people with whom you call me to live and share together.
Amen.   --> Today's writer The Rev’d Dr Elizabeth Welch, retired from pastoral charge, active ecumenically and theologically, member of St Andrew’s Church, Ealing. Copyright New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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Colossians

URC Devotion - Sun, 20/09/2020 - 18:00
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I hope that the week thinking about Creation has been helpful and brings, again, to our minds the need to deal with the climate emergency through our own personal choices and those of our governments.  

We turn now, for the next few weeks, to the Epistle to the Colossians.  Colossae was a prosperous city in what is now modern Turkey and was wealthy from the wool trade.  It is one of the seven churches referred to in Revelation and close to Laodicea.  It was evangelised either by Paul or his co worker Epaphras.  The Letter shows Paul to be in prison but it’s not stated where.  There was a large Jewish population in Colossae which had tense relations with the fledgling church.  The city never recovered from an earthquake in the year 60.  There is doubt as to whether Paul wrote the letter and scholars debate whether it was written by Paul or by a follower of his.  The letter presents Christ as the first born of all creation, first born from the dead, the head of the Church and source of its authority, direction and nourishment.

It is a rich text for us to ponder over the next few weeks.

with every good wish


Andy


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


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Worship for Sunday 20th September 2020

URC Devotion - Sun, 20/09/2020 - 09:45
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Below you will find the Order of Service, prayers, hymns and sermon for today's service.   You can either simply read this or you can
  click here
to listen to the service and sing along with the hymns.  This will open up a new screen, at the bottom of the screen you will see a play symbol.  Press that, then come back to this window so you can follow along with the service. Sunday Worship from the United Reformed Church
for Sunday 20th September 2020  
  The Rev’d Anne Sardeson Introduction
 
Hello. I’m Anne Sardeson and I’m speaking to from my home in Leytonstone East London, where I have been living for 10 years while serving as Training Officer for Thames North Synod. However, when you hear this, I’ll have moved to Burnham-on-Crouch in Essex as I return to local pastorate there along with the URCs in Maldon and Southminster. Later in the service we will be sharing communion, so you might want to pause for a moment to prepare what is needed. You might also like to take a few moments to still yourself as you prepare for worship.
 
Call To Worship
 
One:         To all who are imprisoned,
Many:       God says, “Come out.”

One:         To all who are living in darkness,
Many:       God says, “Show yourselves”
 
One:         To all who hunger and thirst,
Many:       God gives food and springs of water.
 
One:         To all who are far away,
Many:       God makes smooth the way home.
                God will not forget us,
                we are inscribed on the palms of His hands.
 
Hymn:      How Firm A Foundation
                Unknown, 1787
  How firm a foundation,
ye saints of the Lord,
is laid for your faith
in His excellent Word!
What more can He say
than to you He has said,
you who unto Jesus
for refuge have fled?
 
2 Fear not, He is with thee,
O be not dismayed;
for He is thy God,
and will still give thee aid;
He'll strengthen thee, help thee,
and cause thee to stand,
upheld by His righteous,
omnipotent hand.
 
3 When through the deep waters
He calls thee to go,
the rivers of grief
shall not thee overflow;
for He will be with thee,
in trouble to bless,
and sanctify to thee
thy deepest distress.
 
4 When through fiery trials
thy pathway shall lie,
His grace, all-sufficient,
shall be thy supply;
the flame shall not hurt thee;
His only design
thy dross to consume
and thy gold to refine.   5 The soul that on Jesus
has leaned for repose,
He will not, He cannot
desert to His foes;
that soul, though all hell
should endeavour to shake,
He never will leave;
He will never forsake.
 
Prayers of approach, confession and forgiveness
 
Giver of Life, Maker of Truth, Way of Wisdom: all glory be to you,
here among us: light in our darkness, hope in our despair,  love in our fear. Grace for our failings, joy for our tears, strength for our weakness. Connection in our disunity, understanding in our confusion,  recognition in our ignorance.
 
Giver of Life, Maker of Truth, Way of Wisdom, we praise you for all that you are and all that you do! This day, let us not offer to you that which costs us nothing. Let us offer all that we have, all that we are. This day they us not be afraid that what we offer  will not be enough. Know that all we are is known to God. Let us offer all that we can carry no longer. The things we regret, the harsh words and thoughtless acts, the lack of trust and over dependence  on ourselves.  Let us offer all to God, giver of life, maker of truth, way of wisdom
 
God knows us and loves us.  In Christ Jesus God dwelt with us, full of grace and truth.  With patience and hope in Christ, God’s love was made known to us.  We are accepted and loved, forgiven and freed.  Let us live with this truth. All glory be to you, Giver of Life, Maker of Truth, Way of Wisdom, this day and evermore. Amen!
 
Prayer of illumination
 
Way of Wisdom, open us now to your living word; that we will know how wonderful you are and find you in your holy place.
 
Readings
 
Jonah 3:10-4:11
 
When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it. But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord and said, ‘O Lord! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing.  And now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.’  And the Lord said, ‘Is it right for you to be angry?’  Then Jonah went out of the city and sat down east of the city, and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, waiting to see what would become of the city.  The Lord God appointed a bush,  and made it come up over Jonah, to give shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort; so Jonah was very happy about the bush.  But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the bush, so that it withered.  When the sun rose, God prepared a sultry east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint and asked that he might die. He said, ‘It is better for me to die than to live.’  But God said to Jonah, ‘Is it right for you to be angry about the bush?’ And he said, ‘Yes, angry enough to die.’  Then the Lord said, ‘You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labour and which you did not grow; it came into being in a night and perished in a night.  And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?’
 
St Matthew 20:1-16
 
‘For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire labourers for his vineyard.  After agreeing with the labourers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard.  When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the market-place;  and he said to them, “You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.” So they went.  When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same.  And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, “Why are you standing here idle all day?”  They said to him, “Because no one has hired us.” He said to them, “You also go into the vineyard.”  When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, “Call the labourers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.”   When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, “These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.”  But he replied to one of them, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?  Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you.  Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?”  So the last will be first, and the first will be last.’
 
Hymn:      Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken
                John Newton (1779) 
                Tune: Jefferson from the Tennessee Harmony 1818
  Glorious things of thee are spoken,
Zion city of our God!
He whose word can ne’er be broken
formed thee for His own abode.
 
On the Rock of Ages founded
who can shake Thy sure repose?
With salvation’s wall surrounded,
Thou mayst smile at all thy foes.
 
2: ‘Round her habitation hov’ring,
see the cloud and fire appear,
for a glory and a covering,
showing that the Lord is near.  
Sermon
 
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable to you, our strength and our salvation.
 
There is grumbling in our scripture today. One of the grumblers is Jonah, who is grumbling at God because of the treatment of the people of Nineveh. The story of Jonah is one that is pretty well-known and is always worth telling again. Jonah is called by God to go to Nineveh and preach repentance. Jonah, fearful of what a great task this is, perhaps because he has heard how terribly wicked the people of Nineveh are reported to be, goes in the opposite direction and takes to the sea. Finding their journey stormy, the ship’s crew discover Jonah is fleeing from his God and, surmising that he is the root of their misfortune, they throw him overboard, where he finds himself in the belly of a big fish. After spending 3 days and nights in the belly of the fish Jonah is spewed up on a beach. God sees him there and calls him again, and this time Jonah does as he is told and goes to preach in Nineveh. And then the most surprising thing happens, the thing any preacher might long for: the people of Nineveh listen and take notice. They do indeed repent of their wicked ways and pray for mercy. At which point God responds with mercy and, as we read, Jonah grumbles.
 
