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Daily Devotion by Dave Coaker

URC Devotions - 13 hours 30 min ago
96 Daily Devotion by Dave Coaker Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Titus 3: 3 - 5

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, despicable, hating one another.  But when the goodness and loving-kindness of God our Saviour appeared,  he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. Reflection When I read through this reading I can’t help but hear an echo of Luke’s telling of Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the tax-collector. (Luke 18: 9-14) The Pharisee taking centre-stage and, in a not so quiet voice, declaring ‘God, I thank you that I am righteousness and not foolish, disobedient, led astray, a slave to various passions and pleasures, prone to passing my days in malice and envy, being despicable, or hating others like those people.’ And then in a quiet dimly lit corner, facing the wall, the tax-collector mumbling ‘God, I give thanks for your loving-kindness and mercy, your free gift of rebirth and renewal, and the example of Christ to follow even though I keep stumbling along the way.’

The writer of this letter isn’t using this list in this way though. They are encouraging positive behaviour, not the humiliation of others. The writer is acknowledging that both they, and the recipients of the letter, had previously led very imperfect lives but that now, through no action of theirs and completely reliant on the grace of God, they are now saved from such lives.

They may well be saved, but you don’t bother writing a letter in the ancient world if everything is rosy. Probably the writer has heard that people within the community that Titus gathers together are behaving in such ways, or like the Pharisee in the parable. The letter is sent to encourage them that God is good, loving and merciful, and the opportunity to change is present within every moment. God has saved them and them being prudent, obedient, faithful, self-controlled, kind, generous, admirable, and loving is not a condition of that liberation but a loving response to it.
 

Prayer

Living God,
you place reminders
of your goodness
before us
if we but look to see them.

Through the example of Jesus,
our fellow travellers on his Way,
and the actions of your Spirit in the world,
you encourage us to lead faithful
and loving lives.

Yet we still stumble
and need to be reminded of your goodness before we turn in on ourselves,
forgetting your invitation to renewal.

May Your  goodness, mercy and love
be present this day. Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d David Coaker is minister of Grays URC

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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Daily Devotion 15th July 2018

URC Devotions - Sun, 15/07/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion 15th July 2018 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Psalm 55: 1-8

1 O God, please listen to my prayer;
do not ignore my plea.
2 My anxious thoughts make me distraught;
O hear and answer me.

3 I’m troubled by the voice of foes,
by their malicious stare;
For they bring suffering to me—
their hatred I must bear.

4 Within me anguish grips my heart;
death’s terrors have come near.
5 I tremble and am terrified;
I’m overwhelmed by fear.

6 “O that I, like a dove, had wings!
Then I would fly away
7 And be at rest; I’d flee from here
and in the desert stay.

8 “Then would I to my hiding-place
for refuge take my flight,
Far from the raging of the storm
and from the tempest’s might.”


You can hear a Free Church of Scotland congregation sing this to the tune St Flavian here. Reflection Ever felt bullied? I haven’t really, but at school I hated the teasing. They mocked my accent, straight back and treble solos in Assembly. Dad said it was character-forming, but I still loathe teasing. True bullying, though, is harrowing, undermining confidence, damaging self-esteem, eroding equilibrium, even making life seem worthless. It’s not uncommon – at school, at work, at home – and all the more insidious when in a passive aggressive disguise, masquerading as silence, over-politeness, or those surreptitious glances that can so disarm us.

Is Psalm 55 about bullying? Some think it is David feeling tormented by his son or his predecessor. Who knows? But in the writer’s dis-ease, ‘anguish grips my heart’. As if being hounded by a hawk, the Psalmist longs for the wings of a dove, to fly away to hiding and rest.

Mendelssohn set verse six to a haunting melody. Ironically, I had to sing it in Assembly. Looking straight at those who ragged me, I sang, ‘far away would I roam’. It’s sheer poetry – a prayer to God for help - and the singing of it was enough to strengthen and encourage me, so that I need not fly away, but find in God’s faithful presence all I needed to hang in there until teasers became friends, which some of them remain. When we really are bullied, though, we may need to get out of the way; it would be folly not to do so. All the more reason then prayerfully to open ourselves to God, perhaps with St Teresa of Avila:
 

Prayer

Nothing distress you,
nothing affright you,
everything passes,
God will abide.
Love in due measure
measureless Goodness;
patient endeavour,
run to Love’s call!
Faith burning brightly
be your soul’s shelter;
who hopes, believing,
accomplishes all.
(Rejoice & Sing 548)

Today's Writer

The Revd Nigel Uden, is a minister serving in CambrIdge and as a Moderator of the General Assembly

Bible Version

 
Sing Psalms! © Psalmody and Praise Committee, Free Church of Scotland, 15 North Bank Street, Edinburgh, EH1 2LS
Copyright © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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Daily Devotion 14th July 2018

URC Devotions - Sat, 14/07/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion 14th July 2018 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Titus 3: 1-2

Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work,  to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarrelling, to be gentle, and to show every courtesy to everyone. Reflection One of the ‘spine-tingling’ moments of the Statement concerning the Nature, Faith and Order of the United Reformed Church, used in our services of ordination and induction, has always been, for me, the assertion that ‘In things that affect obedience to God the Church is not subordinate to the state, but must serve the Lord Jesus Christ, its only Ruler and Head.’

We stand in a long line of those who chose not to conform to the church established by law – including those who walked away (at immense personal costs) from their livings – to stand up for their belief in a Church that was free of state interference. Importantly, this wasn’t (and isn’t!) anti-government (or even anti-monarchy) but was a statement that obedience to God required freedom from the trappings of a state religion, recognising that it is the role of civil authorities to serve ‘God's will of justice and peace for all humankind’.

