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Daily Devotion 23rd October 2018

URC Devotions - 17 hours 41 min ago
96 Daily Devotion 23rd October 2018 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

1 Samuel 20: 19 - 34

Jonathan said to him, ‘Tomorrow is the new moon; you will be missed, because your place will be empty.  On the day after tomorrow, you shall go a long way down; go to the place where you hid yourself earlier, and remain beside the stone there. I will shoot three arrows to the side of it, as though I shot at a mark.  Then I will send the boy, saying, “Go, find the arrows.” If I say to the boy, “Look, the arrows are on this side of you, collect them”, then you are to come, for, as the Lord lives, it is safe for you and there is no danger. But if I say to the young man, “Look, the arrows are beyond you”, then go; for the Lord has sent you away.  As for the matter about which you and I have spoken, the Lord is witness between you and me for ever.’

So David hid himself in the field. When the new moon came, the king sat at the feast to eat. The king sat upon his seat, as at other times, upon the seat by the wall. Jonathan stood, while Abner sat by Saul’s side; but David’s place was empty.

Saul did not say anything that day; for he thought, ‘Something has befallen him; he is not clean, surely he is not clean.’ But on the second day, the day after the new moon, David’s place was empty. And Saul said to his son Jonathan, ‘Why has the son of Jesse not come to the feast, either yesterday or today?’ Jonathan answered Saul, ‘David earnestly asked leave of me to go to Bethlehem;  he said, “Let me go; for our family is holding a sacrifice in the city, and my brother has commanded me to be there. So now, if I have found favour in your sight, let me get away, and see my brothers.” For this reason he has not come to the king’s table.’

Then Saul’s anger was kindled against Jonathan. He said to him, ‘You son of a perverse, rebellious woman! Do I not know that you have chosen the son of Jesse to your own shame, and to the shame of your mother’s nakedness?  For as long as the son of Jesse lives upon the earth, neither you nor your kingdom shall be established. Now send and bring him to me, for he shall surely die.’ Then Jonathan answered his father Saul, ‘Why should he be put to death? What has he done?’  But Saul threw his spear at him to strike him; so Jonathan knew that it was the decision of his father to put David to death. Jonathan rose from the table in fierce anger and ate no food on the second day of the month, for he was grieved for David, and because his father had disgraced him.
Reflection It’s not easy to identify with the characters in this saga, with fights over kingship and the wrestling for power. It seems to belong in a very different world from our own. But there is something here, at this point in the story of Saul and Jonathan, that might remind us of moments in our own lives when we quarrelled with our parents. There may not have been spears thrown at the dinner table, but most of can remember moments of drama, stormings out, doors slammed and relationships stretched to breaking. That line about Jonathan rising from the table in fierce anger and eating no food - and those phrases about grieving and feeling disgraced -  they evoke memories of our own childhood or teenage struggles as well as of our own frustrations with offspring. Saul’s anger towards Jonathan, and the terrible things he says about his mother, might remind us of some of the things we have heard or said in our families, terrible things that we wish could be erased, words that wound like spears leaving hurts that are hard to heal. We might sympathise with Saul’s desire to protect Jonathan (if not with his attitude to women…!), but also with Jonathan who wants the freedom to love and befriend whom he will.

The Bible is reassuringly honest about the way that love and hatred can sometimes come so close to one another. And I can imagine that even for those with the best and warmest of families, there are moments of ‘rising from the table in fierce anger’. Even Jesus, it seems from the Gospel accounts, had ‘moments’ with his own family. And I’m sure that the parable of ‘the prodigal son’ comes from a deep wisdom about family brokenness and pain, but also from a deep faith in the infinite possibilities of redemptive love.
 

Prayer

O God,
who loves us intimately and fiercely,
hold us when we rise in anger,
and help us to remember with grace.
Tend with your love our deepest wounds,
so that we may sit around the family table
in open fellowship and in hopeful love.
Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev'd Dr Susan Durber is the minister of Taunton 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 22nd October 2018

URC Devotions - Mon, 22/10/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion 22nd October 2018 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

1 Samuel 20: 1 - 17

David fled from Naioth in Ramah. He came before Jonathan and said, ‘What have I done? What is my guilt? And what is my sin against your father that he is trying to take my life?’ He said to him, ‘Perish the thought! You shall not die. My father does nothing either great or small without disclosing it to me; and why should my father hide this from me? Never!’ But David also swore, ‘Your father knows well that you like me; and he thinks, “Do not let Jonathan know this, or he will be grieved.” But truly, as the Lord lives and as you yourself live, there is but a step between me and death.’ Then Jonathan said to David, ‘Whatever you say, I will do for you.’ David said to Jonathan, ‘Tomorrow is the new moon, and I should not fail to sit with the king at the meal; but let me go, so that I may hide in the field until the third evening. If your father misses me at all, then say, “David earnestly asked leave of me to run to Bethlehem his city; for there is a yearly sacrifice there for all the family.” If he says, “Good!” it will be well with your servant; but if he is angry, then know that evil has been determined by him. Therefore deal kindly with your servant, for you have brought your servant into a sacred covenant with you. But if there is guilt in me, kill me yourself; why should you bring me to your father?’ Jonathan said, ‘Far be it from you! If I knew that it was decided by my father that evil should come upon you, would I not tell you?’ Then David said to Jonathan, ‘Who will tell me if your father answers you harshly?’ Jonathan replied to David, ‘Come, let us go out into the field.’ So they both went out into the field. Jonathan said to David, ‘By the Lord, the God of Israel! When I have sounded out my father, about this time tomorrow, or on the third day, if he is well disposed towards David, shall I not then send and disclose it to you? But if my father intends to do you harm, the Lord do so to Jonathan, and more also, if I do not disclose it to you, and send you away, so that you may go in safety. May the Lord be with you, as he has been with my father. If I am still alive, show me the faithful love of the Lord; but if I die,  never cut off your faithful love from my house, even if the Lord were to cut off every one of the enemies of David from the face of the earth.’ Thus Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, ‘May the Lord seek out the enemies of David.’ Jonathan made David swear again by his love for him; for he loved him as he loved his own life. Reflection At a secondary school assembly I shared the lyrics of “The Friendship Test” by Tenacious D, a conversation in which one tests the friendship of the other by asking the question: “Do you love me?” The other is shocked, asking if he is gay, and whether he fancies him, and eventually can only say that he likes him. His friend declares he has failed the test, but many of us find it difficult to say “I love you.” Many show our love by our support for each other, through thick and thin, but whether by words or deeds, everyone needs to know they are loved.
       
Here, the beautiful story of David and Jonathan, tells of two friends who truly loved each other, a love for which they would risk their lives - with no suggestion of sexual attraction, nor bound by family ties, nor any sense of dutiful care. In that assembly I suggested that in school years they were probably making friendships which would last a lifetime, and possibly even a friendship with which they would trust their lives. That’s the kind of love Jesus calls us to share, the kind of love that Jonathan and David had, and risked their lives for each other. In the mining communities of the North East, there was a word used carefully –  “marra.” Miners worked in pairs, as marras, and you had to totally trust in your marra, because how well you worked together determined how much coal was dug, but more than that, in such a dangerous environment, your life could depend upon him.
    
This is the selfless, self-giving love Jesus gives us and calls us to share with one another. The assembly had such an impact on students and staff, morning lessons were abandoned, and time given to explore what it meant to be a true friend. Perhaps we could do well to reflect on what that means for us marras in the body of Christ.
 

Prayer

Help me Lord
to reflect on all my relationships,
to be thankful for and appreciate
all those who give themselves to me
in so many ways.
To be confident in myself
to give away love freely.
To ever be alert to opportunities,
in word and deed
to show others they are loved.
To help everyone reach the place
where they can even say
“I know God loves me.”

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Kevin Watson, Yorkshire Synod Moderator, 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 21st October 2018

URC Devotions - Sun, 21/10/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion 21st October 2018 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Psalm 69

Save me, O God, because the mighty waters
have come up to my neck on every side.
I sink in miry depths without a foothold;
I am engulfed beneath the deep floodtide.

My throat is parched; I’m weary from my shouting;
my eyes fail, looking to my God for aid.
For those who hate and loathe me without reason
are more than all the hairs upon my head.