The other grumblers are the “all day” workers. They have been hired at a fair wage to work in the vineyard for the day and come the end of the day they go to get their wages. The story is told well and sets us up for the shock at the end, because along with the “all day” workers are the “slightly later” workers, the “half day” workers, the “late afternoon” workers and the “barely got an hour in before we finished” workers. And the workers are paid in reverse order, so that the ones who came last get paid first and the ones who came first get paid last, no doubt with the expectation that they will get a bonus above that which was agreed because they have worked longer than the later arrivals. But they don’t. They get paid what was agreed, which happens to be the same as the rest, regardless of how many hours they have worked. And the “all day” workers grumble because like Jonah they are really rather cross with how things have turned out.
 
And we may well understand the grumblers. We may well, with Jonah, think that the wicked people of Nineveh deserved to be punished. We might also think it only right that people who work for an hour get paid less than those who work for 3, 6, 9 or 12 hours. I am pretty sure that in each of us there is at least a little bit that gets the grumbling and that’s because it’s very natural to grumble when things don’t seem fair. This often happens for us when we read scripture and make it all about us. But what if it is all about God?
 
What if, instead of being the story of Jonah, we call it the story of God and Jonah, or God and Nineveh? Where do Jonah and Nineveh fit into God’s story?
 
It seems that Jonah may well fit into God’s story as someone who was good enough to do an important job, despite being a little bit flakey and rather grumbly. This is quite hopeful really, because Jonah is not alone in having these tendencies. I too have been known to be both. And where is Nineveh in God’s story? News had reached God of the wickedness of the people of the great city and God longs for change and when change comes, mercy is their gift. Because, as the scripture tells us, God has concern for all the people (and animals) of the city. Jonah then becomes a reminder to all of us that we can be quite shocked by God’s mercy and Nineveh becomes a reminder to all of us that we can be saved by God’s mercy. Shocked and saved, all in the one story. Perhaps this might be a good way to sum up something of how we can find ourselves in God’s story.
 
And if the parable of the workers is to be read as the parable of the landowner, what do we discover? We discover a landowner who keeps their word: they pay those who have worked a 12 hour shift the agreed rate for the time worked. We also discover a landowner who seems to subvert usual economics by paying some workers a little more than they are due and others a great deal more than they are due. If we ask where God is, then we might well say that God is this landowner who seems to have a very odd view of how things should play out. This is no way to run a business. But then of course, this is not a business, this is God’s story.
 
If this is a story about people like you and me becoming aware of God’s place in our lives and entering into some kind of relationship with God, we discover that when our story joins God’s story, strange things happen. What we think we deserve will not be what we receive. We may think we are worthy of more than others because we see our relationship with God as being deeper or older or more faithful. But no, we get what we are promised. We may think we are worthy of a lot less than we are offered because we see our relationship with God as fragile or new or struggling. But no, we get what God’s wants to give us.
 
What do we learn of God in our scripture today? We learn of concern, and love, and perseverance, and honour, and passion, and cost, and grace. We learn that in response to a question from Peter about how much he and his fellow disciples have given up and what they might get in return, Jesus reminds them that this isn’t about being given some place of great standing as the ones who were first. This is not about what’s in it for them, this is about where they are in God’s story. Peter, presumably speaking on behalf of the other disciples, has made it all about them. But that is not the case. This is all about God creating a new realm, a new way of seeing the world where it is not about status and reward but about welcome and grace and huge surprises. “Many of the first will be last and the last first” he says to Peter and anyone else who wants to listen, and goes on to tell the story of the landowner and some workers who come, bit by bit, to the vineyard and discover that the last are indeed the first and the first are last.
 
If we think that being a disciple is about getting some great reward for our longstanding faithfulness, then we are as mistaken as Peter and the other disciples. It is not. It is about joining our story with God’s story and finding our way into something that twists the ways of our world that have become our norm, not least that the ones who get up early and work hard get the best bits in the end. If we fear that we’ve come along a bit late, maybe only repented when Jonah reluctantly came and shouted at us about the error of our ways, and we suspect that we don’t know what others seem to take for granted, and worry that God won’t have noticed that we’ve joined our story with God’s story, then we can rejoice: there is no pecking order in God’s realm.
 
Because God is like a landowner who says it doesn’t matter when you join in, you are part of the whole story: my story.
 
So, we care for new ones. We value what is brought, we value what we are together. And we don’t fear if we are a newer one, for we are all precious. We are all part of a big story. A story that has Jonah in it, a big fish in it, the people and animals of Nineveh in it, 12 fumbling (and possible grumbling) disciples in it, lots of people through many ages in it and you and me. There is no first, there is no last, there is simply a story: God’s story, and we are in this story together.
 
Affirmation of Faith
 
We believe in God, creator of all,
whose word sustains the life of humanity,
and directs our history.
God is our life.
 
We believe in God’s Son,
born amongst the poor, light in our night,
first-born from the dead. He is alive.
 
We believe in the Holy Spirit,
who gives birth to the new life of God,
who breathes life into the struggle for justice,
who leads us to hope,
who is a living force.
 
We believe in the holy universal Church,
herald of the Good News
which frees people and brings new life.
We believe in the coming of a new world
where Jesus Christ, our Lord, will be all in all. Amen.
 
Hymn:      Amazing Grace
                John Newton
  Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
was blind but now I see.
 
2: ‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
and grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that grace appear
the hour I first believed!
 
3: Through many dangers, toils and snares
we have already come
‘Twas grace that brought
us safe thus far
and grace will lead us home.    Prayers of Concern
 
O God we pray this day for the world that you care for….
For those who struggle this day with burdens that are beyond them.
For lives that are torn apart by war and greed and distrust.
For all we know and all we do not know.
For stories that are heard and stories that are hidden.
For names that are familiar and names that are lost
We pray O God, knowing that you love your world
and call us into love.
 
O God we pray this day for our local communities…..
For those who ask us to pray and those who do not.
For those we love and those we barely know.
For all that is a part of our everyday lives and all that we miss.
We pray O God, knowing that you love our communities
and call us into love.
 
O God we pray for ourselves,
For the fears and hopes that fill our lives.
For the prayers we struggle to utter
And the words that get stuck in our throats.
We pray knowing that you hear us better that we are able to pray,
asking that you will help us to seek, find and fully realise
the compassion that lives within us that they inspire and fill all we do.
 
These prayers we offer, words, silence, deep longings,
In the name of Jesus Christ,
Who taught us when we pray to say together
 
Our Father……
 
Communion
 
These are our tables in our homes, where we sit and eat and drink and chat and learn and play and pray and argue and so many other things……. These are our tables in our homes, and they are also God’s tables.
 
Let us look at our tables and give thanks to God:
For everything that happens round them…..
The food that is eaten, for the things that are shared,
For the people who come, for all that will be.
 
And here at our table let us remember our story, God’s story……
A story of long ago, of a supper, round a table, with dear friends…..
In a time of uncertainty and fear with questions in the air
and a deep sense of wondering.
 
The friends were together, and they didn’t know it would be their last time together.
 
For this was their last supper and soon some of them would run away
one of them would deny their friendship, another would betray their dear friend, and that dear friend was Jesus, there at that table.
 
While they were eating their supper together,
Jesus took some of the bread from the table,
lifting it high and he gave thanks to God:
“all glory be to you O God who made us,
Out of your goodness we have this bread to offer
it is the grain of your creation
it is the work of human hands,
it will be for us the bread of life.
All glory be to you O God for we have this bread.”
Jesus took the bread and broke it.
He offered it to those around the table saying
“this is my body, broken for you, eat and remember.”
After they had eaten
Jesus took a cup of wine, again he lifted it high and he gave thanks:
“all glory be to you O God who made us,
Out of your goodness we have this wine to offer
it is the fruit of your creation
it is the work of human hands,
it will be for us the cup of our salvation.
All glory be to you O God for we have this wine.”
Jesus took the cup and offered it to them all saying
“this is my blood, shed for you, drink and give thanks.”
 