Our obedience, then, is not towards the ‘rulers and authorities’ – although we are to be subject to them – but to follow the commands of God in our dealings with the world. In a letter of commands for faithful living, Titus gives us some things that would help us in our obedience to God, as we live out our lives as honest disciples in the civic society. We may believe that civil authorities are to serve God’s ‘justice and peace’, but Titus reminds us that justice, courtesy, gentleness and peace are also for us to observe.

Each time we think about making changes to our Church – not to step away from state interference, but to our local worship, synod policies, or denominational structures – we find ourselves in quarrels, disputes and conflicts, and yet we do so, apparently, to be in ever closer obedience to God. Is this a contradiction we can ever resolve?
 

Prayer

In our obedience to you,
help us to respond
not with schism and quarrel
but in gentleness and courtesy.

In our obedience to you,
help us not to be blinkered
by our own view
but open to the richness
of the world around.

In our obedience to you,
help us as we seek
to be renewed by your Spirit,
to live out your commands,
and to be transformed as faithful disciples,
walking your way. Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Dr Matthew Prevett, Minister, St Andrew’s URC, Monkseaton and Northern Synod.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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Daily Devotion 13th July

URC Devotions - Fri, 13/07/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion 13th July Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Titus 2: 11-15

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly,  while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ.  He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds. Declare these things; exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one look down on you. Reflection The writer encourages his reader to live a counter-cultural life.  A direct assault on the power structures of Empire would have been doomed.  Instead the writer focuses on inner attitudes which would, if exhibited, subvert empire and transform the world.  In a culture where the elite, at least, had unimaginable luxury and every whim, and vice, could be indulged from the enslavement of others the virtue of self-control would have been counter-cultural indeed.   In a culture where values had to bend with the political reality of the current emperor - some of whom were out of control - the virtue of living an upright life would have been counter-cultural indeed. In an age where lip service was paid to the imperial cut but where many of the elite were functionally atheist the virtue of a godly life would have been counter cultural indeed.

Christian values  eventually played their part in the fall of the Roman Empire - an economy based on slavery won’t last when people insist there is no different between slave and free.  Several early bishops of Rome were, themselves, slaves - so the social order was subverted.

Looking back and seeing how things were, and how they were subverted, is much easier than analysing our own world and seeing how God may be calling us to be counter-cultural.  Maybe the writer’s advice is still useful - self control in an age of excess still speaks of the One who calls us to live more simply so that others may simply live. Political expediency still seems the order of the day - which in part explains why politicians who seem upright - sincere are given a fair hearing wherever they are on the left-right spectrum.  Genuine godliness is still attractive in an age where all truths are deemed equal.

We won’t challenge our world order directly but, like those early Christians, we can embody the values of the Kingdom of Go which subvert the powers and principalities of our own age.
 

Prayer

Lord Jesus,
you overturned the tables,
upset the religious,
and threatened the powerful,
help us to live self controlled,
upright and Godly lives,
that we may play our part
in changing our world
as we long
for the coming of your Kingdom.
Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Andy Braunston is minister of Barrhead, Shawlands and Stewarton URCs in the Synod of Scotland’s Southside Cluster.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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Daily Devotion 12th July 2018

URC Devotions - Thu, 12/07/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion 12th July 2018 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Titus 2: 9-10

Tell slaves to be submissive to their masters and to give satisfaction in every respect; they are not to answer back, not to pilfer, but to show complete and perfect fidelity, so that in everything they may be an ornament to the doctrine of God our Saviour. Reflection
I was horrified to learn that in 1791, when a bill to abolish the slave trade lost in the House of Commons, Church bells rang out in celebration. This piece of Scripture is a real challenge.

At the time that it was written, perhaps, a third of people in the Roman world were slaves. Many were born into slavery – members of an underclass who were often treated more as animals than as people. Yet this letter to Titus seems to tell them to accept their lot.

Perhaps it helps to hear in these verses an echo of Romans 12: 1 “..present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God..”. Just as the Christian lives to serve God, so the Christian slave lives to serve others, but always as a child of God, with choice and dignity.

Maybe the best we can do is to see these verses as a reminder that what is true for those slaves is true for all of us. “You might be the only Jesus someone ever sees” may seem like a faded old preacher’s phrase, but how those of us who call ourselves ‘Christian’ behave can have a lasting impact on the people around us.

This is a verse of its time, not our time. Perhaps that is all we need to say.

And yet how to defeat evil and how to be good surely belong together. As we fight against the horrors of injustice, we do well to remember both that our behaviour should bring glory to God, and that those for whom we fight are worthy of being treated with dignity and not merely as those to be helped by us.

We need to fight against slavery and all injustice in our world. We also need to act as those whose lives glorify God.
 

Prayer

God of justice,
Give us eyes to see the needs of our world
and courage to fight where there is evil.
Yet give us, too, grace to serve others
as we would serve you,
and to treat each person
as your beloved child,
as Jesus did
Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Ruth Whitehead is a member of Taunton URC and currently serves as South Western Synod Moderator.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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Daily Devotion by Richard Church

URC Devotions - Wed, 11/07/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion by Richard Church Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Titus 2: 6-8

Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, gravity,  and sound speech that cannot be censured; then any opponent will be put to shame, having nothing evil to say of us. Reflection When Dr Billy Graham died, full of years, the news was full of his integrity in his relationships and in his care in the way he used money. He understood that the message had to be modelled by the messenger. He answered every letter, even when it was from those who disagreed with his ministry. He faced disagreement with dignity. He made mistakes of course, but apologised for them. His intention was to avoid the Gospel being brought into disrepute by his words or actions.