Without a cause my foes seek to destroy me;
I have to pay back what I did not steal.
But as for you, O God, you know my folly;
my guiltiness from you I can’t conceal.

May those who hope in you, the LORD Almighty,
not be disgraced on my account, O God;
May those who seek your face, O God of Israel,
not suffer shame because of me, O Lord.

For your sake, LORD, I must endure derision;
my face is covered with contempt and shame.
Even my brothers do not recognise me;
to mother’s sons a stranger I became.

Because devotion to your house consumes me,
those who insult you turn their taunts on me;
And when I mourn with tears of grief and fasting,
I must endure their scorn continually.

When I, in grief and mourning, put on sackcloth,
the people laugh at me the whole day long.
The elders at the city gate deride me;
I am the subject of the drunkard’s song.

But, LORD, I pray in this your time of favour:
in your great love deliver me, O God.
Save me from sinking in the miry waters;
deliver me from those who hate me, LORD.
 


This works well to the tune Lord of the Years which you can hear here.
Reflection I don’t think I have ever stood as close to the edge of despair, or felt as consumed by the hatred and taunts of others, as the Psalmist describes in today’s Psalm. Generally, I live a fairly comfortable life. I have a loving family, employment I enjoy, enough financial resources to live comfortably and am in reasonable health. Perhaps more importantly than these creature comforts, I am free to be myself, to express my opinions and beliefs and live my life as I choose without facing the risk of the derision, prejudice, discrimination and hatred of others being thrown in my direction. Aside perhaps from gender, there is nothing within my identity that routinely comes under attack in the society in which I live. This should surely be true for anyone living in our society today but sadly this remains a privileged position to be in and a failure to recognise and respond accordingly to that privilege is arguably tantamount to contributing to the problem. There are those within our society who come under regular attack for expressing their faith or for remaining true to other aspects of their identity. For them, the words of our Psalm will surely resonate with an added intensity?

It isn’t only a statement of despair though. Steadfast faith and a sense of endurance shine through the words, as does a certainty that praising God is the way out of the mire. For those facing despair, God’s love and the expression of what that love means, is what will bring comfort and deliverance from the raging storm. And when we find ourselves in the position of privilege, we can embody that loving support in the way we live out our lives and in our relationships with others.
 

Prayer

Comforting and all embracing God,
Shine through the darkness of despair,
Rescue those who face derision
for expressing themselves and their faith,
give us the strength
to support and encourage others
to raise their heads
above the cries of hatred,
for in the face
of every challenge and confrontation,
we will lift up our voices in praise to you.
Amen.

Today's Writer

Lucy Cooke, Elder, St Andrew's URC, Monkseaton

Bible Version

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


 
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Daily Devotion 20th October 2018 

URC Devotions - Sat, 20/10/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion 20th October 2018  Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

from 1 Samuel 19: 1 - 17

Saul spoke to his son Jonathan and to all his servants about killing David. But Saul’s son Jonathan took great delight in David.  Jonathan told David, ‘My father Saul is trying to kill you; therefore be on guard tomorrow morning; stay in a secret place and hide yourself.  I will go out and stand beside my father in the field where you are, and I will speak to my father about you; if I learn anything I will tell you.’  Jonathan spoke well of David to his father Saul, saying to him, ‘The king should not sin against his servant David, because he has not sinned against you, and because his deeds have been of good service to you; for he took his life in his hand when he attacked the Philistine, and the Lord brought about a great victory for all Israel. You saw it, and rejoiced; why then will you sin against an innocent person by killing David without cause?’ Saul heeded the voice of Jonathan; Saul swore, ‘As the Lord lives, he shall not be put to death.’  So Jonathan called David and related all these things to him. Jonathan then brought David to Saul, and he was in his presence as before.

Again there was war, and David went out to fight the Philistines. He launched a heavy attack on them, so that they fled before him. Then an evil spirit from the Lord came upon Saul, as he sat in his house with his spear in his hand, while David was playing music. Saul sought to pin David to the wall with the spear; but he eluded Saul, so that he struck the spear into the wall. David fled and escaped that night.

Saul sent messengers to David’s house to keep watch over him, planning to kill him in the morning. David’s wife Michal told him, ‘If you do not save your life tonight, tomorrow you will be killed.’  So Michal let David down through the window; he fled away and escaped. Michal took an idol and laid it on the bed; she put a net of goats’ hair on its head, and covered it with the clothes. When Saul sent messengers to take David, she said, ‘He is sick.’ Then Saul sent the messengers to see David for themselves. He said, ‘Bring him up to me in the bed, that I may kill him.’ When the messengers came in, the idol was in the bed, with the covering of goats’ hair on its head. Saul said to Michal, ‘Why have you deceived me like this, and let my enemy go, so that he has escaped?’ Michal answered Saul, ‘He said to me, “Let me go; why should I kill you?”’
Reflection What tumultuous relationships and emotions we find in this story, characters about whom we should like to know more and so speculate, easily transferring to them our own experiences and even prejudices.

Today we read about four people, Saul, his son Jonathan, his successor David and David’s wife, Saul’s daughter Michal. We can learn from them all.
In the fuller story we learn that Saul experienced florid, ecstatic episodes, readily flying into a rage, prompted it seems by jealousy of both his son Jonathan and, in today’s passage, of David whose musical talents had often soothed Saul but whose military prowess was perceived as a threat. How difficult it is to relate to and help people who are mentally unstable; how easy it is to turn to others who are easier to support.

Jonathan could expect to be his father’s successor but was eclipsed by David with whom he developed an intense bond – a bond so strong that Jonathan was ready to defy his father to protect his friend. What a blessing it is to have the support of good friends.

David had been plucked from obscurity and had by killing the Philistine champion, Goliath, become a hero, and was therefore perceived by Saul as a threat, with good reason. Did his success and the adulation of the people turn David’s head into thinking that he could do what he wanted and get whom he wanted?

Michal initially had no say in what happened to her: Saul had previously decided that David should marry her older sister but now it was Michal’s turn. But we read that Michal loved David and saved his life; did David love her? She was but one of his many women, regarded as little more than chattels. We can hope that attitudes have changed in 3,000 years – have they?
 

Prayer

Most gracious God
guide and strengthen us
in all our relationships
to treat others
as we would wish to be treated.
When we have been hurt,
help us to forgive:
when we have hurt others,
show us how we have been in the wrong
so that we can be honest with you,
loving God,
with others and with ourselves,
trusting in our Saviour, Jesus Christ: Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Julian Macro, Retired Minister, Member of Verwood 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 19th October 2018

URC Devotions - Fri, 19/10/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion 19th October 2018 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

from 1 Samuel 18:  10-30

The next day an evil spirit from God rushed upon Saul, and he raved within his house, while David was playing the lyre, as he did day by day. Saul had his spear in his hand; and Saul threw the spear, for he thought, ‘I will pin David to the wall.’ But David eluded him twice.  Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with him but had departed from Saul. So Saul removed him from his presence, and made him a commander of a thousand; and David marched out and came in, leading the army. David had success in all his undertakings; for the Lord was with him. When Saul saw that he had great success, he stood in awe of him. But all Israel and Judah loved David; for it was he who marched out and came in leading them.