Around our tables we have remembered,
with the words of Jesus we have given thanks.
So we join with your disciples around the world,
with those who have gone before us and those who are yet to come,
in a never-ending song of praise:
 
Holy, holy, holy God,
God of power and might.
Heaven and earth are full  of your glory,
Hosanna in the highest!
Blessed is the One who comes in the name of our God,
hosanna in the highest.
 
We take bread and we break it
and take the cup and we lift it high
and we pray that God’s spirit will be upon us and upon these gifts
that they will be for us the bread of life and the the cup of our salvation.
 
We take the bread and wine
 
Prayer after sharing
 
We have shared the gifts of God
May they be a blessing for us
May we be sustained in our living
May we reach out in our loving
May we know we are not alone
May we keep the promise of God within us.  Amen
 
Hymn:      God is Love, Let Heaven Adore Him
                Timothy Rees (1922)   God is Love: let heav'n adore Him;
God is Love: let earth rejoice;
let creation sing before Him,
and exalt Him with one voice.
He who laid the earth's foundation,
He who spread the heav'ns above,
He who breathes
through all creation,
He is Love, eternal Love.
 
2 God is Love: and he enfoldeth
all the world in one embrace;
with unfailing grasp he holdeth
every child of every race.
And when human
hearts are breaking
under sorrow's iron rod,
then they find that self-same aching
deep within the heart of God.
3 God is Love:
and though with blindness
sin afflicts the souls of all,
God's eternal loving-kindness
holds and guides us when we fall.
Sin and death and hell shall never
o'er us final triumph gain;
God is Love, so Love for ever
o'er the universe must reign.
 
Blessing
 
The blessing of God who speaks our name
The blessing of God who sits at our table
The blessing of God who knows us
Be with us this day, this week
And forever. Amen
 
   Sources and Thanks  
Call to Worship from Feasting on the Word Year A
Affirmation of Faith from the Reformed Church of France.
All other material from Anne Sardeson.

How Firm a Foundation sung by Maddy Prior.
Amazing Grace sung by Celtic Women.
God is Love from BBC’s Songs of Praise
Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken sung at the Second Ireland Sacred Harp Convention 2012

Opening Music:  Fugue in F Major, Closing Music: Komm Gott Schӧpfer Heiliger Geist (“Come God, creator Holy Ghost”) by Johann Sebastian Bach  (organ of Basilica Santa Maria Dei Assunta, Montecatini Terme, Italy – 2016)  both played by Brian Cotterill briancotterill.webs.com.
 
Thanks to Anne Hewling, David Shimmin, John Young, Myra Rose, andf the choir of Barrhead URC for recording various parts of the service and thanks to Kathleen & Callum Haynes, Elfreda Tealby-Watson & Greg Watson, David & Christine Shimmin, Elizabeth Kemp,  Marion Thomas, Tina Wheeler and Myra Rose for recording, virtually, the Call to Worship and Affirmation of Faith.
 
 
 
  --> Where words are copyright reproduced under the terms of Barrhead URC’s CCLI licence number 1064776,
Some material reprinted, and streamed, with permission under ONE LICENSE A-734713 All rights reserved.
PRS Limited Online Music Licence LE-0019762
  Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Sunday 20th September 2020 Psalm 15

URC Devotion - Sun, 20/09/2020 - 09:29
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1 Lord, who may dwell within your house
and on your holy hill?
All those who walk a blameless way,
who love the right, who win the day
with truthful words and, come what may,
will speak no word of ill:

2 All those who love their neighbour well,
who hate the way of sin,
who honour all that fear the Lord,
whose promise is a binding cord,
who help, and seek no rich reward
these, Lord, you welcome in.

After Psalm 15, Paul Wigmore (born 1925)
© Paul Wigmore/Jubilate Hymns

you can hear the tune here
https://www.jubilate.co.uk/songs/lord_who_may_dwell_within_your_house

Reflection

Who is worthy? Who can enter the hill, the temple or even the Holy of Holies? The answer back when the Psalm was written was that very few people were considered worthy, and they had to go through the ritual of dressing the right way, saying exactly the right words of the right prayer, and of course they had to adhere to the minutiae of law and be the right gender.

Who of us would have been worthy? But by grace, because of the Cross, through salvation we can all now dwell in the house of the Lord. The Temple curtain has been torn and there is now nothing that separates us from the love of God. All are welcome. 

But to dwell in God's home, to truly remain there we need to think, speak and act in ways that show that we belong. The Psalmist shows that there are expectations of us. We must love what is right and truthful, and be selfless. We don't act to gain acceptance, we are already accepted even with the flaws we have, unlike the temple in the time of Jesus where anything or anyone with blemishes was turned away.

Knowing and feeling this love and acceptance from God surely spurs us on to share this way of living that is so different from the way the world is. The invitation from Jesus to come and share what is prepared isn't just for a future in heaven, it's an invitation (in the words of Belinda Carlisle) to prove that heaven is a place on earth. God's house has its doors open. Our challenge is to demonstrate that there is room for everyone in the house of the Lord.

Prayer

Loving God
You welcome us into your home with open arms.
It is a welcome full of love rather than judgement.
It is an offer of hope instead of fear.
Help us to extend your invitation to dwell in your home
to a world that needs to know your love
Amen   --> Today's writer Sam Goodman, Elder, Central URC, Derby 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 19th September 2020 Creation 6

URC Devotion - Sat, 19/09/2020 - 06:00
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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentColumn{ padding-right:18px !important; padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnImageCardLeftImageContent,.mcnImageCardRightImageContent{ padding-right:18px !important; padding-bottom:0 !important; padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcpreview-image-uploader{ display:none !important; width:100% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h1{ font-size:24px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h2{ font-size:20px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h3{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h4{ font-size:16px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ #templatePreheader{ display:block !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } View this email in your browser Daily Devotions from the URC --> inspiration in your inbox --> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend Saturday 19th September 2020 Creation 6

Romans 8: 18 - 25

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope  that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labour pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes  for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Reflection

Lots of us love watching nature programmes on television. We revel in the flora and fauna of Planet Earth; we marvel at the penguins, the whales, and other marine life in Blue Planet; and all accompanied by the reassuring voice of (Saint?) David Attenborough. But where are the pictures of human creatures like you and me in all of those hours of viewing?

We live as though we can see nature (creation) from somewhere else. Consciously or unconsciously, we believe we’re outside (or above) it all. In truth, though, we’re players, not spectators, in the game of life; actors, not the audience, in this planetary part of the “theatre of God’s glory”.

Paul was a practical theologian, not an ecologist. Writing of humankind sharing the groanings of creation, and creation awaiting the freedom of the glory of the children of God, he’s not describing scientifically how we humans can only flourish as part of healthy planetary ecosystems, though that’s true as well. Paul’s point is that God’s intention for human freedom is caught up with God’s intentions for the flourishing of all of God’s creation, and vice versa. We are not outside or above it all, although we may be an important part of it.

First century Christians were not  confronted by catastrophic changes to the planet brought about by humanly induced climate change. Had they been, Paul might have had more to say.  He might have said that we who subject the rest of creation to ecological bondage and decay are living as though we think we can frustrate God’s desire for its flourishing. And being Paul, he would have said that forcefully.

Ecologically and theologically we are all in this together. Better then, to live our lives in ways that anticipate the ‘freedom of the glory of the children in God’, both for ourselves and for everything else as well.

 Prayer

God of all creation,
give me a lively sense of your intentions;
give me desire and the means to journey in those ways;
that the whole world (including me),
obtains your glorious freedom.
Amen.   --> Today's writer The Rev’d Trevor Jamison is minister of St Columba’s URC in North Shields 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 18th September 2020 Creation 5

URC Devotion - Fri, 18/09/2020 - 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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Isaiah 24: 4-6

The earth dries up and withers,
    the world languishes and withers;
    the heavens languish together with the earth.
The earth lies polluted
    under its inhabitants;
for they have transgressed laws,
    violated the statutes,
    broken the everlasting covenant.
Therefore a curse devours the earth,
    and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt;
therefore the inhabitants of the earth dwindled,
    and few people are left.