This section of the letter to Titus concerns itself with pastoral advice on how to live as a community of Christ’s people. The rashness of young men is known to the writer and therefore he counsels self control. Thus healthy community rests on each section of the community having concern for the others, rather than simply giving way to the impulse of the moment.
 

Prayer

Lord,
In Jesus we see the Word centred life.
May our words and actions
point beyond ourselves.
Deliver us from hasty speech
and shallow judgements.
By your spirit, grant us wisdom,
Enable us to face opponents with grace
And model good works unselfconsciously,
For your name’s sake,
Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Richard Church is a member of Streatham URC and serves as  Deputy General Secretary (Discipleship).

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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Daily Devotion 10th July 2018

URC Devotions - Tue, 10/07/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion 10th July 2018 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Titus 2: 3-5

Likewise, tell the older women to be reverent in behaviour, not to be slanderers or slaves to drink; they are to teach what is good,  so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children,  to be self-controlled, chaste, good managers of the household, kind, being submissive to their husbands, so that the word of God may not be discredited. Reflection The writer of this ‘instruction leaflet’ is certainly going through a long list of who should do what and how, so that Titus, as leader of the new and struggling Christian community in Crete has definite guidelines on how Christians could stand out in the community in which they live and work.

Having told the old men how to behave, it is now the turn of older women. I am an ‘older woman’– though it comes as a shock to think of myself in that way and I’m usually in denial!  Nevertheless, I want to ask how we ‘older women’ feel about the instructions given for our behaviour? Is it relevant for us today?

I’m not sure about reverent behaviour – in fact I tend to agree with Jennie Joseph who wrote: ‘When I am old I shall wear purple, with a red hat that doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me….and I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves…...I shall run my stick along the public railings and make up for the sobriety of my youth…..’

But one of the things we women need is a good chat. To have a gossip. It’s good to share news and views but there’s a thin line between gossiping with someone and about someone else. Oh dear, I know I fall short on that one…. What about you?

The one that gets me at the core of my being is the exhortation to encourage the young women. As a grandmother, I would love to be able to encourage young parents how to deal more appropriately with their children and how my daughters-in-law should care for my sons! I know, however, such wisdom would not be appreciated, welcomed or appropriate.

Perhaps more apt advice to us older women could be: have fun, keep friends and love the next generations just as God loves us.
 

Prayer

Thank you for the wisdom
that comes with age
the freedom to play and rest
and the choice of how to spend time.
Thank you for the wisdom
of younger people
who grow and develop new approaches
and teach us older ones a thing or two!
Forgive us when we fail
to live up to the standards set for us
and help us to be gracious
and accepting of difference.
Amen  

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Lis Mullen, retired minister, member of Kendal URC

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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Daily Devotion 9th July 2018

URC Devotions - Mon, 09/07/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion 9th July 2018 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Titus 2: 1-2

But as for you, teach what is consistent with sound doctrine.  Tell the older men to be temperate, serious, prudent, and sound in faith, in love, and in endurance. Reflection This shortest of short passages raises many questions and challenging ideas for me, not least is how to address them in a short reflection.

Just how might we identify what is sound doctrine or what might be consistent with it?

Then follows the challenge, for me,  that it is to the older men that the responsibility for championing ethical and moral behaviours is given. I baulk at the comparison between such responsibilities and those we shall see proffered to other groupings in society.

This does not seem to fit with Jesus’ teaching about God’s realm or his modelled behaviour which is inclusive of all those diversities in his circle which we can identify. (Some will be hidden or invisible).

There are signs of inclusion in the Epistle too. Titus himself, Paul’s proven trusted colleague over a number of years,  did not come from a Jewish background thus representing a tension between those who might be seen to belong to and be part of the once prevailing culture and norms and those who might bring new and differing perspectives.  Titus, in terms of the regard in which he is held by Paul, represents the value of embracing change, tolerance and the celebration of diversity.

Sound doctrine, for me, is disclosed in behaviour which is Christlike – scripturally-based, challenging but welcoming and open to persuasion.  Sound doctrine demonstrates a gentle strength and discloses love in action and does not seem to me the exclusive prerogative of any segment of humankind.

My sense that sound doctrine has more to do with being than knowing, more pastoral than didactic, is growing. So whilst I covet the gifts of articulation and dialogical discourse my intuition is inclined to value the, perhaps softer, fruits of the Spirit as listed in a well known song mnemonic “the fruits of the spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, self control”
 

Prayer

God in Trinity,
holy in one
lead us through the mazes and tanglewood of our own construction
following the paths you have laid for us.
May we recognise our sisters and brothers not necessarily by words but actions
Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Helen M Mee, Minister at  Granton United Church, Edinburgh and Retiring Convenor of the EqualitiesCommittee

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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Daily Devotion 8th July 2018

URC Devotions - Sun, 08/07/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion 8th July 2018 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Psalm 54

1 Save me, O God, by your great name;
with pow’r deliver me.
2 Hear, O my God, the words I speak
and listen to my plea.

3 For strangers are attacking me;
the ruthless seek my life,
For they have no regard for God
and always stir up strife.

4 Consider this: God is my help;
the Lord upholds my way.
5 In faithfulness destroy my foes;
their slander, Lord, repay.

6 I’ll bring a sacrifice to you,
a free-will offering;
Because your name, O LORD, is good,
your praises I will sing.

7 For you, O LORD, have rescued me
from my distress and woe;
My eyes have looked in victory
upon my cruel foe.

You can hear a Free Church of Scotland congregation sing this to the tune St Andrew here.
Reflection What are the great names in the world today?  Donald? George? Angelina? Kim? Vladimir? Beyonce? Teresa? Jeremy?  The media is full of names, each bringing a picture or pictures to mind, each having some power to influence people’s thoughts and actions, each touching us for good or ill.  The Psalmist would have had his own list, with David and Saul, Abraham and Sarah included in it, but among all those names one name, and one name alone, stood out – the name of God.  That name expressed the essence and heart of God and the Psalmist is desperate to connect with that reality.