Then Saul said to David, ‘Here is my elder daughter Merab; I will give her to you as a wife; only be valiant for me and fight the Lord’s battles.’ For Saul thought, ‘I will not raise a hand against him; let the Philistines deal with him.’ David said to Saul, ‘Who am I and who are my kinsfolk, my father’s family in Israel, that I should be son-in-law to the king?’  But at the time when Saul’s daughter Merab should have been given to David, she was given to Adriel the Meholathite as a wife. Now Saul’s daughter Michal loved David. Saul was told, and the thing pleased him. Saul thought, ‘Let me give her to him that she may be a snare for him and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him.’ Therefore Saul said to David a second time, ‘You shall now be my son-in-law.’ Saul commanded his servants, ‘Speak to David in private and say, “See, the king is delighted with you, and all his servants love you; now then, become the king’s son-in-law.”’  So Saul’s servants reported these words to David in private. And David said, ‘Does it seem to you a little thing to become the king’s son-in-law, seeing that I am a poor man and of no repute?’ The servants of Saul told him, ‘This is what David said.’ Then Saul said, ‘Thus shall you say to David, “The king desires no marriage present except a hundred foreskins of the Philistines, that he may be avenged on the king’s enemies.”’ Now Saul planned to make David fall by the hand of the Philistines. When his servants told David these words, David was well pleased to be the king’s son-in-law. Before the time had expired, David rose and went, along with his men, and killed one hundred of the Philistines; and David brought their foreskins, which were given in full number to the king, that he might become the king’s son-in-law. Saul gave him his daughter Michal as a wife. But when Saul realised that the Lord was with David, and that Saul’s daughter Michal loved him, Saul was still more afraid of David. So Saul was David’s enemy from that time forward. Then the commanders of the Philistines came out to battle; and as often as they came out, David had more success than all the servants of Saul, so that his fame became very great.
Reflection When I was 17 I had quite a crush on my father’s secretary and was saddened when she suffered a series of mental health problems and was admitted to what we school kids knew as the ‘loony bin’ (and yes I am ashamed of myself now).  I heard that while I was away at university, she left employment. Later, in my first job, working in that same local psychiatric hospital, I encountered her again, this time as a long-term in-patient. I was dreadfully distressed to see the effect of her now chronic illness.  

I am aware that not all mental ill-health is so catastrophic but it was the moment that convinced me that I was not suited to mental health nursing and led me instead to train as a general nurse.  

But I see her in my mind’s eye as I read of Saul raving in his house.  Reading on, we see further problems for Saul as his paranoia develops - another aspect of his mental health problems.  Yes of course I am aware of the dangers of nurses (especially general nurses!) making diagnoses, but I’ve always thought of his having something like paranoid schizophrenia?

David plays the difficult hand he is dealt with skill, diplomacy and tact but his continuing military success and ensuing popularity do continue to feed poor Saul’s jealousy, undermining and destroying their relationship.  What should’ve been a successful and triumphant partnership ultimately developed into a civil war that as well as destroying Saul, probably damaged David too.

Mental healthcare has come on in leaps and bounds since those days but tragically it is still desperately inadequate (not to mention desperately under-funded) and there are far too many lives damaged or destroyed, with family and friends as collateral damage.
 

Prayer

God of sanity and order;
we pray that you play your spiritual lyre
of healing in those affected
by the challenges of mental ill health;
we pray too for those who are affected by pity, hurt and / or helplessness
because of their loved ones’ conditions;
and we pray for all
working in the field of mental healthcare, giving them patience, wisdom
and new and effective treatments. Amen  

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Peter Clark, Minister of the Bridport and Dorchester Joint Pastorate (Methodist & 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 Devotion18th October 2018

URC Devotions - Thu, 18/10/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion18th October 2018 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

I Samuel 18: 1 - 9

When David had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was bound to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. Saul took him that day and would not let him return to his father’s house.  Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that he was wearing, and gave it to David, and his armour, and even his sword and his bow and his belt.  David went out and was successful wherever Saul sent him; as a result, Saul set him over the army. And all the people, even the servants of Saul, approved. As they were coming home, when David returned from killing the Philistine, the women came out of all the towns of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with songs of joy, and with musical instruments. And the women sang to one another as they made merry, ‘Saul has killed his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.’ Saul was very angry, for this saying displeased him. He said, ‘They have ascribed to David tens of thousands, and to me they have ascribed thousands; what more can he have but the kingdom?’  So Saul eyed David from that day on. Reflection It’s hard to really know what’s going on here.  Jonathan seems to be in love with David - giving him his robes and weapons and making a covenant with him; David, of course, enjoys the attention from the king’s son; his success in battle made him more popular than the tempramental king, Saul.  A jealous king looks on a popular warrior who seems to be inveigling his way into the royal family playing on the affections of his son - the heir presumptive. No wonder Saul “eyed David” from that day on. As we shall see in tomorrow’s reading, Saul arranges for David to marry one of his daughters, no doubt thinking he could keep a closer eye on him.

Jealousy is a powerfully dangerous emotion.  It can embitter us, skew our perceptions and make us lose any sense of rationality.  Coupled with jealousy Saul realised his hold on the throne was weak and that of his family becoming weaker due to David - the cuckoo in the nest.  Saul, presumably, didn’t know that he’d lost the support of organised religion and that its favour now fell on David. So we have a heady mix of love and jealousy, a heroic warrior and an insecure king, youthful desire and middle aged resentment.  

In our own dealings with others we need to be aware of the part our emotions play.  Do we find it easier to be kind and caring to those we find attractive? Does jealousy play a part in our responses to others?  Are we insecure on our petty thrones, always aware that we could be deposed or do we sit securely in the role and work that God has given us?
 

Prayer

God of love,
help me to understand my emotions,
and the complex reactions
I have to others.
Help me to be aware
when I am attracted to someone,
to give thanks for beauty,
but to be aware of my own responses.

Help me to be wise
when I dislike someone,
especially when I am jealous,
that I may love
even when I don’t like the other,
that I may sit securely
in the work you have given me to do. Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Andy Braunston, Minister Barrhead, Shawlands and Stewarton URCs

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 17th October 2018

URC Devotions - Wed, 17/10/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion 17th October 2018 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

from 1 Samuel 17 

The Philistine came on and drew near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. When the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was only a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. The Philistine said to David, ‘Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?’ And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. The Philistine said to David, ‘Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the field.’ But David said to the Philistine, ‘You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This very day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head; and I will give the dead bodies of the Philistine army this very day to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the earth, so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel,  and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hand.’ When the Philistine drew nearer to meet David, David ran quickly towards the battle line to meet the Philistine. David put his hand in his bag, took out a stone, slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead; the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground. So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, striking down the Philistine and killing him; there was no sword in David’s hand. Then David ran and stood over the Philistine; he grasped his sword, drew it out of its sheath, and killed him; then he cut off his head with it. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled. Reflection Here we find David, untrained in weapons of war, much sheltered by being the youngest member of his family. However, in his own way, what a giant he was in his trust of the Almighty God!

So easily he could have been rather proud and haughty as, dare I say, many of us were as teenagers. Instead, remembering how God had helped him as a shepherd in the fields to wield the simple sling and stone, he stuck with these things with which he was familiar. To him they were all that were needed but there was more to his simple faith than what literally met Goliath’s eye. In this scene of conflict he did not forget that the battle was not his to win. He did not boast of his own prowess at defending his flock from wolf or bear attack, and how a mere giant would be a walkover. Instead his trust was totally in his God whom he knew would fight for him and therefore it was God’s battle and not David’s to win.

Goliath may well have thought that David’s words were empty and boastful but dare I say that his one fatal mistake, as it was to become, was that he had left God out of things?

God gave the victory to David who had wholeheartedly trusted only in Him, and Goliath got his just deserts, for taking the mickey out of this unworldly youngster.

What a tremendous example to us, that the only One on whom we can truly rely is the same Lord God Almighty. Let’s make sure that we make Him our first choice and not our last resort!
 

Prayer

God our Almighty Father,
the rock of faith in whom David trusted,
humbly we come to you to acknowledge
our need of you to help fight our battles.
May we realise that to enlist your aid
is not weakness,
but like David may we forever
seek your face when the going gets tough.
As David did, may we give you the glory
knowing that you alone are the only One
who is the strength we need
and the one true victor. Amen.

Today's Writer

Verena Walder   Lay Preacher and Elder. Tabernacle URC Mumbles.

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 16th October 2018

URC Devotions - Tue, 16/10/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion 16th October 2018 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

from 1 Samuel 17 

Now the Philistines gathered their armies for battle...Saul and the Israelites gathered and encamped in the valley of Elah, and formed ranks against the Philistines. ...And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. He had a helmet of bronze on his head, and he was armoured with a coat of mail; the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze.  He had greaves of bronze on his legs and a javelin of bronze slung between his shoulders. The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron; and his shield-bearer went before him. He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, ‘Why have you come out to draw up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants; but if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.’ And the Philistine said, ‘Today I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man, that we may fight together.’ When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.

