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URC Daily Devotions 19th January

URC Devotions - 9 hours 28 min ago
96 URC Daily Devotions 19th January Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Amos 5:10 - 17 

They hate the one who reproves in the gate,
   and they abhor the one who speaks the truth.
Therefore, because you trample on the poor
   and take from them levies of grain,
you have built houses of hewn stone,
   but you shall not live in them;
you have planted pleasant vineyards,
   but you shall not drink their wine.
For I know how many are your transgressions,
   and how great are your sins—
you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe,
   and push aside the needy in the gate.
Therefore the prudent will keep silent in such a time;
   for it is an evil time.
Seek good and not evil,
   that you may live;
and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you,
   just as you have said.
Hate evil and love good,
   and establish justice in the gate;
it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts,
   will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.
Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of hosts, the Lord:
In all the squares there shall be wailing;
   and in all the streets they shall say, ‘Alas! alas!’
They shall call the farmers to mourning,
   and those skilled in lamentation, to wailing;
in all the vineyards there shall be wailing,
   for I will pass through the midst of you,
says the Lord.
Reflection Like many passages we have been reading from Amos, this one can give us fresh energy for writing to our MP or joining a Joint Public Issues Team campaign against economic injustice. There might not be much sign of the rich being thrown out of their houses (v 11) but God’s timing is not always ours.

Or perhaps the passage is about us. Most of us assume the rich are those who can afford a bit more than we can. Yet if we watched television last night and are about to get into our car for today’s jobs then to many in today’s world - and to every one of Amos’ shepherd friends - we are fabulously rich and pampered. So is God just waiting for the right moment to throw us out of our homes?  

Another reading might be that the passage is giving a warning that modern research confirms: we expect a larger house, a better wine cellar or a second car will make us happier but are soon disappointed after we achieve them. We soon take them for granted and are no more satisfied with life than before.

The pivot of the reading is verse 14. Put the Lord, the God of hosts first. Seek good and not evil. You might still live in the same house, but you will see it as a tool for doing good. When Rowan Williams, now the Chair of Christian Aid, was Archbishop of Canterbury, he used to like to ask Christians a neat question: “For whom is your money good news?”  
 

Prayer

Lord Jesus
Whatever my credit card statement says, all my greatest debts are owed to you
and your love.
I offer you all that I call mine.
I offer you my car,
my house,
my bank balance.
Show me how I can use them
to be good news to someone today.  
Amen

Today's Writer

John Ellis, Immediate Past Moderator of the General Assembly and Church Secretary, Tudeley and Five Oak Green LEP

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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URC Daily Devotion 18th January

URC Devotions - Thu, 18/01/2018 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 18th January Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Amos 5:1 - 9

Hear this word that I take up over you in lamentation, O house of Israel:

Fallen, no more to rise,
   is maiden Israel;
forsaken on her land,
   with no one to raise her up.
For thus says the Lord GOD:
The city that marched out a thousand
   shall have a hundred left,
and that which marched out a hundred
   shall have ten left.
For thus says the LORD to the house of Israel:
Seek me and live;
     but do not seek Bethel,
and do not enter into Gilgal
   or cross over to Beer-sheba;
for Gilgal shall surely go into exile,
   and Bethel shall come to nothing.
 Seek the LORD and live,
   or he will break out against the house of Joseph like fire,
   and it will devour Bethel, with no one to quench it.
 Ah, you that turn justice to wormwood,
   and bring righteousness to the ground!
 The one who made the Pleiades and Orion,
   and turns deep darkness into the morning,
   and darkens the day into night,
who calls for the waters of the sea,
   and pours them out on the surface of the earth,
the LORD is his name,
 who makes destruction flash out against the strong,
   so that destruction comes upon the fortress.

  Reflection

Amos was fed up. While most of the prophets peppered redemption and restoration in their prophecies, Amos devoted only his final five verses for such consolation. He directed his criticism against privileged people, who  had no love for neighbour, took advantage of others, and only looked out for their own concerns.