This Psalm moves us from lament over the cruelty and ruthlessness of humanity to an awareness of our own vulnerability and need.   But more than that it connects us with the reality of God as the one and only saviour. It begins with the desperate plea, ‘Save me, O God, by your name’ and then leads us to a place of assurance, with the phrases, ‘God is my help’ and ‘the Lord upholds my way’.  The personal tone deepens as the Psalmists turns from describing God’s ways to speaking to God directly, thankfully praying ‘you, O Lord, have rescued me’.

In all this, the goodness of God is underlined and this in turn leads onto a offering of praise and thanksgiving.  God’s name is not an oppressive one, stirring up fear or guilt. Instead God’s name rescues, liberates and lifts up the oppressed.  May God’s name be praised.
 

Prayer

Name above all names,
we praise you.
The I am of all time,
we praise you.
The One named in the child Jesus,
we praise you.
The One who is good above all good,
we praise you.
The One who brings justice to the oppressed,
we praise you.
The one whose victory we glimpse,
we praise you.
Name above all names,
we praise you.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Terry Hinks is minister of  Trinity High Wycombe and Cores End Churches.

Bible Version

 
Sing Psalms © Psalmody and Praise Committee, Free Church of Scotland, 15 North Bank Street, Edinburgh, EH1 2LS
Copyright © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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Daily Devotion 7th July 2018

URC Devotions - Sat, 07/07/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion 7th July 2018 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Titus 1: 10-16  

There are also many rebellious people, idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision;  they must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for sordid gain what it is not right to teach.  It was one of them, their very own prophet, who said, ‘Cretans are always liars, vicious brutes, lazy gluttons.’ That testimony is true. For this reason rebuke them sharply, so that they may become sound in the faith,  not paying attention to Jewish myths or to commandments of those who reject the truth. To the pure all things are pure, but to the corrupt and unbelieving nothing is pure. Their very minds and consciences are corrupted.  They profess to know God, but they deny him by their actions. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work. Reflection I find it reassuring that the majority of Biblical scholars attribute Titus to the second generation of Epistles. In other words they believe it was not written by Paul but by one of his followers or a sympathetic commentator on his heritage, several  years after the apostle’s death. The careful diplomatic work which Titus carried out on Paul’s behalf with the church in Corinth described so tactfully by him elsewhere (Galatians 7.5-16 and 8.16-24) is completely contradicted in this passage – unless we have here the equivalent of an internal, personal  communication from Paul to Titus that was never intended to be made public.

As the Church struggles to establish some order and stability in a society where all sorts of beliefs get mixed together, the letter to Titus lays down the line and creates an all-purpose attack on any false teaching which may come along. It is polemical, generalised and, frankly, quite nasty, drawing on the Cretan philosopher Epimenides’ views from 600 BCE. Christians today would never write such things in letters, e-mails or on social media, would we?

It is understandable that the leader of a community would seek to bolster stability and continuity at a time of flux and insecurity. This fledgling religious movement was vulnerable to different interpretations of its core beliefs, and it was vital to establish some clear irrefutable doctrines. Unfortunately in the process the emphasis tended to be on maintaining the institution through proper behaviour rather than encouraging people to explore the meaning for themselves of the truth of Christ’s life, death and resurrection.  Christians today would never fall into that pit, would we?
 

Prayer

God of grace and truth,
when we perceive threats to our beliefs
bless us with stillness,
and the ability to pause.
Give us patience and fortitude
to choose words and actions
that are powerful and persuasive
so that people will turn to the Way because it offers life.
Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Fiona Thomas, Secretary for Education & Learning and member of Christ Church, Bellingham

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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Daily Devotion by Jacky Embrey

URC Devotions - Fri, 06/07/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion by Jacky Embrey Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Titus 1: 7-9

For a bishop, as God’s steward, must be blameless; he must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or addicted to wine or violent or greedy for gain;  but he must be hospitable, a lover of goodness, prudent, upright, devout, and self-controlled.  He must have a firm grasp of the word that is trustworthy in accordance with the teaching, so that he may be able both to preach with sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict it. Reflection We could perhaps too easily gloss over these verses when we see that they are about Bishops (literally overseers). We are more used to mutual accountability than hierarchy. However, mutual accountability requires us all to play the part of overseers, as well as to be overseen. Not only that, but we are also all called to be God’s stewards, so that the goals listed in these verses are set before each one of us.

I say goals, because we all fall short of them. The trouble is that because we know we’ll never be blameless, it’s too easy to read these verses without reflecting seriously on how to apply them afresh in our lives. Nevertheless, if we feel that there is a yawning gap between our reality and these goals, then there must surely be something that we can do to get closer to them.

This can be where mutual accountability really comes into its own. One of the best ways to keep our goals in sight is to be part of a small confidential group of people, who can work together on their discipleship, pray for one another, and hold each other accountable.

Our goals need to include a firmer grasp of the word, otherwise how can we can live our lives according to it or hold one another to account (which is tantamount to teaching one another)? Consequently, by using these Daily Devotions you have taken a step towards the goals that the writer has set before us. What will your next one be?
 