Now David was the son of an Ephrathite of Bethlehem in Judah, named Jesse, who had eight sons... David was the youngest; the three eldest followed Saul, but David went back and forth from Saul to feed his father’s sheep at Bethlehem. For forty days the Philistine came forward and took his stand, morning and evening. Jesse said to his son David, ‘Take for your brothers an ephah of this parched grain and these ten loaves, and carry them quickly to the camp to your brothers;  also take these ten cheeses to the commander of their thousand. See how your brothers fare, and bring some token from them.’ David rose early in the morning, left someone in charge of the sheep, took the provisions, and went as Jesse had commanded him. He came to the encampment as the army was going forth to the battle line, shouting the war cry. Israel and the Philistines drew up for battle, army against army. David left the things in charge of the keeper of the baggage, ran to the ranks, and went and greeted his brothers. As he talked with them, the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, came up out of the ranks of the Philistines, and spoke the same words as before. And David heard him.  All the Israelites, when they saw the man, fled from him and were very much afraid. The Israelites said, ‘Have you seen this man who has come up? Surely he has come up to defy Israel. The king will greatly enrich the man who kills him, and will give him his daughter and make his family free in Israel.’ David said to the men who stood by him, ‘What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine, and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?’ The people answered him in the same way, ‘So shall it be done for the man who kills him.’... When the words that David spoke were heard, they repeated them before Saul; and he sent for him.  David said to Saul, ‘Let no one’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.’ Saul said to David, ‘You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are just a boy, and he has been a warrior from his youth.’ But David said to Saul, ‘Your servant used to keep sheep for his father; and whenever a lion or a bear came, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after it and struck it down, rescuing the lamb from its mouth; and if it turned against me, I would catch it by the jaw, strike it down, and kill it. Your servant has killed both lions and bears; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, since he has defied the armies of the living God.’ David said, ‘The Lord, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine.’ So Saul said to David, ‘Go, and may the Lord be with you!’ Saul clothed David with his armour; he put a bronze helmet on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail.  David strapped Saul’s sword over the armour, and he tried in vain to walk, for he was not used to them. Then David said to Saul, ‘I cannot walk with these; for I am not used to them.’ So David removed them. Then he took his staff in his hand, and chose five smooth stones from the wadi, and put them in his shepherd’s bag, in the pouch; his sling was in his hand, and he drew near to the Philistine.
Reflection The Israelites were terrified. Apart from physical size, Philistines were a sophisticated race who had settled on the coastal plain of Palestine around 1200 BC. They were politically astute, technologically advanced and fierce warriors, and for 150 years they had advanced across the Land.

Now there was a potential battle situation as armies faced each other, yet it was acceptable for ‘champions’ (selected individuals) to settle the conflict and prevent unnecessary waste of lives. That’s why the Philistines sent Goliath, a fearsome sight with his massive body armour and heavy weapons shining in the sun.

By contrast, David was a boy with a busy life serving as musician and armour-bearer in the palace, he also carried out duties at home, and tended his father’s sheep. Unlike Goliath, David wasn’t a trained warrior, so Saul didn’t want David to face Goliath.

The image of the boy trying to walk in borrowed armour is comical, but David was confident; he was going out in the name of God. As a shepherd David practiced using his sling. He knew he was a good shot. He was not afraid.

This happened a thousand years before Jesus, yet I see parallels for us as Jesus’ disciples today.

We’re called to share our faith in a largely secular society, like facing a sophisticated, politically astute, technologically advanced, fierce warrior giant. Maybe we try on some armour, but it doesn’t fit and stops us moving.

Like David, we have the equipment, but do we know how to use it? David had practiced long and hard, and so he had confidence.

These days we have prayer, caring for others, looking after creation, sharing resources, social justice, being radically inclusive... just some of the slingshot stones for sharing faith in 21st century life. Have we practiced enough? Are we - like David - prepared, confident and ready to go?
 

Prayer

Lord,
Help us be ready to share our faith,
as we face the giants of today.
All too often we don’t know what to say,
or can’t think how to tell
about the love of Jesus
in a way that people outside of Church
can understand.
So, we keep quiet.
Help us be prepared,
honing our skills and practicing using
all the slingshot stones available.
Help us go confidently and remember
that you are with us always. Amen

Today's Writer

Linda Rayner, is an Elder at Bramhall URC and URC Coordinator for fresh expressions

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 October 2018

URC Devotions - Mon, 15/10/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion 15th October 2018 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

I Samuel 16: 14 - 23

Now the spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him. And Saul’s servants said to him, ‘See now, an evil spirit from God is tormenting you. Let our lord now command the servants who attend you to look for someone who is skilful in playing the lyre; and when the evil spirit from God is upon you, he will play it, and you will feel better.’  So Saul said to his servants, ‘Provide for me someone who can play well, and bring him to me.’ One of the young men answered, ‘I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite who is skilful in playing, a man of valour, a warrior, prudent in speech, and a man of good presence; and the Lord is with him.’ So Saul sent messengers to Jesse, and said, ‘Send me your son David who is with the sheep.’ Jesse took a donkey loaded with bread, a skin of wine, and a kid, and sent them by his son David to Saul.  And David came to Saul, and entered his service. Saul loved him greatly, and he became his armour-bearer. Saul sent to Jesse, saying, ‘Let David remain in my service, for he has found favour in my sight.’ And whenever the evil spirit from God came upon Saul, David took the lyre and played it with his hand, and Saul would be relieved and feel better, and the evil spirit would depart from him. Reflection "If music be the food of love, play on" opines Duke Orsino in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, attesting to the power of music: soothing; enraging; stirring; calming. It is difficult to suggest that, as humans, we can be indifferent to the power of music.

Some musical moments remain with us for a long time. I well remember a haunting a capella solo of the 23rd Psalm sung in Iona Abbey. A sublime moment on a peaceful summer evening.

On the other hand, musical instruments have been classified as weapons of war (specifically the Great Highland Bagpipe) because of their power to fire up men to fight.

Dame Evelyn Glennie, the Scottish virtuoso percussionist, has been profoundly deaf since the age of 11 but anyone who has heard her perform can attest that even deafness does not stand in the way of powerful music making.

So when one correspondent to a national newspaper recently suggested that the fundamental purpose of music was to entertain, the response came swiftly: “it is an attempt to communicate how it feels to be human, in a language beyond words”.

It is therefore no surprise to read that the wily boy David soon learned that by playing his lyre, Saul could be calmed down when an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him. Sweet music calms the savage breast.

When it comes to music in worship, it behoves us to remember that power. When those of us who lead worship choose hymns or worship songs, we usually pay great attention to the words, but perhaps less so to the music, leaving that to the organist, keyboard player, worship group or whoever drives the digital machine. Often, that works well, but if God is to be truly glorified, music, words and intent must cohere to communicate how it feels to be a child of God, in a language beyond words.
 

Prayer

When in our music God is glorified,
and adoration leaves no room for pride,
it is as though the whole creation cried,
Hallelujah!

How often, making music, we have found
a new dimension in the world of sound,
as worship moved us to a more profound
Hallelujah!

(Fred Pratt Green, Rejoice & Sing 414)

So be it!
Amen

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

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 14th October 2018

URC Devotions - Sun, 14/10/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion 14th October 2018 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Psalm 68 1-10

May God arise, and may his foes
Be scattered far and put to flight.
As smoke is blown before the wind,
So may your foes be blown from sight:
As wax is melted by the fire
May they before God’s wrath expire.

But may the righteous all be glad;
May they rejoice and sing aloud.
Sing praise to God, sing to his name;
Extol the One who rides the cloud;
For he alone is named the LORD—
With joy all praise to him accord.

A father to the fatherless,
Of widows’ rights the champion,
Is God within his holy place;
He gives a home to the forlorn.
He leads the captives forth with song;
To rebels barren wastes belong.

When you, O God, went out and led
Your people through the desert plain—
When through the wilderness you marched,
Earth shook and heaven poured down rain
Before the God of Sinai’s hill,
Before the God of Israèl.

O God, with showers you refreshed
Your heritage so dry and bare.
And so your people settled down
And made their habitation there.
And from your overflowing store
You made provision for the poor.


You can hear this sung to the tune Melita here
 
 
Reflection In a crowded train station, people watch the boards.  “Delayed.” Over the tannoy a person explains there’s a signalling failure.  Wandering amongst the would-be travellers is a homeless man, asking for help.  A stranded traveller decides not to rush past as normal, but instead stops, offers the man a meal of his choice, friendly conversation, and a bottle of water for later.