Reflection

This passage is in stark contrast to that of yesterday, where one could at least glean some hope from the reality of God’s holding the life of every living thing in his hand. It seems that humanity has moved so far from respecting the covenant that the apocalypse has well and truly come to devastating effect. As a later verse puts it, the gladness of the earth is banished.

Some will discern a picture of what might happen if we do not take urgent action to mitigate the effects of climate change, or globalisation, or the attitude of “because you’re worth it”. Covid-19 has focussed our attention on how rapidly events move in a connected world, upsetting complacency and engendering distress. Even deeply entrenched norms can be swiftly superseded, some for the good, others less so.

But therein lies hope. People can change when they are convinced that change is for the better, not necessarily just for themselves, but for the good of others – those at a distance as well as those close to them. People have put much of their own ordered and comfortable lives on hold to reach out to help those in greater need. People are indeed reflecting on what is truly important and what is merely convenient or enjoyable. We are told that an increasing number are discovering something of value in connecting to the various forms of on-line worship which have sprung up, presented by faith groups across the spectrum. Perhaps that too may have a lasting effect.

Expressing all this more theologically – repentance leads to fullness of life.

Maybe these words may seem utterly futile or wildly gloomy depending on what has happened in the interval between my writing this and your reading it. Only one thing is certain. Our God cares for his creation.

Prayer

Lord, I believe. Help Thou mine unbelief.   --> Today's writer The Rev’d Ron Reid is a retired minister in the Mersey Synod serving as Link Minister at Rock Chapel, Farndon.  He is a member at Upton-by-Chester URC Copyright New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Thursday 17th September 2020 Creation 4

URC Devotion - Thu, 17/09/2020 - 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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Job 12: 7 - 10

‘But ask the animals, and they will teach you;
    the birds of the air, and they will tell you;
ask the plants of the earth, and they will teach you;
    and the fish of the sea will declare to you.
Who among all these does not know
    that the hand of the Lord has done this?
In his hand is the life of every living thing
    and the breath of every human being.

Reflection

Such are the vagaries of composing Devotions that as I write this, England seems to be on the cusp of either slithering tentatively towards something which might possibly resemble life as it was before the pandemic or, alternatively, sliding back to more lonely and mind-bending social isolation. Hopefully when you read this, the sun will be shining again.

Things were not clarifying for Job nearing the end of the first cycle of debate with his three friends. Why had God visited such trials upon him, a righteous man? Why was he a laughing stock while those who provoked God were secure? Seeking an answer, he turns to the world of nature which seems to suggest that the animals, birds, plants and fish know the answer: “’twas ever thus”. In God’s Creation, it’s just the way of things.

The debaters chew this over for the next thirty chapters.
In the problems facing us in the year of our Lord 2020, some suggest that we should indeed listen to the teaching of the animals, birds, plants and fish. With the enforced reduction in human activity, is not the birdsong louder? Have fish not returned to the canals of Venice and other places? Is the air not cleaner? Are we not able to enjoy more exercise, more time for reading, for music?

All true. But others point out that humans are social animals and without societal interaction, without human touch, without intimacy, mental ill-health increases. In any case such improvements might be merely ephemeral.

Our God is a relational God interacting with our lives in a two-way social and covenantal process. If we pull the balance towards ourselves, the relationship suffers and we suffer. Job perceived the balance to be wrong, so he suffered. For us, the balance between humanity and nature has swung. Resilience is reduced and we suffer.

Prayer

Covenantal God, help us to repair the balance, to listen to what nature and the world is telling us.

Lead us to work for a better world which reflects more nearly our relationship with you. --> Today's writer The Rev’d Ron Reid is a retired minister in the Mersey Synod serving as Link Minister at Rock Chapel, Farndon.  He is a member at Upton-by-Chester URC Copyright New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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Sunday's Coming

URC Devotion - Wed, 16/09/2020 - 11:30
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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentColumn{ padding-right:18px !important; padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnImageCardLeftImageContent,.mcnImageCardRightImageContent{ padding-right:18px !important; padding-bottom:0 !important; padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcpreview-image-uploader{ display:none !important; width:100% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h1{ font-size:24px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h2{ font-size:20px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h3{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h4{ font-size:16px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; 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Dear Friends,

Sunday’s service of Holy Communion is led by the Rev'd Anne Sardeson who ministers in Essex. Hymn’s include Maddy Prior’s rendition of How Firm a Foundation, Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken and Amazing Grace both by John Newton and Timothy Rees’ God is Love, Let Heaven Adore Him.

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

with every good wish


Andy


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

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

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


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URC Daily Devotion Wednesday 16th September 2020 Creation 3

URC Devotion - Wed, 16/09/2020 - 06:00
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Psalm 96: 10 - 13

Say among the nations, ‘The Lord is king!
    The world is firmly established; it shall never be moved.
    He will judge the peoples with equity.’
Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
    let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
 let the field exult, and everything in it.
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
 before the Lord; for he is coming,
    for he is coming to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
    and the peoples with his truth.

Reflection

I was brought up in a liberal Christianity which shied away from judgement and what appeared to us to be a vindictive God.  The climate crisis has made me reassess this tradition.  This Psalm should make us all reassess it.

The Psalmist weaves together the joyful song of the created order with God’s judgement on the peoples. They are not two different aspects of God’s nature, they are one and the same. This may seem odd to those of us who have lived comfortably through this recent, very short, period of human history, in which our minority of the world’s human population has lived a luxurious life with only the occasional reminder of our creatureliness. The vast majority of the human population through history, the majority of the world in 2021, and perhaps all of us in the light of COVID-19, we can no longer forget that we also are mere creatures of our Creator.

To cope with that change we need to hear this Psalm and the judgement on humanity in it. David Attenborough’s series ‘A Life on our Planet’ on Netflix concludes that the havoc wreaked by us comfortable people, in our excessive consumption of the earth’s resources, does not imperil the planet itself. But it certainly imperils humanity.

The Psalmist is right – the forests shall go on singing with joy, the seas will roar, the fields exult and the planet will spin for millions more years. But humanity is bringing God’s judgement on itself by disregarding our place in creation and trying to be like God (rather like Adam and Eve in Genesis 3).

We need to hear this truth – our desire to be gods is a vain pretence. If we don’t realise that very soon indeed, then we will surely reap the whirlwind of God’s judgement.

Prayer

Loving Creator God,
we are sorry that we have tried to keep for ourselves
the song of the trees, the roaring of the sea,
the exaltation of the fields and the rejoicing of the earth
without seeking also your judgement in equity on the peoples.

Turn our hearts,
that like the Psalmist we may rejoice in your righteous judgement
and turn from our evil ways
so that creation’s song may continue as you intended.
Amen.   --> Today's writer Revd Gethin Rhys is Policy Officer for Cytun (Churches together in Wales) and a member of Parkminster URC, Cardiff. 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 15th September 2020 Creation 2

URC Devotion - Tue, 15/09/2020 - 06:00
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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentColumn{ padding-right:18px !important; padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnImageCardLeftImageContent,.mcnImageCardRightImageContent{ padding-right:18px !important; padding-bottom:0 !important; padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcpreview-image-uploader{ display:none !important; width:100% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h1{ font-size:24px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h2{ font-size:20px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h3{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h4{ font-size:16px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ #templatePreheader{ display:block !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } View this email in your browser Daily Devotions from the URC --> inspiration in your inbox --> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend Tuesday 15th September 2020
Creation 2

Isaiah 42: 1 - 7

Thus says God, the Lord,
    who created the heavens and stretched them out,
    who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people upon it
    and spirit to those who walk in it:
I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness,
    I have taken you by the hand and kept you;
I have given you as a covenant to the people,
    a light to the nations,
  to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
    from the prison those who sit in darkness.