Prayer

Living God,
How can we be blameless?
Sometimes following you
seems impossible:
too big an ask – too big a task.
Help us to have the courage
to aspire to perfection
and daily to take the next small step
in that direction:
to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.
For we ask it in his name
Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Jacky Embrey, Mersey Synod Moderator

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Daily Devotion by Val Morrison

URC Devotions - Thu, 05/07/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion by Val Morrison Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Titus 1: 5-6

I left you behind in Crete for this reason, that you should put in order what remained to be done, and should appoint elders in every town, as I directed you:  someone who is blameless, married only once, whose children are believers, not accused of debauchery and not rebellious Reflection Paul’s mandate to Titus. I left you behind …to put in order what needs to be done to find the right leaders for Christ’s emerging church. Commendable as the list of standards for appointment to the Eldership is, what strikes me is that there is no room for manoeuvre. There are a number of passages in Paul’s letters which give similar requirements and I have heard Elders today say ‘so what am I doing as an Elder if that is the standard?’

But what this reminded me of more than anything is that tendency in many of us to want to control, whether that is in our church life, our home life or our work life. We have been doing a task for some time, we have had responsibility for some event and there is a suggestion that it is time someone else took on the task, do the organising. Our reaction is to think that ‘they’ will not do it like we did – the implication being ‘they’ will not do it as well as we did. It is true that someone else is unlikely to do whatever it is like we did it but, given the opportunity, they may not just do it differently they may even do it better!

When God calls us to his tasks he doesn’t give us detailed instructions, he challenges us to work with him through the guidance of the Holy Spirit to fulfil that task. He trusts us to use all our life experience and some of that may include experiences of which we are not proud, to enable us to give Him the glory as we serve him.

If God can trust us then surely we should be able to trust each other.
 

Prayer

Gracious God,
we confess that we can be
arrogant enough to think we are
the only ones with the ability
to undertake the tasks you set us.
We thank you for your trust in us
and ask that we may have
the same trust in others
so that everyone,
using their whole life experience,
may serve you in all they do.
Amen

Today's Writer

Val Morrison is an elder in Hall Gate URC, Doncaster and a former Moderator of General Assembly

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
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Daily Devotion by Joshua Thomas

URC Devotions - Wed, 04/07/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion by Joshua Thomas Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Titus 1: 1- 4

Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth that is in accordance with godliness,  in the hope of eternal life that God, who never lies, promised before the ages began—  in due time he revealed his word through the proclamation with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Saviour, to Titus, my loyal child in the faith we share: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Saviour. Reflection How many of us have pondered the questions – ‘who am I?’ and ‘why am I here?’ We can think about these questions on a basic level, each of us has a name, each our own personal story and each one of us will have goals and aspirations which can help to form our identity. But when we think about our being, our personal identity and the meaning of our lives, do we do so with God at the centre; is God’s will firmly in mind at all times?

The letter to Titus sets a challenge to us.  It was written to a very ordinary set of believers and encourages them, and us,  to consider their (and our) lives as an expression of the will of God. Once we do this, any sense of ordinariness is out of the picture, no matter which direction God has led us in.  We are all a vital piece of the puzzle of God’s plan for the world and each piece has meaning and value.

In this salutation, Paul tries to set out what he believes is his purpose. He speaks of himself as God’s ‘servant’. This is unique to this Epistle, although in other writing he does refer to himself as a servant of Christ Jesus. A servant is someone who is committed to their master, they are compelled to act for them and will be submissive to their masters will. Paul’s ministry focused on salvation and the spiritual growth of others. He lived to bring God’s people to faith and maturity in Christ. He did this by encouraging them, not only did he sow the seed, he cultivated it. God’s purpose remained at the centre and Paul was keen to encourage this way of life. Let us commit to trying to live our lives seeking God’s will and placing it at the centre of all we do and all we are.
 

Prayer

Lord God,
we often ask ourselves,
who are we and why are we here?
Your purpose for us
can seem fuzzy and unclear.
Help us to refocus our minds
and to set you at the centre of our lives.
Help us, with the help of others,
to discern where it is
you might be leading us,
and may we always truly mean
the words we often pray,
your will be done.  Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Joshua Thomas is Minister of Petersfield and Liss URC with Bordon.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
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The Epistle to Titus

URC Devotions - Tue, 03/07/2018 - 18:00
96 The Epistle to Titus View this email in your browser

The Epistle to Titus

Dear <<First Name>>

Having read through the Book of Ruth together we are going to turn now to one of the lesser known Epistles in the New Testament - Titus.

Titus isn't mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles, but is noted in Galatians (2:1, 3) where Paul wrote of journeying to Jerusalem with Barnabas, accompanied by Titus. He was then dispatched to Corinth, Greece, where he successfully reconciled the Christian community there with Paul, its founder. Titus was later left on the island of Crete to help organize the Church, and later met back with the Apostle Paul in Nicopolis. He soon went to Dalmatia (now Croatia). According to Eusebius of Caesarea in the Ecclesiastical History, he served as the first bishop of Crete and remained there in his old years. He was buried in Crete but his head was, later, moved to Venice.  

At one point everyone thought that Paul wrote this epistle but now that view is is disputed by many scholars now.  The Epistle deals with issues in the Early Church - false doctrine and the responsibilities of Elders and Bishops.