Getting from Point A (Psalm 68) to point B (train station)

The tracks this Psalm lays out are:
  • A plea for God to restore God’s ways of doing stuff
  • A vision that the people are so chuffed that they thank God
  • God’s ways reach out to those without a place in the centre of the community.
The implication – God did it before, why wouldn’t God do it now?

As we walk the way and live the life of Jesus today, some days the trains run perfectly, sometimes we get delayed.  At those times it’s easy to focus on the heartbreak or the complication. Rather than turn inward, the Psalm encourages us to look to God and to give thanks to God by helping the most vulnerable around us.

This Psalm is a journey from God acting to the poor being provided for, with stops of remembering God’s goodness along the way.  As disciples of Christ, those who see what Jesus was doing and then learn to do it ourselves, I wonder if we should consider our part in this?  Maybe our role is to pray that God put the world to right, leads us on, and then step out in obedience and expectation, following God wherever He leads and to whomever He leads us to?

Somewhere in the midst of the occasional delay, when our journey slows down, there is a homeless man looking for food.
 

Prayer

God,
As we keep our eyes on you, help us to be aware of those travelling with us.
Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Angela Rigby is minister at Christ Church URC Tonbridge and St Johns Hill URC Sevenoaks.

Bible Version

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


 
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Daily Devotion 13th October 2018

URC Devotions - Sat, 13/10/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion 13th October 2018 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

1 Samuel 16: 1 - 13

The Lord said to Samuel, ‘How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.’  Samuel said, ‘How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me.’ And the Lord said, ‘Take a heifer with you, and say, “I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.” Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you.’  Samuel did what the Lord commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, ‘Do you come peaceably?’ He said, ‘Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.’ And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.

When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, ‘Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.’  But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.’ Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, ‘Neither has the Lord chosen this one.’ Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, ‘Neither has the Lord chosen this one.’  Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, ‘The Lord has not chosen any of these.’ Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Are all your sons here?’ And he said, ‘There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.’ And Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.’ He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The Lord said, ‘Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.’ Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.
Reflection Outward appearances make their impressions upon us – however hard we try to resist. We live in a culture dominated by the cult of outward appearance: where looking ‘beautiful’ or having the ‘perfect’ physique is a major concern and a source of lucrative business. (If you doubt that assertion, be honest: do you never look in the mirror and think, “I wish I didn’t look like that” or at someone else and think, “I wish I looked more like them”?)

Today’s passage is a strong rebuke to judging by outward appearance. The word addressed to Samuel as he undertook the task of identifying a king to succeed Saul reminds us that the Lord looks on the heart not the body. Samuel had to consider what might be described as a talent show line-up: the seven sons of Jesse. Even then the successful candidate is not found until Samuel asks if all the sons were present.  Jesse concedes that David, the youngest, is out keeping the sheep. (There is a rich irony in that David’s outward appearance is described as “handsome”!) God affirms this good-looker as his choice – a choice that would not have been made had Samuel not looked wider than what was at first paraded before him. (There is a further irony in that the heart of this David will, later, be discovered to be far from perfect as he sends Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, to his death so that she can become his wife!)

May we embrace the challenge: It is only through looking beyond outward appearance – and wider than what is first paraded before us – that we discover the potential beauty of another’s heart.

May we be embraced by the reassurance: Despite what we may feel about our own outward appearance we can dare to believe in God’s love of us and his power to change our hearts and give us an inner beauty.
 

Prayer

God,
who looks not on outward appearance
but on the heart,
enable me to see beyond
what others look like
and to discern their true
inner beauty and worth.
Save me from regarding as ugly
what you see as beautiful
and help me to look broader and wider
and find you in
the kindness of the unexpected.
Create in me a clean heart
and renew a right spirit within me
that your love might be known
and grace seen as my heart-beat.
Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Geoffrey Clarke, Minister, The Crossing (Methodist & United Reformed) Church, Worksop and Wales Kiveton Methodist Church

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 October 2018

URC Devotions - Fri, 12/10/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion 12th October 2018 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

from 1 Samuel 15

Samuel said to Saul, ‘The Lord sent me to anoint you king over his people Israel; now therefore listen to the words of the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts, “I will punish the Amalekites for what they did in opposing the Israelites when they came up out of Egypt. Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have; do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.”’

...Saul took King Agag of the Amalekites alive, but utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep and of the cattle and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was valuable, and would not utterly destroy them; all that was despised and worthless they utterly destroyed.

The word of the Lord came to Samuel:  ‘I regret that I made Saul king, for he has turned back from following me, and has not carried out my commands.’ Samuel was angry; and he cried out to the Lord all night. Samuel rose early in the morning to meet Saul...Samuel said, ‘Though you are little in your own eyes, are you not the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel.  And the Lord sent you on a mission, and said, “Go, utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.” Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord? Why did you swoop down on the spoil, and do what was evil in the sight of the Lord?’ Saul said to Samuel, ‘I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, I have gone on the mission on which the Lord sent me, I have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and I have utterly destroyed the Amalekites.  But from the spoil the people took sheep and cattle, the best of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal.’

...Saul said to Samuel, ‘I have sinned; for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice.  Now therefore, I pray, pardon my sin, and return with me, so that I may worship the Lord.’ Samuel said to Saul, ‘I will not return with you; for you have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you from being king over Israel.’  As Samuel turned to go away, Saul caught hold of the hem of his robe, and it tore. And Samuel said to him, ‘The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you this very day, and has given it to a neighbour of yours, who is better than you. Moreover, the Glory of Israel will not recant or change his mind; for he is not a mortal, that he should change his mind.’
Reflection So Saul has done some of what the Lord commanded but not all of it; and it is not his first offence. God gives Samuel full rein to speak unequivocally, condemning the anointed King and letting him know that God has rejected him. A United Reformed Church General Assembly would applaud the fearless speaking of truth to power. A world of goodies (including us) and baddies (including people not like us) is so tidy and easy to grasp.

Samuel does his job before the King but we get an insight into his private thoughts. He had a sleepless night because he was deeply troubled by God’s anger. Samuel knew Saul well by this point. Perhaps he even liked him at some level. Perhaps he had some sympathy with Saul’s view that he had done what the people he was supposed to lead and motivate wanted: when we like that sort of behaviour we call it democracy. Perhaps he saw in Saul one more imperfect human being like the rest of us, struggling to know what is right when life’s crises pummel us.

It is not very difficult to condemn leaders who do wrong. Social media mean we do not need to go near them to do so. Perhaps a distinctively Christian element is to still see them, through it all, as human beings made in the image of God, always with potential for redemption; and even more in need of our prayers given their burdens of responsibility. It may then be harder to see the world simply as goodies and baddies, but we were warned that if we think we can separate the wheat and the tares we have misunderstood how God works.  
 

Prayer

Almighty Father
When I see wrong today,
give me the courage to condemn it.
And when I see the person
who has done wrong,
give me the love to see them
as another human being,
to long for their wellbeing
with a heart like yours,
to ask what I can do
to restore them to the right path.
And if I do wrong today,
please inspire someone
to be merciful to me.
In Jesus’ name Amen.  

Today's Writer

John Ellis, former Moderator of the General Assembly and Secretary of Capel United Church in Kent

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 11th October 2018

URC Devotions - Thu, 11/10/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion 11th October 2018 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

1 Samuel 14: 24 - 46

Now Saul committed a very rash act on that day. He had laid an oath on the troops, saying, ‘Cursed be anyone who eats food before it is evening and I have been avenged on my enemies.’ So none of the troops tasted food. All the troops came upon a honeycomb; and there was honey on the ground. When the troops came upon the honeycomb, the honey was dripping out; but they did not put their hands to their mouths, for they feared the oath. But Jonathan had not heard his father charge the troops with the oath; so he extended the staff that was in his hand, and dipped the tip of it in the honeycomb, and put his hand to his mouth; and his eyes brightened. Then one of the soldiers said, ‘Your father strictly charged the troops with an oath, saying, “Cursed be anyone who eats food this day.” And so the troops are faint.’ Then Jonathan said, ‘My father has troubled the land; see how my eyes have brightened because I tasted a little of this honey.  How much better if today the troops had eaten freely of the spoil taken from their enemies; for now the slaughter among the Philistines has not been great.’