More than almost any other book of Scripture, Amos holds God’s people accountable for their dreadful treatment of others. He repeatedly points out their failure to embrace God’s idea of justice. They were selling off needy people for goods, taking advantage of the helpless, oppressing the poor, and the men were using women immorally. Drunk on their own economic success and intent on strengthening their financial position, the people had lost the concept of caring for one another; Amos rebuked them because he saw in that lifestyle, evidence that Israel had forgotten God.

Rather than seeking out opportunities to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly, they embraced their arrogance, idolatry, self-righteousness, and materialism. Later in the chapter, Amos demonstrates utter contempt for the hypocritical lives of the people (add). His prophecy concludes with only a brief glimpse of restoration, and even that is directed to Judah.

Injustice is rife in our world today, yet as Christians we often turn a blind eye to the suffering of others for “more important” work like praying, preaching, and teaching. I’m guessing that the same is true for all of us at times — putting prayer over service?

Amos’ prophecy ought to simplify the choices in our lives. Instead of choosing between prayer and service, Amos teaches us that both are essential. God has called us not only to be in relationship with Him but also to be in relationship with others. For those who have been too focused on the invisible God rather than on His visible creation, Amos pulls us back toward the centre where both the physical and the spiritual needs of people matter in God’s scheme of justice.

 

Prayer

Father,
you have given all peoples
one common origin.
It is your will
that we be gathered together
as one family in yourself.
Fill the hearts of humanity
with the fire of your love
and with the desire
to ensure justice for all.
By sharing the good things you give us,
may we work for equality
for all our brothers and sisters throughout the world.
May there be an end to division,
strife and war.
May there be a dawning
of a truly human society
built on love and peace.
We ask this in the name of Jesus,
our Lord. Amen

Today's Writer

Ann Barton is Facilities Manager at Church House.

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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URC Daily Devotion 17th January

URC Devotions - Wed, 17/01/2018 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 17th January Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Amos 4: 4 - 13

Come to Bethel—and transgress;
    to Gilgal—and multiply transgression;
bring your sacrifices every morning,
    your tithes every three days;
bring a thank offering of leavened bread,
    and proclaim freewill offerings, publish them;
    for so you love to do, O people of Israel!
says the Lord God.
Israel Rejects Correction
I gave you cleanness of teeth in all your cities,
    and lack of bread in all your places,
yet you did not return to me,
says the Lord.
And I also withheld the rain from you
    when there were still three months to the harvest;
I would send rain on one city,
    and send no rain on another city;
one field would be rained upon,
    and the field on which it did not rain withered;
so two or three towns wandered to one town
    to drink water, and were not satisfied;
yet you did not return to me,
says the Lord.
I struck you with blight and mildew;
    I laid waste[a] your gardens and your vineyards;
    the locust devoured your fig trees and your olive trees;
yet you did not return to me,
says the Lord.
I sent among you a pestilence after the manner of Egypt;
    I killed your young men with the sword;
I carried away your horses;[b]
    and I made the stench of your camp go up into your nostrils;
yet you did not return to me,
says the Lord.
I overthrew some of you,
    as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah,
    and you were like a brand snatched from the fire;
yet you did not return to me,
says the Lord.
Therefore thus I will do to you, O Israel;
    because I will do this to you,
    prepare to meet your God, O Israel!
For lo, the one who forms the mountains, creates the wind,
    reveals his thoughts to mortals,
makes the morning darkness,
    and treads on the heights of the earth—
    the Lord, the God of hosts, is his name!
Reflection You do not understand, says the prophet. You have lived in the worst of times, and yet you have not turned to God. Your money is worth less now than it was, but you do not think money has to do with God. There was violence across the world and in the cities that you make your homes, but you did not turn to God in prayer. Disasters have broken your hearts and exposed the cracks in society but you do not do as I would do and fill the Temple to overflowing.

The prophet is heartbroken by the fall of the world around him, the end of days he knows is just around the corner. Curiously, he draws strange comfort from the belief that this is the work of God, for if God is behind the violence then faithful petition can stop the violence. If God enacts calamity because people deserve calamity, then we can work our way out of calamity again.