We hope you find the Epistle interesting as we journey through it together.


with every good wish

Andy

Andy Braunston
Coordinator, Daily Devotions from the URC Project

 

  

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Daily Devotion 3rd July 2018

URC Devotions - Tue, 03/07/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion 3rd July 2018 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Ruth 4: 13 - 22

So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When they came together, the Lord made her conceive, and she bore a son. Then the women said to Naomi, ‘Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without next-of-kin; and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has borne him.’ Then Naomi took the child and laid him in her bosom, and became his nurse.  The women of the neighbourhood gave him a name, saying, ‘A son has been born to Naomi.’ They named him Obed; he became the father of Jesse, the father of David. Now these are the descendants of Perez: Perez became the father of Hezron,  Hezron of Ram, Ram of Amminadab,  Amminadab of Nahshon, Nahshon of Salmon,  Salmon of Boaz, Boaz of Obed, Obed of Jesse, and Jesse of David. Reflection Hands up… who just glanced over those names at the end of today’s reading?

You may have seen the many adverts for websites which allow one to research one’s family, and others which will reveal our origins though a DNA sample. Ancestry and family heritage have always held a fascination for many. For example, a friend of mine has recently discovered a half-brother in Texas.

The Bible contains many such lists, and while the historicity of them cannot be verified, they do bolster the arc of Scripture, support prophecy and provide valuable insight.

As yesterday’s author mentioned, the book of Ruth speaks powerfully about how the marginalised should be treated: the poor, the immigrant, the disenfranchised. You might not be aware that Ruth also speaks to a group of people who often feel rejected by church: the LGBT community. The connection between these two women, Ruth and Naomi, is a very special one. Ruth 1:16-17 is often used at weddings!

Looking backwards into Ruth’s ancestry, we find the Moabites’ beginnings in Genesis 19: Moab born to one of Lot’s daughters, sired by her own father, an account which itself revolts us. Looking forward from Ruth, we find Israel’s great King David with his notable personal relationships with Saul, Jonathan, Michal and Bathsheba. We might find these unsettling.

At Christmas, our readings about Jesus’ birth begin with Matthew 1:18, missing out the first 17 verses. But if you read them, you will find another genealogy - for Jesus. (A similar list can be found in Luke 3:23-38.) There, you will find both Ruth and David.

Many people have felt judged harshly by the Church because of whom they love. If those same judgemental standards were to be applied to some of Jesus’ ancestors…

Those very relationships recorded in the Bible that stand out from the normal can be found in the very ancestry of Jesus Himself!

Prayer

Lord Jesus, You say to us:
“Do not judge,
and you will not be judged.”
Forgive us when we judge others.
Forgive us when we suddenly
grow cold towards others,
when we learn something about them
that unsettles us.
We pray for those hurt by those
who claim to speak in Your name,
but have separated others from Your love.
Give us the strength to speak Your unconditional love afresh.
Lord, in your mercy:
Hear our prayer, and let our cry go unto You. Amen.

Today's Writer

Walt Johnson is an Elder at Wilbraham St Ninian’s, Chorlton, Manchester

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
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Daily Devotion 2nd July 2018

URC Devotions - Mon, 02/07/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion 2nd July 2018 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Ruth 4: 1-12

No sooner had Boaz gone up to the gate and sat down there than the next-of-kin, of whom Boaz had spoken, came passing by. So Boaz said, ‘Come over, friend; sit down here.’ And he went over and sat down.  Then Boaz took ten men of the elders of the city, and said, ‘Sit down here’; so they sat down.  He then said to the next-of-kin, ‘Naomi, who has come back from the country of Moab, is selling the parcel of land that belonged to our kinsman Elimelech.  So I thought I would tell you of it, and say: Buy it in the presence of those sitting here, and in the presence of the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, redeem it; but if you will not, tell me, so that I may know; for there is no one prior to you to redeem it, and I come after you.’ So he said, ‘I will redeem it.’  Then Boaz said, ‘The day you acquire the field from the hand of Naomi, you are also acquiring Ruth the Moabite, the widow of the dead man, to maintain the dead man’s name on his inheritance.’  At this, the next-of-kin said, ‘I cannot redeem it for myself without damaging my own inheritance. Take my right of redemption yourself, for I cannot redeem it.’

Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning redeeming and exchanging: to confirm a transaction, one party took off a sandal and gave it to the other; this was the manner of attesting in Israel.  So when the next-of-kin said to Boaz, ‘Acquire it for yourself’, he took off his sandal.  Then Boaz said to the elders and all the people, ‘Today you are witnesses that I have acquired from the hand of Naomi all that belonged to Elimelech and all that belonged to Chilion and Mahlon.  I have also acquired Ruth the Moabite, the wife of Mahlon, to be my wife, to maintain the dead man’s name on his inheritance, in order that the name of the dead may not be cut off from his kindred and from the gate of his native place; today you are witnesses.’  Then all the people who were at the gate, along with the elders, said, ‘We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your house like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you produce children in Ephrathah and bestow a name in Bethlehem;  and, through the children that the Lord will give you by this young woman, may your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah.’
 
Reflection This deal is intended to fail. Ruth's name is left out of the conversation until the unnamed kinsman has agreed to buy the land. Result: a U-turn. The man wants the land but not the foreign woman who comes with it. He takes off his sandal, echoing an earlier practice which allowed a widow, whose husband's next-of-kin refused to marry her, to pull his sandal off his foot and spit in his face, publicly shaming him (Deut. 25). Removing a sandal became common practice 'to confirm a transaction'. However, refusing to give the woman a home and perpetuate her husband's name was still seen as shameful. The Israelite (whose name is not known...poetic justice?) is less faithful to God's Law than the Moabite woman, whose steadfast love is described three times as hesed – God's lovingkindness (Ruth 1:8,2:20, 3:10).

Ruth's words to Naomi are fulfilled: 'Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.' The public affirmation and blessing of Ruth and Boaz by the people and the elders (4:11-12) places her among some of the great women of Israel. Today she is remembered as an ancestor of David, and named in the lineage of Jesus.