… Then Saul said, ‘Let us go down after the Philistines by night and despoil them until the morning light; let us not leave one of them.’ They said, ‘Do whatever seems good to you.’ But the priest said, ‘Let us draw near to God here.’  So Saul inquired of God, ‘Shall I go down after the Philistines? Will you give them into the hand of Israel?’ But he did not answer him that day. Saul said, ‘Come here, all you leaders of the people; and let us find out how this sin has arisen today. For as the Lord lives who saves Israel, even if it is in my son Jonathan, he shall surely die!’ But there was no one among all the people who answered him.  He said to all Israel, ‘You shall be on one side, and I and my son Jonathan will be on the other side.’ The people said to Saul, ‘Do what seems good to you.’ Then Saul said, ‘O Lord God of Israel, why have you not answered your servant today? If this guilt is in me or in my son Jonathan, O Lord God of Israel, give Urim; but if this guilt is in your people Israel, give Thummim.’ And Jonathan and Saul were indicated by the lot, but the people were cleared. Then Saul said, ‘Cast the lot between me and my son Jonathan.’ And Jonathan was taken.

Then Saul said to Jonathan, ‘Tell me what you have done.’ Jonathan told him, ‘I tasted a little honey with the tip of the staff that was in my hand; here I am, I will die.’ Saul said, ‘God do so to me and more also; you shall surely die, Jonathan!’  Then the people said to Saul, ‘Shall Jonathan die, who has accomplished this great victory in Israel? Perish the thought! As the Lord lives, not one hair of his head shall fall to the ground; for he has worked with God today.’ So the people ransomed Jonathan, and he did not die. Then Saul withdrew from pursuing the Philistines; and the Philistines went to their own place.
Reflection For Saul, not putting God as his first priority was a major error. Like many of today's leaders, he was more concerned about his own image rather than following God's guidance. We are told that he was of striking appearance which in the long term only served to enhance his vanity. Not only that, he was impulsive and perhaps opened his mouth before he had put his brain into gear. As a consequence, his whole approach to leading Israel was based on momentary instincts. For him, his priority was the defeat of the Philistines at all cost. As part of his ill thought plan, he orders his army to take an oath not to eat before the conflict with their enemy. In verse 27 we are told that Jonathan had not heard the order to take his father's oath, so did that make any difference?

The most common usage of oaths today relates to legal matters, usually in the form of “telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” By today's standards, had Johnathan been asked whether or not he had heard his father's order at the outset, then by answering in the negative he had no case to answer.

Oaths are promises of varying kinds, often made with good intention, although for some an oath has little or no real significance, it appears to be yet another hoop to jump through. Historically, in this country, a gentleman's word was his bond. But on occasions even this was open to question. Unlike Saul we need to ask ourselves “What would God want us to do in respect of the circumstances we find ourselves in? Do we listen for His call, or do we carry on doing our own thing?
 

Prayer

Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
forgive our foolish ways!     
Reclothe us in our rightful mind;         
in purer lives thy service find,
in deeper reverence praise.

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!

J. G Whitter (1807 – 92) R&S 492

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Colin Hunt is a retired Minister worshipping at Hutton & Shenfield Union Church, Essex

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 October 2018

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

Information

Born in the latter part of the sixth century, probably in Italy, Paulinus was among the second group of monks sent by Pope Gregory to England to assist Augustine in his work. He went with the party that accompanied Ethelburga to Northumbria, where she was to marry the king, Edwin, who subsequently took his wife's Christian faith as his own. Paulinus built the first church in York in about the year 627 and was its first bishop. He travelled much north and south of the Humber, building churches and baptising new Christians. He had to flee for his life, however, when Edwin was killed in battle by the pagan king, Penda of Mercia, and Paulinus became Bishop of Rochester. He died on this day in the year 644.

St Matthew 28: 16-20

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted.  And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age. Reflection Today’s Gospel reading is sometimes entitled “The Great Commission”. Jesus invites his disciples to meet him so that they can be commissioned in turn. The only appropriate reaction to this is worship.

Paulinus was commissioned as the first Archbishop of York and to bring the Christian faith to the margins. Edwin listened to the preaching of Paulinus before he became a Christian. He also consulted his advisors. One said,

“If the new religion can lighten that darkness for us, then let us follow it.”

Paulinus is said to have baptized thousands of people near Catterick and Rothbury and also near the royal summer residence of Yeavering (near Wooler). The Church in Northumbria flourished under Paulinus’ leadership. When Paulinus had to go back south he left Deacon James in charge of the Northumbrian Church.

The figure of Deacon James is at the centre of the beautiful stained glass window outside in the peace garden beside Flodden Peace Centre at Crookham United Reformed Church. Its inspiring and challenging message of “Bringing peace to these hills” reverberates through the ages from Paulinus to 21st Century disciples of Jesus trying to live out “The Great Commission” today.
 

Prayer

Almighty and everlasting God,
we thank you for your servant Paulinus,
whom you called to preach the Gospel
to the people of northern England.
Raise up in this and every land
evangelists and heralds of your kingdom,
that your Church may proclaim
the unsearchable riches
of our Saviour Jesus Christ;
who lives and reigns
with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God,
now and for ever.
Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Mary Taylor, Minister, Crookham 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 October 2018

URC Devotions - Tue, 09/10/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion 9th October 2018 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

1 Samuel 14: 16-23

Saul’s lookouts in Gibeah of Benjamin were watching as the multitude was surging back and forth.  Then Saul said to the troops that were with him, ‘Call the roll and see who has gone from us.’ When they had called the roll, Jonathan and his armour-bearer were not there. Saul said to Ahijah, ‘Bring the ark of God here.’ For at that time the ark of God went with the Israelites.  While Saul was talking to the priest, the tumult in the camp of the Philistines increased more and more; and Saul said to the priest, ‘Withdraw your hand.’ Then Saul and all the people who were with him rallied and went into the battle; and every sword was against the other, so that there was very great confusion.  Now the Hebrews who previously had been with the Philistines and had gone up with them into the camp turned and joined the Israelites who were with Saul and Jonathan. Likewise, when all the Israelites who had gone into hiding in the hill country of Ephraim heard that the Philistines were fleeing, they too followed closely after them in the battle. So the Lord gave Israel the victory that day. The battle passed beyond Beth-aven, and the troops with Saul numbered altogether about ten thousand men. The battle spread out over the hill country of Ephraim. Reflection Here we are.  Another battle to note who is who, what they carry, who they kill and why. There are Kings in the midst. For me to get to grips with this, I need to zoom out from the micro story to the mega story.  I have to zoom out to see more in these books of Samuel – to our Jewish faith relatives, just one book. I need to zoom out to note that it wasn’t Samuel who wrote it all down, zoom out to see that this is not truly history, but a smidgen of history mixed with a great deal of theologising, literary license, and psychologising. The key is “The Lord gave Israel the victory that day.” This is yet another of a multitude of narratives reinforcing the identity of Israel as God’s chosen people.  It’s a strong identity, marrow, soul, and centuries deep. It is such a strong identity that it can make us zoom in so close to detail that we miss the zoomed-out view. Out in a distance wide enough to see God in all of God’s graciousness, do we want to hold the idea that God does violence against one to bolster the identity of another? Can we see God choosing to make victors and vanquished? Zoomed in to the horrors which can come in each day, this is a comfortable idea. God will protect me from anyone who could do me damage, and so my identity as God’s child is secure.  Yet, I would find it hard indeed to see God as the one who inspired those who have done me actual violence, making me the vanquished one in favour of my abuser’s identity. It is risky taking the mega story over the micro one. So much is to be questioned. Praise God. Each of us is called to deep faith in mystery, with a tenacious hold on the perpetual reality of grace.
 