The prophet hopes his perverse images of love and jealous rage will turn the hearts of others in the way his own heart is turned. He believes his own heart is turned to goodness. He is constantly surprised, in the thousands of years which follow, that his words do not bring peace or repentance or reconciliation among those who read them. He is stunned when they begin to work in another way, as evidence against the goodness of God in which he trusts above all. What do our prayers inspire in others? Hopefulness? Solidarity? Fear? Disdain?
 

Prayer

Holy one,
we pray for our world.
May your kingdom come,
your will be done,
in us,
around us,
and through us.
And may we turn to you
for strength, courage,
and renewed love even on dark days. Amen.

Today's Writer

The Revd Dr ’frin Lewis-Smith is minister to the URCs in Darwen and Tockholes.

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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URC Daily Devotion 16th January

URC Devotions - Tue, 16/01/2018 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 16th January Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Amos 4:1 - 3  

Hear this word, you cows of Bashan
   who are on Mount Samaria,
who oppress the poor, who crush the needy,
   who say to their husbands, “Bring something to drink!”
The Lord God has sworn by his holiness:
   The time is surely coming upon you,
when they shall take you away with hooks,
   even the last of you with fishhooks.
Through breaches in the wall you shall leave,
   each one straight ahead;
   and you shall be flung out into Harmon,
says the Lord.
Reflection If Amos were alive today, he would surely be a newspaper cartoonist. He has the ability that the best cartoonists have of linking grotesque imagery with scathing social comment. Just like modern cartoonists, Amos teeters on the edge of going too far - moving from humorous to downright offensive. He surely knows that he is painting some very memorable images.

This picture is of drunken, fat women, lolling on their couches, calling for more drink from their husbands. The obscene partying is depicted as being on Mount Samaria; at the foot of the mountain are the poor and needy, oppressed and crushed down by the weight of the opulence of their social ‘betters’.

Just out of sight of the women and their husbands, however, is God doing some fishing. With his fishhook - or perhaps his whaling harpoon - he is ready to catch these gross creatures and haul them in through a hole in the wall (this is a cartoon, remember) - from whence they will be flung back out, perhaps into that outer darkness where Matthew’s Gospel says there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

It’s a grotesque picture; like the best political cartoons it tells the truth. 25% of our population today is obese - and a further 37% are overweight.  At the same time, Foodbanks, run by our churches, are serving more and more malnourished adults and children, especially during holidays when free school lunches stop. The Welsh Government is now using part of its education budget to fund ‘Food and Fun’ clubs in the holidays to try to stem the tide.

We may laugh at Amos’s cartoon. But the joke's on us. Some of us reading and writing these Daily Devotions are today’s ‘cows of Bashan’, lolling about in overindulgent luxury while the poor are oppressed (because we pay such low taxes) and the needy are crushed (by having to seek handouts to survive). We followers of Jesus, who should be part of the solution, are too often part of the problem.
 

Prayer

Lord, I like the odd touch of luxury
and the occasional glass of wine -
don’t I deserve it after a long day?
Ok, Lord,
sometimes I do overindulge just a little,
But it doesn’t do any harm does it?
Lord, I do try to give a packet or two
to the Foodbank,
And help out there on alternate Tuesdays.
The stories I hear are so sad,
And it’s the hungry children
that worry me most.
Jesus said,
“Come, follow me,
and I will make you fish for people.”
Amos didn’t really mean
that you were fishing for me, did he?
Did he?
Lord?

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Gethin Rhys is National Assembly Policy Officer for Cytun.

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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URC Daily Devotion 15th January

URC Devotions - Mon, 15/01/2018 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 15th January Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Amos 3: 9 - 15

Proclaim to the strongholds in Ashdod,
   and to the strongholds in the land of Egypt,
and say, “Assemble yourselves on Mount Samaria,
   and see what great tumults are within it,
   and what oppressions are in its midst.”
They do not know how to do right, says the Lord,
   those who store up violence and robbery in their strongholds.
Therefore thus says the Lord God:
An adversary shall surround the land,
   and strip you of your defense;
   and your strongholds shall be plundered.
Thus says the Lord: As the shepherd rescues from the mouth of the lion two legs, or a piece of an ear, so shall the people of Israel who live in Samaria be rescued, with the corner of a couch and part of a bed.