Ruth's story is about hunger and fear, love and commitment; it is about courage and risk – walking into an unknown place needing bread and welcome. This is the reality of life for many people today, fleeing hunger, poverty and war. The story is also about a society providing ways for people to survive: wheat left at the edge of the fields; laws which give support and security to widows, including Ruth the woman of Moab, ancient enemy of Israel.

Today in the UK our politicians have deliberately set out to create 'a hostile environment' for immigrants. Companies and councils drive spikes into the ground to prevent homeless people from sleeping in shelter. What welcome would Ruth find here today?
 

Prayer

God who looked on all that you made
and declared it good,
Christ who spread out your arms
on a cross in loving embrace,
Spirit who came in wind and flame
to inspire and empower:
teach us again that your love is for all
and inspire us to challenge
injustice and prejudice
wherever we find it. Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Heather Pencavel is a retired Minister and a member of Thornbury URC.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
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Daily Devotion 1st July

URC Devotions - Sun, 01/07/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion 1st July Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Psalm 53  

1 The fool speaks in his heart;
“There is no God,” he says.
They are corrupt, their deeds are vile;
none walk in godly ways.

2 The LORD looks down from heaven
upon the human race
To see if any understand,
if any seek God’s face.

3 They all have turned aside;
corrupt they have become.
Not one of them does any good—
no, not a single one.

4 Will sinners never learn?
My people they’ve devoured
As if they were consuming bread;
they never seek the LORD.

5 But see that evil crowd!
They are struck down with dread,
Although they thought within their hearts
they would have ease instead.

The bones of all your foes
were scattered far abroad;
And you have put them all to shame—
they were despised by God.

6 May help from Zion come!
The LORD his captives bring!
And then let Jacob’s tribes be glad;
for joy let Israel sing!
 
You can hear a Free Church of Scotland congregation sing this to the lovely tune Selma here

 
Reflection The fool. We’re taken aback seeing this word. Surely Jesus taught that we should not call anyone a fool? But checking my concordance, this word appears often enough in the Old Testament – in the Psalms and especially in the Book of Proverbs. Each time, there is a recurring theme; about God.

We are told that only a fool denies the existence of God, the sovereignty of God, and the goodness of God; the results for the fool are not good.

We’re not fools, however. Here we are, reading His Word, taking in what He says, meditating on it in our hearts. No, the fool is that other person, the atheist, the humanist, the one who thinks they’re too clever to need God.

A friend suggested her son pray about something and was told sharply that he didn’t need a crutch. Such are the overt atheists. But even we can fall into the pitfall of functional atheism.

When life’s troubles come thick and fast, when governments threaten to plunge the world into disaster, when things have got so bad we fall into despair and give up on hope and trust in a God big enough to sort everything out, in a loving God caring enough and involved enough to intervene… that’s when we are perilously close to functional atheism. Simply not believing who He is, what He can do, that He will… That’s when we are in danger of being fools.

‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.’ Trusting in Him regardless of what the world looks like, refusing to accept the world’s explanations and so-called solutions, and pinning all of our hopes on God – that is true wisdom.

Anything else is the way of the fool.
 

Prayer

Lord, I believe. Help thou my unbelief.

Today's Writer

Dorothy Courtis is a lay preacher and Elder at Halesworth URC in Suffolk

Bible Version

 
Sing Psalms! © Psalmody and Praise Committee, Free Church of Scotland, 15 North Bank Street, Edinburgh, EH1 2LS
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Daily Devotion by Lena Talbot

URC Devotions - Sat, 30/06/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion by Lena Talbot Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Ruth 3: 14 - 18

So she lay at his feet until morning, but got up before one person could recognize another; for he said, ‘It must not be known that the woman came to the threshing-floor.’  Then he said, ‘Bring the cloak you are wearing and hold it out.’ So she held it, and he measured out six measures of barley, and put it on her back; then he went into the city. She came to her mother-in-law, who said, ‘How did things go with you, my daughter?’ Then she told her all that the man had done for her,  saying, ‘He gave me these six measures of barley, for he said, “Do not go back to your mother-in-law empty-handed.”’  She replied, ‘Wait, my daughter, until you learn how the matter turns out, for the man will not rest, but will settle the matter today.’ Reflection The other night I was watching the old film ‘Guess who’s coming to dinner’ where a blonde brings home her black boyfriend. Both parents have to grapple with this. Her mom says, ‘We’ve brought her up to believe that all are equal, the colour of someone’s skin is no more important than the colour of their eyes, but we didn’t say marry one!’ His mom says, ‘They are so in love, we are old we’ve forgotten what it’s like to be in love.’ The young man says of his girlfriend ‘It’s not that she minds the colour difference; she doesn’t even notice it.’

Race relations are happening right here in the book of Ruth. The last few verses remind us that a foreigner, a Moabite, despised and detested by the Jews was the great-grandmother of their greatest King,  So what is all that about? Naomi sees something in her Moabite daughter-in-law that could bring two cultures together.

Ruth had said, ‘Your people will be my people and your God will be my God.’ Naomi encouraged her daughter-in-law to seduce Boaz then she was sent away in secrecy, but not empty handed, sent away with provisions. Naomi obviously knew Boaz well, she says ‘For the man will not rest, but will settle the matter today.’ A shrewd mother-in-law, a willing daughter-in-law and a man in love! The way is paved for the shaping of Jewish history as of course it is from this lineage that Jesus himself is born.

If ever a passage speaks into our relationships today it’s this. Blue Mink did it well many years ago when they sang ‘What we need is a great big melting pot, big enough to take the world and all we’ve got and keep it stirring for a hundred years or more and turn out coffee coloured people by the score.'
 