Prayer

Oh God, forgive us
when we use you to reinforce our selves.
We thank you for
our own gifted complexity,
yet we confess
we often want simplicity in others.
You are loving justice in mysterious ways, yet we often want certainties.
Remind us that you gift us with power
to love beyond our imagining;
to be neither victor nor vanquished.
Give us grace to trust you,
so we can trust ourselves to be loving. Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev'd Elizabeth Gray-King, Education & Learning Programme Officer, member St Columba's URC, Oxford

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 October 2018

URC Devotions - Mon, 08/10/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion 8th October 2018 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

1 Samuel 14: 1 - 15

One day Jonathan son of Saul said to the young man who carried his armour, ‘Come, let us go over to the Philistine garrison on the other side.’ But he did not tell his father...Now the people did not know that Jonathan had gone.  In the pass, by which Jonathan tried to go over to the Philistine garrison, there was a rocky crag on one side and a rocky crag on the other; the name of one was Bozez, and the name of the other Seneh. One crag rose on the north in front of Michmash, and the other on the south in front of Geba.

Jonathan said to the young man who carried his armour, ‘Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised; it may be that the Lord will act for us; for nothing can hinder the Lord from saving by many or by few.’  His armour-bearer said to him, ‘Do all that your mind inclines to. I am with you; as your mind is, so is mine.’ Then Jonathan said, ‘Now we will cross over to those men and will show ourselves to them. If they say to us, “Wait until we come to you”, then we will stand still in our place, and we will not go up to them.  But if they say, “Come up to us”, then we will go up; for the Lord has given them into our hand. That will be the sign for us.’ So both of them showed themselves to the garrison of the Philistines; and the Philistines said, ‘Look, Hebrews are coming out of the holes where they have hidden themselves.’ The men of the garrison hailed Jonathan and his armour-bearer, saying, ‘Come up to us, and we will show you something.’ Jonathan said to his armour-bearer, ‘Come up after me; for the Lord has given them into the hand of Israel.’  Then Jonathan climbed up on his hands and feet, with his armour-bearer following after him. The Philistines fell before Jonathan, and his armour-bearer, coming after him, killed them. In that first slaughter Jonathan and his armour-bearer killed about twenty men within an area about half a furrow long in an acre of land. There was a panic in the camp, in the field, and among all the people; the garrison and even the raiders trembled; the earth quaked; and it became a very great panic.
Reflection Jonathan was in no mood for just sitting around waiting to be attacked.  Something in his heart sprung him into action: ‘The people did not know that Jonathan had gone’.  His trusted armour- bearer was with him: ‘Do all that is in your heart. Do as you wish. Behold I am with you heart and soul’.

As I read this today’s text I am reminded of two classic lines from the TV series  ‘The A Team - today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire The A-Team.’

We encounter Jonathan with a plan that he has not shared: ‘The people who were with him were about 600 men’]. Here was a bold and daring young man who drew up a plan of action. Jonathan feared failure. To commit and lead the whole army to battle before he had proved the faithfulness of the Lord was a risk he wasn’t prepared to take.

Jonathan with his armour- bearer heads off towards the Philistine garrison with a rocky crag on both sides ‘Bozez’ (Slippery One) and Seneh (thorny one).
The reading ends ‘The garrison and even the raiders trembled, the earthed quaked and it became a very great panic’ (and that reminds me of Corporal Jones’ ‘Don’t panic’ when things began to go wrong).

We need the confidence of Jonathan who was prepared to drag himself up on his hands and feet.  We need the reliability of those around us as we witness to the Lord Jesus Christ. ‘Do all that is in your heart’.

The leader of the A Team would say: ‘I love it when a plan comes together’ -  but let our actions be about transformation and not destruction.


Will YOU make it into The A Team for Christ’s sake?
 

Prayer

Gracious God,
we pray for those who have been inspired,
like Jonathan,
to go off and prepare the ground
for the changes and challenges
that you require of us.
On our journey
through those slippery and thorny places,
may we be assured
of your strengthening presence,
so that your plans may come together through us.  Amen


 

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Andrew Royal Minister Maidstone & Staplehurst 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 7th October 2018

URC Devotions - Sun, 07/10/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion 7th October 2018 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Psalm 67

1 God be merciful and bless us;
shine upon us with your face,
2 That the earth may know your actions
and all lands your saving grace.

3 O God, may the peoples praise you;
may all peoples sing your praise.
4 For you judge the nations justly,
ruling over every race.

May they sing with joy and gladness;
may they all rejoice as one.
5 O God, may the peoples praise you
as they all unite in song.

6 Then the land will yield its harvest;
God will pour his gifts abroad.
7 God, our God, will surely bless us;
all the earth will fear our God.


You can hear a Free Church of Scotland congregation sing this to the tune Sussex here.  
Reflection This Psalm has always been special to me as I remember reciting it during a Sunday School Anniversary as a little girl.  Although I have forgotten most of it, I still recall the refrain, as I learnt it, ‘May the peoples praise you O God, may all the peoples praise you’.

It is one of the shorter Psalms and yet it is full of wonderful words and great themes.  It is a celebration of God’s blessings to Israel and then a call to all nations to give thanks to God for the many gifts of creation.  The words point to so much in Scripture, form the Aaronic Blessing to God’s promise to Abraham that through him all nations would be blessed; as the blessing given to Israel is extended to all God’s beloved people.

And that is where we come in – the blessing given to Israel includes us.  Yet we live in a world of extremes in wealth and poverty – we may think ourselves developed, yet the gap between rich and poor is increasing.  We may think ourselves intelligent, even wise, and yet we continue to perpetuate injustice, usually against the most vulnerable in society. Perhaps now more than ever we are riven by division, along political, class, ethnic, cultural and religious lines.

We need to hear these words and actually take them in – God loves the world and intends justice and blessings for all God’s people.
Oh, we can recite the words of this Psalm, it could even become our mantra, but it will mean nothing unless we actually act on what we say.  If we do, then just maybe, more and more people may praise God.
 

Prayer

May the peoples praise you O God,
may all the peoples praise you.
As we work towards a fairer sharing
of the world’s resources;
may the peoples praise you O God,
may all the peoples praise you.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Branwen Rees; Role: East Wales Regional Minister

Bible Version

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


 
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Daily Devotion 6th October 2018

URC Devotions - Sat, 06/10/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion 6th October 2018 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

1 Samuel 13: 1 - 15

Saul chose three thousand out of Israel; two thousand were with Saul in Michmash and the hill country of Bethel, and a thousand were with Jonathan in Gibeah of Benjamin; the rest of the people he sent home to their tents. Jonathan defeated the garrison of the Philistines that was at Geba; and the Philistines heard of it. And Saul blew the trumpet throughout all the land, saying, ‘Let the Hebrews hear!’  When all Israel heard that Saul had defeated the garrison of the Philistines, and also that Israel had become odious to the Philistines, the people were called out to join Saul at Gilgal.

The Philistines mustered to fight with Israel, thirty thousand chariots, and six thousand horsemen, and troops like the sand on the seashore in multitude; they came up and encamped at Michmash, to the east of Beth-aven. When the Israelites saw that they were in distress (for the troops were hard pressed), the people hid themselves in caves and in holes and in rocks and in tombs and in cisterns.  Some Hebrews crossed the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. Saul was still at Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling.

He waited for seven days, the time appointed by Samuel; but Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and the people began to slip away from Saul.  So Saul said, ‘Bring the burnt-offering here to me, and the offerings of well-being.’ And he offered the burnt-offering. As soon as he had finished offering the burnt-offering, Samuel arrived; and Saul went out to meet him and salute him.  Samuel said, ‘What have you done?’ Saul replied, ‘When I saw that the people were slipping away from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines were mustering at Michmash, I said, “Now the Philistines will come down upon me at Gilgal, and I have not entreated the favour of the Lord”; so I forced myself, and offered the burnt-offering.’  Samuel said to Saul, ‘You have done foolishly; you have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which he commanded you. The Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel for ever, but now your kingdom will not continue; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart; and the Lord has appointed him to be ruler over his people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.’ And Samuel left and went on his way from Gilgal. The rest of the people followed Saul to join the army; they went up from Gilgal towards Gibeah of Benjamin.
Reflection I hate waiting. It’s just so difficult. Whether the situation I’m facing is something good or something bad, I simply hate waiting. Especially if what I’m waiting for is a person as, quite frankly, I’m not good at team-work and I’d rather make my own decisions, for better or for worse.