Hear, and testify against the house of Jacob,
   says the Lord God, the God of hosts:
On the day I punish Israel for its transgressions,
   I will punish the altars of Bethel,
and the horns of the altar shall be cut off
   and fall to the ground.
I will tear down the winter house as well as the summer house;
   and the houses of ivory shall perish,
and the great houses shall come to an end,
says the Lord.
Reflection On what many now refer to as Blue Monday, it is hard to find comfort, hope or good cheer in this passage. On a day when we could do with a reminder of how much God loves us, Amos reminds us of a side of God we’d rather not think about: judgement. A God who seems to be on the side of the enemies.

For it is Israel’s hated, ancestral enemies, Ashdod (or Assyria, as some think) and Egypt who are called to witness Israel’s wrongdoing and to see its punishment. God’s judgement is terrifying: total destruction. Not a remnant will be left - even if the mention of rescue seems to suggest some may survive. The rescuing of a part of the bed or the corner of the couch is just proof that the people of Samaria will be gone, just as the shepherd had to prove that an animal had truly been killed by retrieving some of it from the mouth of the predator. Otherwise he would have to pay for it (Ex. 22:12).

So, what is Israel’s sin? Disorder and unjust social practices, robbery and storing up violence. The Lord’s requirement to live in the land with genuine justice seems to have been forgotten. Ironically, Israel had evolved into the kind of oppressive nation from which God had delivered them.

And where the people do not know how to do right, says Amos, God’s judgement will be fierce. There will be no protection in great houses, ivory towers nor religious centres. If you do not heed God’s command to look after the widow, the orphan or the stranger in your midst (Lev. 19), no house will stand.

We would do well to heed these words, as we walk the way. Doing justice is core to our obedience to God – who wills not judgement, but wholeness and fulness of life for all. If you want to reach for heaven, no less than reaching for earth’s vulnerable children will do.
 

Prayer

God of heaven and earth,
Teach us to know how to do right -
to do justice,
love kindness
and walk humbly with you.
Amen

Today's Writer

Francis Brienen is the Deputy General Secretary (Mission) and a member of Muswell Hill 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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URC Daily Devotion 14th January

URC Devotions - Sun, 14/01/2018 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 14th January Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Psalm 30

O LORD, I will exalt your name
for you have rescued me;
You did not let my foes rejoice
and gloat triumphantly.

LORD God, in need I cried to you
and you restored my health.
O LORD, you brought me from the grave
and saved my soul from death.

You holy ones, sing to the LORD;
sing out with joyful voice.
When you recall his holy name,
then praise him and rejoice.

His anger but a moment lasts;
life-long his favour stays.
Though tears may last throughout the night,
joy comes with morning’s rays.

“I never shall be moved,” I said
in my prosperity.
You made my mountain firm and strong
when you, LORD, favoured me.

But when you hid your face from me
my heart was terrified.
To you, O LORD, I called aloud;
for mercy, Lord, I cried.

What gain will my destruction bring
if I descend to death?
Will dust proclaim your faithfulness
or praise you with its breath?

Hear as I cry, O LORD my God,
and listen to my plea.
Come to my aid in my distress;
have mercy, LORD, on me.

You turned my wailing into dance;
no longer was I sad.
My sackcloth gone, you gave me clothes
of joy, and I was glad.

Therefore my heart will sing to you
and never cease to praise;
To your great name, O LORD my God,
I will give thanks always.


You can hear a Free Church of Scotland congregation sing this to the tune St Andrew here. Reflection The middle of January is rarely the most positive time of the year, with short days and dark evenings, post-Christmas credit card bills looming and New Year resolutions left behind.  Yet the Psalm today calls us to give thanks to the God whose loving favour is ‘life-long.’