Prayer

Lord we live in mixed up times,
people of all colours, cultures,
shapes and sizes
make up our communities
and you know and love each one of us.
Help us to love each other
with genuine acceptance
not mere tolerance.
Help us to learn that love
is greater than religion
Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Lena Talbot is Minister of the Blackburn North and East Pastorate

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
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Daily Devotion by Kevin Watson

URC Devotions - Fri, 29/06/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion by Kevin Watson Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Ruth 3: 6 - 13

So she went down to the threshing-floor and did just as her mother-in-law had instructed her.  When Boaz had eaten and drunk, and he was in a contented mood, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain. Then she came quietly and uncovered his feet, and lay down.  At midnight the man was startled and turned over, and there, lying at his feet, was a woman!  He said, ‘Who are you?’ And she answered, ‘I am Ruth, your servant; spread your cloak over your servant, for you are next-of-kin.’  He said, ‘May you be blessed by the Lord, my daughter; this last instance of your loyalty is better than the first; you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich.  And now, my daughter, do not be afraid; I will do for you all that you ask, for all the assembly of my people know that you are a worthy woman.  But now, though it is true that I am a near kinsman, there is another kinsman more closely related than I.  Remain this night, and in the morning, if he will act as next-of-kin for you, good; let him do so. If he is not willing to act as next-of-kin for you, then, as the Lord lives, I will act as next-of-kin for you. Lie down until the morning.’ Reflection If written for today’s market, this would be a story full of sexual overtones, or else a documentary about a vulnerable woman in great danger of abuse. However, it is of a time and culture with very different morals and customs. Even so, we still cringe, maybe even offended at the submissiveness of woman to man, of Ruth being treated like a chattel, and the paternalistic way she is treated, even in Boaz’ kindness. But let us celebrate the qualities of a good man, Boaz; sensitive to Ruth’s predicament, urging her to go before daylight in case of scandal, and giving her grain to take away; honourable and gentle in the way he deals with her; faithful and determined to fulfil any responsibility he has towards her. Related by marriage, Ruth is still a foreign immigrant, and yet Boaz sees her as family.  As for Ruth, each time I read her story, she is a hero of mine – such devotion and loyalty to Naomi, such courage every step of the way, and determination and commitment to do everything she is asked, however dangerous, embarrassing, even damaging to her reputation. Here is amazing love, in whatever society and lifestyle.

Among today’s vulnerable, those at the edge of society and especially asylum seekers and migrant workers, we can often see the same courage and determination, loyalty and devotion as so many risk danger and humiliation to find a safer and better life for their family. In our own families and culture, whether our “Pilgrim Fathers” seeking religious freedom, or generations of forebears crossing the world for a better life, it saddens me when they are honoured as great heroes, whereas today’s travellers are dismissed as foreign rubbish, or the poorest as scroungers. Let us find the heart of Boaz to welcome strangers from overseas, and strange ones from our neighbourhood, and the will of Boaz to make a difference in their lives.

Prayer

Liberating God, set us free:
to act honourably and fairly
in dealing with the vulnerable;

to seek ways to lift up
those fallen on hard times,
or those with less advantages than us;

to recognise the stranger
as a fellow traveller,
as a friend yet to be made;

to discern the experience
and talents of others,
as a gift rather than a threat;

to look out today for an opportunity
to share your grace with someone;

to be generous of Spirit
in using your gifts to us. Amen
 

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Kevin Watson is Moderator of the Yorkshire Synod and Co-moderator of General Assembly

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
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Daily Devotion by Jenny Mills

URC Devotions - Thu, 28/06/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion by Jenny Mills Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Ruth 3: 1 - 5

Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, ‘My daughter, I need to seek some security for you, so that it may be well with you. Now here is our kinsman Boaz, with whose young women you have been working. See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing-floor. Now wash and anoint yourself, and put on your best clothes and go down to the threshing-floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking.  When he lies down, observe the place where he lies; then, go and uncover his feet and lie down; and he will tell you what to do.’  She said to her, ‘All that you tell me I will do.’ Reflection I remember, when I began training for ministry, becoming aware that there were different views on approaching Scripture: Conservative Evangelical, Liberal, feminist, Liberation Theology…and so on.  I realised I needed to be aware when reading that this was the case.

We develop our views according to the life we have led and the people we have engaged with. Imagine being a woman who has been forced to live a life dictated by family? Imagine being forced to flee your home, and everything you have worked for, and being made to live in a refugee camp? Imagine being marginalised due to your sexuality or gender?  One comes to the texts in the Bible with these experiences and sees texts in a different way to those for whom life has been straightforward or uncomplicated.

Last year I led a Bible Study in two different churches and got two different responses to this text. In one church there was horror and outrage that a woman was expected to give herself sexually to a man in order to find security; in the other there was a sense of the benevolence of Boaz and his kindness, with no hint of sexual favour or male power. I think this is something we all experience: how we approach texts depends on our life experience, learning and the image of God we relate to. In this text, for me, a woman had no choice but to submit to male power. This was of its time; what is horrifying is that this still happens today for people.

Whatever approach we take to Scripture it should speak to us and change us. It is important that we do not just read the texts, but we allow them to challenge us and inspire us to be sharers of light and love where we find ourselves, and as we are able.
 

Prayer

Gracious God,
so often we come with preconceptions
and no idea that we carry
so much baggage.
Help us to approach
the words of Scripture
with open hearts,
ears to hear
and eyes to see.
May we then make time to be changed
by what we have experienced
and share this with those
alongside whom we walk.
Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Jenny Mills. Minister at Newport Pagnell URC and West End United Church, Wolverton and Convenor of the URC Children and Youth Work Committee.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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