Much like Saul then, in this passage. There he is, facing a difficult situation and the prophet he’s relying on isn’t there. Samuel has apparently let the king down, and Saul is frightened that he might be missing out if he goes on waiting. I can’t say I blame Saul – I’d be worried about that too. In this day and age, we’re always being told to take advantage of any ‘window of opportunity’ and I suspect that, in these circumstances, I would have acted in exactly the way Samuel did. I’d have taken decisions that weren’t mine to take and tried to make a good go of it.

However, I’d have been wrong. Like Saul. Because sometimes, the waiting isn’t a test from God to see how committed we are to action (of any kind). Sometimes waiting is part of the journey we’re on towards God Himself. After all, Jesus waited thirty years before embarking on His great mission. What’s a few days’ waiting, or a few months’ waiting? Years even? God is eternal and sometimes we need to be willing to let Him have His way with us, simply by doing nothing.

Because when we give God the gift of our time, when we choose to stop the frantic activity (and make-believe activity) which constitutes so much of our lives these days, then the blessings God will pour out on us will be beyond our wildest imaginings. They will even be eternal.
 

Prayer

Dear Lord,
thank You that You know
all our times and places,
and You have a wonderful plan
for our whole lives.
Help us to turn to You
in the times of waiting
and in the times of activity,
so that You may bless us
and those around us
in the way You yearn to do. Amen.

Today's Writer

Anne Brooke, Attender, Elstead 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 5th October 2018

URC Devotions - Fri, 05/10/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion 5th October 2018 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

1 Samuel 12: 19-25

All the people said to Samuel, ‘Pray to the Lord your God for your servants, so that we may not die; for we have added to all our sins the evil of demanding a king for ourselves.’  And Samuel said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil, yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart; and do not turn aside after useless things that cannot profit or save, for they are useless.  For the Lord will not cast away his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself. Moreover as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you; and I will instruct you in the good and the right way.  Only fear the Lord, and serve him faithfully with all your heart; for consider what great things he has done for you. But if you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away, both you and your king.’ Reflection In these days of ‘false news’ it’s quite refreshing to read some honest-to-goodness, up-front truth. The people had done wrong. They knew it. Samuel knew it. God knew it. Samuel did not soft-pedal their sin, saying “Oh, don’t worry. It’s alright.” It wasn’t alright. “You have done all this evil”, he says.

Such bluntness is not fashionable today. In decades past, people flocked to the Hellfire and damnation preachers to hear the drunkard, the glutton, the gossip denounced, and their Hellish destination depicted – gnashing teeth and all.  These days this type of preaching is much less fashionable.

Samuel was very clear; the people had sinned. But there’s no ‘I told you so’ here, no gloating over someone else’s downfall. Samuel stands with the sinning community and plays his part in their restoration. For there is restoration.

Yes, they had sinned. Yes, the consequences would follow them through hundreds of years of bad kings, idolatry and eventual sweeping away to Exile. But yes, God was with them. He did not abandon them because they had messed up (and that is seriously Good News!), but called them to turn back to him again, and again.

I am much more like the disobedient, inconstant, faithless children of Israel than I like to admit. Have I today loved the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength? Have l loved my neighbour as myself? Nope.

God did not soft-pedal the Israelites’ sin. Neither does he soft-pedal ours. He does not sweep it under the carpet and pretend it never happened. But neither does he reject us as no-hope failures. He knows that (to quote ‘Frozen’) “Everyone’s a bit of a fixer-upper”, and in his love and mercy, takes on the job of fixing us up.
 

Prayer

Merciful Lord,
I confess that
I have turned aside from following you
and followed useless things
that cannot profit or save.
Grant me mercy and strength
as I turn to you again.
Help me rightly fear you,
serve you faithfully with all my heart,
and consider what great things
you have done for me. Amen

Today's Writer

Fay Rowland is a graduate student at Wesley House, Cambridge, and worships at St Botolph’s Anglican Church, Northamptonshire.

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 4th October 2018

URC Devotions - Thu, 04/10/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion 4th October 2018 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

1 Samuel 12: 1 - 18 

Samuel said to all Israel, ‘I have listened to you in all that you have said to me, and have set a king over you. See, it is the king who leads you now; I am old and grey, but my sons are with you. I have led you from my youth until this day.  Here I am; testify against me before the Lord and before his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Or whose donkey have I taken? Or whom have I defrauded? Whom have I oppressed? Or from whose hand have I taken a bribe to blind my eyes with it? Testify against me  and I will restore it to you.’ They said, ‘You have not defrauded us or oppressed us or taken anything from the hand of anyone.’ He said to them, ‘The Lord is witness against you, and his anointed is witness this day, that you have not found anything in my hand.’ And they said, ‘He is witness.’

Samuel said to the people, ‘The Lord is witness, who appointed Moses and Aaron and brought your ancestors up out of the land of Egypt.  Now therefore take your stand, so that I may enter into judgement with you before the Lord, and I will declare to you all the saving deeds of the Lord that he performed for you and for your ancestors.  When Jacob went into Egypt and the Egyptians oppressed them, then your ancestors cried to the Lord and the Lord sent Moses and Aaron, who brought forth your ancestors out of Egypt, and settled them in this place.  But they forgot the Lord their God; and he sold them into the hand of Sisera, commander of the army of King Jabin of Hazor, and into the hand of the Philistines, and into the hand of the king of Moab; and they fought against them. Then they cried to the Lord, and said, “We have sinned, because we have forsaken the Lord, and have served the Baals and the Astartes; but now rescue us out of the hand of our enemies, and we will serve you.”  And the Lord sent Jerubbaal and Barak, and Jephthah, and Samson, and rescued you out of the hand of your enemies on every side; and you lived in safety. But when you saw that King Nahash of the Ammonites came against you, you said to me, “No, but a king shall reign over us”, though the Lord your God was your king. See, here is the king whom you have chosen, for whom you have asked; see, the Lord has set a king over you. If you will fear the Lord and serve him and heed his voice and not rebel against the commandment of the Lord, and if both you and the king who reigns over you will follow the Lord your God, it will be well;  but if you will not heed the voice of the Lord, but rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then the hand of the Lord will be against you and your king. Now therefore take your stand and see this great thing that the Lord will do before your eyes. Is it not the wheat harvest today? I will call upon the Lord, that he may send thunder and rain; and you shall know and see that the wickedness that you have done in the sight of the Lord is great in demanding a king for yourselves.’ So Samuel called upon the Lord, and the Lord sent thunder and rain that day; and all the people greatly feared the Lord and Samuel.
Reflection It's come to the crunch. The people wanted a king, and Samuel did not like that one little bit. The people had followed spiritually gifted and insightful people, but that was no good to them. Samuel spells out God's guidance and goodness towards them - how he'd protected them from their enemies and taken them through daunting challenges. But the Ammonites worried them - seriously. The Israelites wanted something, or someone, more "tangible" to follow, to meet the new challenge.

Samuel is very unhappy about pandering to this demand - he cannot believe that it will be a happy arrangement, with someone claiming and receiving the loyalty and obedience due to God. But God has told him to grant the wishes of the people, and give them a king.

After claiming his own credentials as a just and honest leader of the people, Samuel tells them that they, and their king are under God and are to do his will. That way they will prosper. And he rounds off his speech by calling on God, who sends thunder and rain.

We cannot all be leaders - most of us are destined to be followers, at least to some extent. But we are all called upon to be discriminating about whom we choose to follow. My own lifetime alone has seen the tragic results of leaders unworthy of the name and the trust bestowed upon them by their followers. Leaders who have led their followers to tragedy and destruction, hate and dissension. If our ultimate leader is God, we can be discriminating about those earthly leaders who seek our allegiance.

God spurns the quick fix. He challenges us to the hard path of obedience love, selflessness and inclusivity. The going is tough but the goal is so worth while.
 
 

Prayer

You call us to be disciples, to be followers.
Deliver us from the temper
that latches on to the deceptive promises and the quick fixes.
Give us the resolve to spurn
the easier byways on our journey,
and the mindset
to beckon others to join us.
May your Holy Spirit
grant us the courage for this,
and the humility to give glory
where it is most justly
and appropriately due.

Today's Writer

Ed Strachan, Lay Preacher, Heald Green 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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