Reflection

This is the first of four passages in Isaiah which are known as The Servant Songs.  We exist only because God created us.  We breath because we have been given air by God.  As we have read of tens of thousands dying unable to breath because of Covid-19 we must appreciate our breath even more. More than just air to breath we are told by Isaiah that we have the Spirit as well.  

Matthew quotes the first few verses and makes it clear that the servant is Jesus.  It is Jesus who came as a light to the nations.  Writing this during the lockdown when many people feel like prisoners in their own homes it is interesting that many churches have noticed a marked increase in the number attending online during this time.  Are these people looking to be rescued from the dungeon of despair that they are in?  How should we react as Christians as things return to some sort of normality?  We should make sure that Jesus is seen as the light who can brighten the darkness of those who ask for help.  

This light is not just for those who are new to the Church, but it is also for those who have been members for many years.  We all need the same spirit to open our eyes and free us from whatever prison we feel we are in. 

Times will still be different when you read this and the new normal may not be fully clear but what is clear is that the spirit Isaiah wrote about is timeless and unchanging.  No matter what the situation is we should continue to live inhaling God’s grace and exhaling God’s love. 

Prayer

Loving God 
I thank you for all that you are
I thank you for the air I breathe
for the ground beneath my feet
Thank you for your Spirit who is with me today
Thank you for opening my eyes
Thank you for setting me free
Help me to enjoy the life you have given me
Help me to tell others how great You are
Let me praise and thank you in the name of Jesus
Amen   --> Today's writer John Collings, Lay Preacher, member of Rutherglen URC Copyright New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Monday 14th September 2020 Creation 1

URC Devotion - Mon, 14/09/2020 - 06:00
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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentColumn{ padding-right:18px !important; padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnImageCardLeftImageContent,.mcnImageCardRightImageContent{ padding-right:18px !important; padding-bottom:0 !important; padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcpreview-image-uploader{ display:none !important; width:100% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h1{ font-size:24px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h2{ font-size:20px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h3{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h4{ font-size:16px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; 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St John 1: 1 - 5

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

Reflection

Now is the season to make a step change.
Now is the moment to invent a new humanity.
Now is the hour to grasp the hand of God and move forward courageously on a different path.

Quantum mechanics has opened up our understanding of the material world being shaped through probabilities.  Theologically this is tremendously exciting and empowering.  The future does not yet exist.  Let me repeat that.  The future does not yet exist.  God’s call to Life, in Christ, is a call to discern together what actions now would be life-giving for the future.  Then to commit 100% to that Way.

Limiting the rise in global temperature and securing a level of biodiversity which can sustain the earth’s ecological systems are key amongst those life-giving actions.

In the beginning - the Word was with God. 
In Jesus - the Word was with those who lived in Palestine 2000 years ago. 
In the Spirit - the Word was, is and will be, with humanity.
In the 21st century - the Word is with us as dependably, as surely, as truly, as creatively and as radically as it ever was.  And as demandingly!

In our Kairos moment let us not be found wanting.

Prayer
 
God who is the Word,
praise, glory and wonder be yours for bringing life into being.
You are our light.
Shine in the gloom and murk of our earth-damaging practices.
Illuminate our possible futures.
Raise us up to choose the life-giving path.
So may we honour your great gift to humanity in Jesus, the Life Giver.
Amen   --> Today's writer The Rev’d Gwen Collins, retired minister, member of Avenue St Andrews URC, Southampton 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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A Week on Creation

URC Devotion - Sun, 13/09/2020 - 18:00
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Dear <<First Name>>

I hope you've found our, long, journey through Exodus has been fruitful.  Like Genesis, it is a book we think we know but are always surprised by.  We leave that book now and spend a week thinking about Creation.

In response to a call from the Ecumenical Patriarch many communions observe a month of Creationtime between September and October.  The Covid 19 pandemic showed us the dangers of abusing animals,  how the planet can start to recover when human activity is scaled down and, despite the postponement of the Conference of the Parties in Glasgow, we are still facing a climate emergency. 

For the week ahead we will be thinking of the earth, our fragile home, as part of the majesty of God’s creation and challenge ourselves to embrace, protect, and conserve it and the life which teems here.

with every good wish



Andy


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


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URC Daily Devotion Worship for Sunday 13th September 2020

URC Devotion - Sun, 13/09/2020 - 09:45
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Below you will find the Order of Service, prayers, hymns and sermon for today's service.   You can either simply read this or you can
  click here
to listen to the service and sing along with the hymns.  This will open up a new screen, at the bottom of the screen you will see a play symbol.  Press that, then come back to this window so you can follow along with the service.   URC Daily Devotions Service
Sunday 13th September 2020
    The Rev’d Gethin Rhys
Introduction

Bore da - Good morning from Wales – (or if, like us, you listen to this service as you light your ecumenical candle at 7pm – Noswaith dda – Good evening). Croeso - welcome to the study in my home in Heath in Cardiff.
 
I was working late in my office in the city centre on March 16th this year, and heard Boris Johnson tell us that we should start working from home. I collected up my things and since that evening this has been my work place, as I continue to represent Cytûn, Churches Together in Wales (including the United Reformed Church) in discussions with Welsh Government and the Senedd, the Welsh Parliament, not only about Coronavirus, but about all the things in public life with which we as churches are concerned. Fiona, my wife, who will also take part in this service, works in our lounge for Helpforce, shaping volunteering in health and social care. So although we may not often these days get out into the wider world, it certainly comes in to us.
Call to Worship
 
One:         To all who are imprisoned,
Many:      God says, “Come out.”

One:         To all who are living in darkness,
Many:      God says, “Show yourselves”

One:         To all who hunger and thirst,
Many:      God gives food and springs of water.

One:         To all who are far away,
Many:       God makes smooth the way home.
                God will not forget us,
                we are inscribed on the palms of His hands.
 
Hymn:      Dear Lord and Father of Mankind
                  John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892)
  Dear Lord and Father
of mankind,
forgive our foolish ways!
Re-clothe us in
our rightful mind,
in purer lives Thy service find,
in deeper reverence, praise.

2: In simple trust
like theirs who heard
beside the Syrian sea
the gracious calling of the Lord,
let us, like them,
without a word
rise up and follow Thee.

3: Drop Thy still
dews of quietness,
till all our strivings cease;
take from our souls
the strain and stress,
& let our ordered lives confess
the beauty of Thy peace.

4: Breathe through the heats
of our desire
Thy coolness and Thy balm;
let sense be dumb,
let flesh retire;
speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm.   Prayers of Approach, Confession and Forgiveness
 
When we are irritated for the seventh time and it feels like 70 times seven… Help us to remember your patience with us.
 
When we are asked to be patient again and again…. Help us to remember your pity for us.
 
When our pity is taken for granted again and again…. Help us to remember your challenge to us.
 
When we challenge unfairness over and over… Help us to remember your love surrounding us all.
 
So knowing your patience, your pity, your challenge and your love, we humbly seek your forgiveness too.

It feels as if we are asking too much, but we know that if we do not ask, we cannot yet receive.

So hear our prayer for forgiveness for the uncaring and selfish things we have done, and the many good things we have failed to do, for the uncaring and spiteful words we have uttered aloud, and the many loving words we never spoke, for the selfish and resentful thoughts that fill our minds and the generous open hearted acceptance that so often eludes us. Loving God, hear our prayer.
 
The Lord says, ‘Your sins are forgiven. Accept my peace.’’
And so, as people touched by the forgiveness of God in Christ,
let us say the words which he taught us:
 
Our Father…
 
Prayer of illumination
 
Loving God, as we listen to the words of Jesus and of Paul this morning, may they challenge our comfort and comfort us in our challenges. Amen.
 