For the Psalmist the cause of thanks is God’s rescue from a grave life threatening illness.  Death has been defied, the grave robbed, health restored and the Psalmist extols the Lord God who turns wailing into dancing.

The Psalm begins and ends with praise but at its centre is a powerful description of what Brueggemann describes as the experience of disorientation.  All had been well, life was good and the Psalmist congratulates himself on his prosperity and sense of security.  Just when he feels himself immovable the grounds falls from under him.  Suddenly everything is threatened.   Human mortality and fragility is exposed:  ‘You hid your face from me, my heart was terrified.’  The darkness draws close – a darkness not only of death but the absence of God and the denial of faithfulness and love.

We may not experience such a dramatic fall or recovery but this Psalm helps in the struggles of life and faith; those moments when we are shaken to the core with what has happened to us or to those we love.   It helps us to respond to those times when God ‘hides his face’.  First it reminds us that we are not God – we are not the mountain strong and firm, God is.  Then it encourages us to hold onto God’s faithfulness and graciousness – the God who is there as our helper and Lord.  More than that, it helps us know that, in God’s time, mourning will be turned into dancing, God will clothe us with joy.  Finally we must not be silenced by life, but give and make space for thanks and praise to our God, come what may.
 

Prayer

God of tender mercy and gracious joy,
hold in your loving care
those who face death today,
those who feel
that your face is hidden from them
and those in the midst
of disease and distress.
Bring them hope
in the midst of their pain,
peace in the midst of conflict
hope in the midst of despair.
God, our God, lead us to that point
and place of grateful praise,
where our hearts may sing
of the life you give us
and the new life you open to us
in Jesus Christ. Amen

Today's Writer

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

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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URC Daily Devotion 13th January

URC Devotions - Sat, 13/01/2018 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 13th January Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

George Fox
1624-1691 

George Fox was born at Fenny Drayton in Leicestershire in 1624, the son of a weaver, and was himself apprenticed to a shoe-maker. He became something of a wayfarer from 1643 for about three years, loosening all ties with his family and friends. The 'Inner Light of the Living Christ' became his watchword in 1646 and he began to preach that the truth could only be found through the Inner Voice speaking directly to each soul. His society of 'The Friends of Truth' was formed at about this time, clearly a protest against the authoritarianism of the Presbyterian system, and many believers joined. Because of welcoming God into the soul often whilst in a state of trance, which caused much body movement, Gervase Bennet nicknamed them the Quakers in 1650; although meant as a term of abuse, it quickly became a name they themselves adopted. Fox spent several spells in gaol because of his determination to preach where he would and what he willed; he also made many missionary journeys around England, on the continent and to North America and the West Indies. He had a charismatic personality combined with excellent organisational abilities, which proved a solid foundation for ensuring the continuance of his beliefs and practices. He died on this day in 1691.

Proverbs 8. 1–11

Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice? On the heights, beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand;  beside the gates in front of the town,  at the entrance of the portals she cries out: ‘To you, O people, I call, and my cry is to all that live. O simple ones, learn prudence; acquire intelligence, you who lack it. Hear, for I will speak noble things, and from my lips will come what is right; for my mouth will utter truth; wickedness is an abomination to my lips. All the words of my mouth are righteous; there is nothing twisted or crooked in them. They are all straight to one who understands and right to those who find knowledge. Take my instruction instead of silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold; for wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her. Reflection One of our more unusual wedding gifts was ‘Quaker Faith and Practice’ as approved by the British Yearly Meeting in 1994.  It is a resource which I have returned to on many occasions. In thinking about wisdom and the witness of George Fox I have come across these words, written by Fox in 1656 while in prison in Cornwall.  

‘Keep in the wisdom of God that spreads over all the earth, the wisdom of the creation, that is pure. Live in it, that is the word of the Lord God to you all, do not abuse it; and keep down and low; and take heed of false joys that will change…….And this is the word of the Lord God to you all, and a charge to you all in the presence of the living God: be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations, wherever you come, that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone.’