Readings
 
St Matthew 18.21-35 (New International Readers’ Version)
 
Peter came to Jesus. He asked, “Lord, how many times should I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
 
Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but 77 times.

“The kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to collect all the money his servants owed him. As the king began to do it, a man who owed him 10,000 bags of gold was brought to him. The man was not able to pay. So his master gave an order. The man, his wife, his children, and all he owned had to be sold to pay back what he owed.
 
“Then the servant fell on his knees in front of him. ‘Give me time,’ he begged. ‘I’ll pay everything back.’ His master felt sorry for him. He forgave him what he owed and let him go.
 
“But then that servant went out and found one of the other servants who owed him 100 silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he said.

“The other servant fell on his knees. ‘Give me time,’ he begged him. ‘I’ll pay it back.’
 
“But the first servant refused. Instead, he went and had the man thrown into prison. The man would be held there until he could pay back what he owed. The other servants saw what had happened and were very angry. They went and told their master everything that had happened.
 
“Then the master called the first servant in. ‘You evil servant,’ he said. ‘I forgave all that you owed me because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on the other servant just as I had mercy on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers. He would be punished until he paid back everything he owed.
 
“This is how my Father in heaven will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
 
Romans 14.1-13 (The Message)
 
Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with—even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently.
 
For instance, a person who has been around for a while might well be convinced that he can eat anything on the table, while another, with a different background, might assume he should only be a vegetarian and eat accordingly. But since both are guests at Christ’s table, wouldn’t it be terribly rude if they fell to criticizing what the other ate or didn’t eat? God, after all, invited them both to the table. Do you have any business crossing people off the guest list or interfering with God’s welcome? If there are corrections to be made or manners to be learned, God can handle that without your help.
 
Or, say, one person thinks that some days should be set aside as holy and another thinks that each day is pretty much like any other. There are good reasons either way. So, each person is free to follow the convictions of conscience.
 
What’s important in all this is that if you keep a holy day, keep it for God’s sake; if you eat meat, eat it to the glory of God and thank God for prime rib; if you’re a vegetarian, eat vegetables to the glory of God and thank God for broccoli. None of us are permitted to insist on our own way in these matters. It’s God we are answerable to—all the way from life to death and everything in between—not each other. That’s why Jesus lived and died and then lived again: so that he could be our Master across the entire range of life and death, and free us from the petty tyrannies of each other.
 
So where does that leave you when you criticize a brother? And where does that leave you when you condescend to a sister? I’d say it leaves you looking pretty silly—or worse. Eventually, we’re all going to end up kneeling side by side in the place of judgment, facing God. Your critical and condescending ways aren’t going to improve your position there one bit. Read it for yourself in Scripture:
 
“As I live and breathe,” God says,
    “every knee will bow before me;
Every tongue will tell the honest truth
    that I and only I am God.”
 
So tend to your knitting. You’ve got your hands full just taking care of your own life before God.
 
 Forget about deciding what’s right for each other. Here’s what you need to be concerned about: that you don’t get in the way of someone else, making life more difficult than it already is.
 
 
Hymn:      As Gentle As Silence
                  Estelle White © McCrimmon Publishing Company, Ltd.
  O the love of my Lord
is the essence
of all that I love here on earth.
All the beauty I see
He has given to me
and His giving
is gentle as silence.
 
2: Every day, every hour,
every moment,
have been blessed
by the strength of His love.
At the turn of each tide
He is there at my side
and his touch
is as gentle as silence.   3: There have been times
when I’ve turned from His presence
and I have walked other paths, other ways.
But I’ve called on His name,
in the dark of my shame
and His mercy was gentle as silence.
 
Sermon
 
When I was brought up in Sunday School, just a mile or so from here, Jesus’s multiplication table of forgiveness was one of the teacher’s favourite lessons. It became one of mine, too, because I knew what 70 times 7 was (490 in case you’re interested), and I knew that Jesus was not actually saying we should count to 490 and then stop forgiving.
 
In later life, I am afraid that the lesson has soured somewhat. In church life, this text – and the Christian value of forgiveness – has been misused by abusers to buy the silence of the abused, by oppressors to buy the silence of the oppressed and by manipulative shepherds to buy the silence of the flock. “Forgive and forget” must be one of the most misused summaries of the Christian gospel – and, as we know, the abused, the oppressed and the mistreated flock cannot forget, however, much they believe that they should forgive.

So what say we of this text in the 21st century? Firstly, it’s useful to know that in the version we heard read today (where Jesus says forgive not 490 times but 77 times), he is deliberately referring back to the book of Genesis. In Genesis chapter 4, when God puts a protective mark on Cain, God says that if anyone kills him, 7 lives will be taken in revenge. Five generations later, Cain’s descendant Lamech increases the tariff – if he is killed, 77 lives will be taken [Gen 4.15,24]. As he so often does, Jesus subverts this ancient story of violence begetting violence with one of forgiveness begetting forgiveness. This is the transformation that Jesus brings when he gets involved in our lives.
 
Just as Jesus takes a story from one culture and adapts it for another, so we then need to do the same. I really like this re-telling of Jesus’s parable in John Henson’s Good as New paraphrase of the Bible:
 
There was once the head of a large business who decided to call in her debts from her associates. She looked at the books and found that one was up to his neck in debt, more than would take several lifetimes to repay. She made an appointment to see him and threatened to send in the bailiffs and deprive his wife and children of house and home.
 
The man, with tears in his eyes, pleaded for more time. ‘Give me a chance,’ he said, ‘and I’ll pay it all back!’
 
The woman’s heart melted. She released her associate from his debts and told him not to worry about it any more.
 
But that very lucky man, as he was on his way out, bumped into a member of his club who owed him a small sum, no more than a few weeks’ wages.
 
He grabbed him by the throat and said, ‘Where’s my money?’
The man, shaking all over, said, ‘Please don’t be hard on me. You’ll get your money back. Just give me time!’
 
But he wouldn’t hear of it. He took him to court on a charge of theft, and the poor man ended up in prison. He was also ordered to repay the money.
 
The other club members knew about what had happened and were disgusted. They made sure the company boss got to hear the story. She sent again for her associate.
 
She said, ‘You nasty piece of work! I released you from your debt because of the tears in your eyes. Wasn’t that the cue for you to go easy on your friend?’
 
In anger she severed all business connections with him, ensured that he was completely ruined and called for his debts to be paid in full from his assets. That’s how my Parent will treat you if you don’t in love pass over the wrongs others do to you.
 
John Henson, Good as New: A Radical Retelling of the Scriptures
(O-Books, Winchester, 2004. pp 155-6)
 
John’s retelling helps us realise what a contemporary story this is – and how radical it is. These days, we hear that debt has risen alarmingly during the Covid crisis. While doorstep lending has been much more heavily controlled in recent years – not least because of campaigning by the churches – online payday loans and informal debt are growing. Christians Against Poverty and other debt counselling charities find their caseloads rising and the stories they tell are immensely distressing. People are ruined - and threatened with ruin – every day.
 
But in our story, the head of the large business (the king in Jesus’s original) decides to be magnanimous. It’s probably no big deal – she can afford to take the hit. She forgives the debt. But forgiveness, says Jesus, should multiply – just as revenge multiplied in the time of Cain and Lamech. That is where the one-time debtor gets it so wrong. Instead of multiplying the forgiveness, he multiplies the exploitation of the poor by the rich – which is the very foundation of debt. That is why the forgiveness first offered evaporates. We can choose to multiply forgiveness, or we can choose to multiply revenge. There is no middle way, says Jesus. When revenge takes over it soon runs out of control – and can easily consume whoever started the chain. When forgiveness takes over, a virtuous circle is created.
Paul, in the letter to the Romans, brings this home to church life.
 
Of course, financial debt can be a worry in church, but often what really gets us worked up is our deeply felt moral convictions. Eugene Petersen in The Message, as we heard, helpfully brings this passage too right up to date. In every generation, church debates about food and drink can become very heated. A generation or two ago it was serving alcohol at church events which caused such arguments. In our day, as we become ever more acutely aware of our responsibility to God’s creation, we find ourselves asking - what matters most? Is it reducing food miles or supporting Fairtrade? Should we serve only vegetarian food? Or only vegan? Can we forgive our fellow Christians who decide that it is acceptable to eat meat (by the way, I recommend grass-fed Welsh lamb and Welsh beef)? As Paul says, legitimate and important debate soon becomes a blame game, and – like revenge – blame soon multiplies. Can we replace that multiplication with a multiplication of acceptance and forgiveness? Even in Church Meeting?
 
We deliberately went one verse further than the lectionary today, to hear Paul offer not only his critique of the church in Rome but also his solution. As the Good News Bible translates it, You should decide never to do anything that would make your brother [or sister] stumble or fall into sin. My first concern, says Paul, should not be about whether I am standing on the moral high ground, it should be about how I can stop you from falling.
Which brings us back to the abuse of forgiveness. Manipulating other people into forgiving me is not what Jesus is talking about at all. He is talking about my forgiving others, from the heart, so that they can begin to multiply that forgiveness. It was an abuse of forgiveness which got the debtor in Jesus’s parable into such trouble, and meant that the value of the forgiveness so quickly unravelled. So-called forgiveness which is manipulated out of the forgiver multiplies only fear, guilt and – sometimes – revenge. It has nothing whatsoever to do with what Jesus or Paul had in mind. Indeed, it is the precise opposite.
 
All of this reminded Fiona of a song from her Sunday School days, which she is going to sing for us now. I wonder if you remember it?
Love is something if you give it away,
give it away, give it away,
Love is something if you give it away,
You end up having more.
It’s just like a magic penny;
Hold it tight and you won’t have any;
Lend it, spend it, and you’ll have so many,
they’ll roll all over the floor, for:
Love is something if you give it away,
give it away, give it away,
Love is something if you give it away,
You end up having more.
 
(Malvina Reynolds © 1955 Northern Music Corp, used by permission of Essex Music Ltd; taken from New Life: songs and hymns for assemblies, clubs and churches, Galliard, 1971)
 
We may be living through a time when multiplying pennies will become much more difficult for many of us. But love and forgiveness – they can still multiply today as always.
 
May it be so in our lives, in our churches, in our businesses and on our planet. Amen.
 
Hymn:      Forgive our sins, as we forgive
                Rosamund Herklots (1905 – 1987)  © Oxford University Press
  'Forgive our sins
as we forgive,'
you taught us, Lord, to pray,
but You alone
can grant us grace
to live the words we say.
 
2. How can your pardon
reach and bless
the unforgiving heart,
that broods on wrongs
and will not let
old bitterness depart?
 
3. In blazing light
Your Cross reveals
the truth we dimly knew:
what trivial debts
are owed to us,
how great our debt to you!

4. Lord, cleanse the depths within our souls,
and bid resentment cease;
then, bound to all
in bonds of love,
our lives will spread your peace.   Affirmation of Faith
 
We believe in God, creator of all,
whose word sustains the life of humanity,
and directs our history.
God is our life.

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

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

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

 
Offertory
 
Many United Reformed Churches have been displaying the poster which says “Our church is open – it’s only the building that’s closed.” If anything, our ministry has reached more people during the pandemic than when things are supposedly ‘normal’. So much of that ministry is unpaid, and yet there are financial costs incurred in feeding the hungry, tending to the sick and ministering to the dying, and in administering our mission, and your contributions will be put to good use. So, even if your local church building is now partially open again, please take this opportunity to set aside your offering for the work of Christ’s church, whether it be cash, cheque or electronic transfer.
 
Let us pray.
 
Loving God, you have already today accepted our confession and turned it into forgiving love; you have accepted our prayers and turned them into loving purposes; you have accepted our praises and turned them into the song of heaven. Now accept our offerings of money and time and turn them into the tender ministry of the body of Christ in your world today.  Amen.
Intercessions
 
Let us pray to God, trusting in his mercy to all who call upon him in faith. We pray for the Church: guard her, we pray, from too much concern for lesser things, and from placing self-righteousness in the place of forgiveness.
 
We pray for those who work in the world of finance, that they may be just and compassionate in their dealings, especially with those individuals and businesses now facing financial hardship. Give them wisdom, and the grace to use their skill not for their own enrichment but for the welfare of all.
 
We pray for those distressed by debt or financial worry, whether through poor decisions, bad luck or because they never had a chance in life. Strengthen us and our churches to continue to serve those in need, not in smug judgement but in a multiplication of the love and forgiveness we have known.
 
We pray too for the greedy and the unforgiving, for those who exploit vulnerable people or the fragile earth for their own selfish ends. Turn by your grace, we pray, the hearts of those who oppress the poor and needy.
 
We pray for ourselves, that we may share forgiveness and love as we live and work with others. Since none of us can live to ourselves alone, help us to continue to care for our community, and help us so to forgive that we may be forgiven.
 
Loving God, we offer these our prayers to you in the spirit of your forgiveness,  as we trust at the last to be forgiven in the name of Jesus.  Amen.
 
Hymn:      Help Us Accept Each Other
                Fred Kaan  © 1975 Hope Publishing Company, 380 S Main Pl,
                Carol Stream, IL 60188
  Help us accept each other
as Christ accepted us;
teach us as sister, brother,
each person to embrace.
Be present, Lord, among us
and bring us to believe:
we are ourselves accepted
and meant to love and live.
 
2: Teach us,
O Lord, your lessons,
as in our daily life
we struggle to be human
and search for hope and faith.
Teach us to care for people,
for all - not just for some,
to love them as we find them
or as they may become.
 
3: Let your acceptance
change us
so that we may be moved
in living situations
to do the truth in love;
to practice your acceptance
until we know by heart
the table of forgiveness
and laughter's healing art.
 
4: Lord, for today's encounters
with all who are in need,
who hunger for acceptance,
for justice and for bread,
we need new eyes for seeing,
new hands for holding on:
renew us with your Spirit;
Lord, free us, make us one.
Blessing
 
Ac yn awr boed i ras ein Harglwydd Iesu Grist, a chariad Duw a chymdeithas yr Ysbryd Glân fod gyda ni oll yr awr hon ac hyd byth. And the blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with us all and those for whom we pray, today and always. Amen.
 
 
 
 
 
Sources
 
Call to Worship from Feasting on the Word Year A
Affirmation of Faith from the Reformed Church of France.
Prayers of Approach, Confession and Forgiveness extended from Rachel Poolman’s prayer for today in the URC Prayer Handbook.
Intercessions adapted from Leading Intercessions, Raymond Chapman, bilingual edition, Canterbury Press, 2003
All other material from Gethin Rhys.
 
Dear Lord and Father of Mankind from BBC’s Songs of Praise
Gentle As Silence sung by Kathy Nugent
Forgive us our sins as we forgive by Koiné
Help us to Accept Each Other sung by Ang Mo Kio Methodist Church, Singapore.     Opening Music:  Procession by Arthur Wills (organ of Santa Maria dei Miracoli, Venice, Italy – 2014) Closing Music Fugue in G Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach (organ of The Spire Church, Farnham – 2020) both played by Brian Cotterill briancotterill.webs.com. Thanks to Myra Rose, Walt Johnson, Liane Todd, John Wilcox, Ray Fraser, the choir of Barrhead URC and thanks to Kathleen & Callum Haynes, Elfreda Tealby-Watson & Greg Watson, David & Christine Shimmin, Elizabeth Kemp,  Marion Thomas, Tina Wheeler and Myra Rose for recording, virtually, the Call to Worship and Affirmation of Faith.
 

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


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URC Daily Devotion Sunday 13th September 2020 Psalm 14

URC Devotion - Sun, 13/09/2020 - 06:00
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Oh that your salvation and your rescue
would swiftly come to renew your people.

The fools have said in their heart:
“There is no God”: they are corrupt,
their deeds are all loathsome;
not one of them does good.

The Lord looks down from the heavens
seeking for those who understand, any seeking out God;
all have turned aside in conjoint corruption
and fallen short of God’s glory,
and among them not one of them does good.

Will evil doers not learn?  
Greedy, devouring God’s chosen people like they chew bread.
They shall quake with dread 
for the Lord is present in power among all his people.
Yes, the Lord will be our protecting strength.

You can hear v1 sung here
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3nNeXyNpRc

Reflection

I am writing this Devotion while stuck at home owing to the Coronavirus, and I daresay that many of us will have cried something similar to the first line of today’s Psalm. ‘Oh, that Your salvation and Your rescue would swiftly come and renew Your people’.  Many of us, I am sure, will call out to God in times of need, and while some will get the answer they seek, some may hear nothing back.

A little while ago, when all of the lockdown measures first came into place, I was involved with a service conducted over Facebook Live, in connexion with a local Methodist church (see the play on words?). The service itself was lovely, and the regular congregation enjoyed it.  The church had paid to boost the post to the local area, and amid all of the positive responses, one gentleman was obviously annoyed with what he saw.  This man was determined that ‘there is no God’.  He made his views clear, he posted comment after comment, and the minister and others politely engaged with him, even offering to meet for a chat after lockdown came to an end.  After a while, it was clear that we were getting nowhere, and the gentleman’s comments were becoming more and more angry, so the minister stopped responding.

Now, I should make it clear that I am not equating the upset commenter with people who are ‘corrupt’, nor am I saying that negative comments are ‘loathsome deeds’.  I would be the first to argue that people are entitled to their opinions and that free speech is the cornerstone of a civilised society.  But at times, we all have to admit when we can do no more. We must, to quote Jesus, shake the dust from our feet and move on.  Eventually, we hope, the Holy Spirit will move in that person/group’s lives, and in the meantime, we can pray.

This may feel like giving in, it may feel like giving up. It may leave us feeling beaten and weak. But we must remember that God is ‘present in power among His people. Yes, the Lord will be our protecting strength’. 

Prayer

Loving God,
Go with us as we labour for Your Kingdom,
go with us as we share Your Word.
Grant us the strength to proclaim Your Gospel anew,
grant us the insight to know when to move on,
and help us to remember that You are always alongside us, 
as our protecting strength. Amen   --> Today's writer Michael RJ Topple, Lay Preacher and member of Chappel URC, Essex Copyright New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Saturday 12th September 2020 Moses’ Death

URC Devotion - Sat, 12/09/2020 - 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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Moses’ Death

Deuteronomy 34: 1 - 12

Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho, and the Lord showed him the whole land: Gilead as far as Dan,  all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea,  the Negeb, and the Plain—that is, the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees—as far as Zoar.  The Lord said to him, ‘This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, “I will give it to your descendants”; I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there.’  Then Moses, the servant of the Lord, died there in the land of Moab, at the Lord’s command.  He was buried in a valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor, but no one knows his burial place to this day.  Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died; his sight was unimpaired and his vigour had not abated.  The Israelites wept for Moses in the plains of Moab for thirty days; then the period of mourning for Moses was ended.

Joshua son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, because Moses had laid his hands on him; and the Israelites obeyed him, doing as the Lord had commanded Moses.

Never since has there arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.  He was unequalled for all the signs and wonders that the Lord sent him to perform in the land of Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his servants and his entire land, and for all the mighty deeds and all the terrifying displays of power that Moses performed in the sight of all Israel.

Reflection

So, after 40 years wandering in the desert Moses gets to see the promised land, but dies before he can reach it.  Amazingly, at the age of 120 he has impaired sight and unabated vigour - I imagine plenty of us wish we had those at 30/50/70 let alone 120!  Despite this, you might think he has failed in his life’s work - he hasn’t managed to lead the Israelites into Canaan - but there’s no sense of that in the text.  Rather, it’s seen as a fulfilment of the promise made earlier in Numbers 27, where God said that Moses would not reach the promised land himself, because of his rebellion in the wilderness.

Moses has, however, identified Joshua as his successor, who will lead the people into the promised land.  He’s recognised that the task of leadership is something bigger than he can accomplish in his own life.  How often do we manage to do the same?  Do we encourage other people to grow as leaders and take more responsibility, or do we feel we can’t trust anyone else to do something properly?  People who care for vulnerable relatives are often very careful to make sure there are proper arrangements for looking after their spouse or child after they die - but others of us can sometimes seem to behave as if we are immortal and irreplaceable, which doesn’t do us, others, or the causes we care for any good.

In churches we are often very aware of the saints who have gone before us - even commemorating them in the names of our buildings, for example.  But we should also think of those who will remain after we have gone, and make sure that we are encouraging their gifts of prophecy and leadership, just as Moses encouraged Joshua.

Prayer

Lord, you call each of us to our own form of service.
May we help each other discern our callings, and encourage each other in our journeys of faith.
We pray for those called to be leaders, that they may serve with honour, and know that leadership is a team game, rather than a virtuoso performance.
And may we know how to be followers, as we seek to follow your way.
Amen.   --> Today's writer Gordon Woods, Elder, St. Columba’s URC, Oxford Copyright New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Friday 11th September 2020 Joshua Commissioned

URC Devotion - Fri, 11/09/2020 - 06:00
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  Joshua Commissioned

Deuteronomy 31: 1 - 8

When Moses had finished speaking all[a] these words to all Israel, he said to them: ‘I am now a hundred and twenty years old. I am no longer able to get about, and the Lord has told me, “You shall not cross over this Jordan.” The Lord your God himself will cross over before you. He will destroy these nations before you, and you shall dispossess them. Joshua also will cross over before you, as the Lord promised. The Lord will do to them as he did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites, and to their land, when he destroyed them. The Lord will give them over to you and you shall deal with them in full accord with the command that I have given to you. Be strong and bold; have no fear or dread of them, because it is the Lord your God who goes with you; he will not fail you or forsake you.’

Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel: ‘Be strong and bold, for you are the one who will go with this people into the land that the Lord has sworn to their ancestors to give them; and you will put them in possession of it. It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.’

Reflection

This reading caught my eye as I was looking through the choices as I’m a great fan of Joshua and his story.  It then struck me that today (11th September) is our 27th wedding anniversary so I was reminded once more how God does indeed move in mysterious ways. And the passage today is certainly mysterious.  First of all, Moses doesn’t get the ’happy ending’ he must have hoped for to his long and exhausting journey – he will never get to enter the Promised Land he has spent so long leading the Israelites towards.  Instead, Moses must hand over that responsibility to his younger colleague Joshua.
 
It's challenging enough not to be able to fulfil our dreams, no matter how God-given they might appear to be, and surely it’s even worse to commission someone else to fulfil that dream instead. I think if I’d been Moses all those years ago, I certainly wouldn’t have been so gracious or so compassionate in word or action.  But Moses understands that God is always generous in love and deed, and he commissions Joshua in the same way that God originally commissioned him – that is, with love and confidence and the knowledge that God will always be with him.  Because it is God Himself who chooses and directs our path and works out what is best for us and not we ourselves. In this way, the imposing of limitation is as much a blessing as liberation.  Both can be gifts.
 
Prayer
 
Dear God, help us to trust in You and Your plans for us. Help us to understand and accept Your divine will, no matter where it leads us or where it does not. Amen.   --> Today's writer Anne Brooke attends Elstead URC in Surrey. 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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