As we seek to be people ‘Walking the way, living the life of Jesus today’ Fox’s instruction to live in the wisdom of God, found in creation; found in the Word of God; found in acknowledging that of God in everyone, seems to me to be a helpful encouragement. Whereas the writer of the Wisdom of Solomon talks about speaking words of wisdom, Fox encourages those who receive his letter to be patterns and examples so ‘that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people.’ Being a disciple engages every part of our being and every facet of our living - may we be patterns and examples of life in the wisdom of God in our speaking, our actions, our economic choices, our relationships, our care for creation and for all God’s people.
 

Prayer

May the Inner Light of the Living Christ
dwell deeply within us this day,
to bless us
through our interactions with others
to guide us in the decisions we make
whether large or small
to encourage us so we too
may walk cheerfully over the world,
sharing the love and wisdom of God
with those we encounter.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Lindsey Sanderson, Minister, East Kilbride and Hamilton Joint Pastorate.

Bible Version

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


 
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URC Daily Devotion 12th January

URC Devotions - Fri, 12/01/2018 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 12th January Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Amos 3: 1 - 7

Hear this word that the LORD has spoken against you, O people of Israel, against the whole family that I brought up out of the land of Egypt: You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.   Do two walk together unless they have made an appointment?   Does a lion roar in the forest, when it has no prey? Does a young lion cry out from its den, if it has caught nothing?   Does a bird fall into a snare on the earth, when there is no trap for it? Does a snare spring up from the ground, when it has taken nothing?  Is a trumpet blown in a city, and the people are not afraid? Does disaster befall a city, unless the LORD has done it? Surely the Lord GOD does nothing, without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets. Reflection Do we really listen to God?   So often  we concentrate on the love and care of God but, because we are happy in the God’s love, we forget that, just as a parent will scold a child for being naughty, so God will speak against us if we turn against him.

This passage, reminds me that God sees and knows all. We may not shout about our accomplishments or our triumphs or make a big show of our successes; nor may we complain about our failures, but God sees all. He reveals his plan through the prophets.

God knows us inside and out, and we cannot hide from him. He knows our failings and we must acknowledge them and face the consequences.

It is 21 years ago today since my husband and I announced our engagement – a choice we made willingly and openly. One of the dangers of a wedding is getting so caught up in the celebration of the “big day” that we do not prepare for the marriage that follows. Our churches are open to all who would come in willingly to learn more of the gospel, but do we get so caught up in the celebration of worship that we fail to accept the responsibility of discipleship?

Are we so worried about who will fill the rotas that we do not see outside of our church doors? If we spend our time looking inward then the world will pass us by and we will have to account for why we missed it. Let us look further than our own buildings and see the wider world. Let us look further than our own church to see the bigger kingdom of God. God still speaks to us through his prophets, but do we still hear him?
 

Prayer

Lord of the past,
may we learn from your prophets
that you keep your word,
that you both know and care for us,
but also know and see all that we do.

Lord of the present,
speak to us anew,
that we may hear the cries
of those with no voice.
Speak through us
to bring hope to our community,
our country,
our world.

Lord of the future,
help us to acknowledge
our blinkered vision
that we may widen our scope
to see the needs of our world
and play our part in meeting those needs.

Lord we hear your Word
and obey your commands.
Walk with us,
that we may do all we can
in the power of your Holy Spirit,
through the example of your Son,
to bring your wider kingdom
here on earth.
Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Ruth Watson is minister of Patricroft and Worsley Road URCs in Salford.

Bible Version

 
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URC Daily Devotion 11th January

URC Devotions - Thu, 11/01/2018 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 11th January Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Mary Slessor
1848-1915 

Mary Slessor was born into a working-class, United Presbyterian Church, family in Aberdeen in 1848. As a child in Dundee, she was enthralled by stories of missions in Africa. For years, she read diligently as she worked in the mills, and eventually, in 1875, she was accepted as a teacher for the mission in Calabar, Nigeria. Her fluency in the local language, physical resilience and lack of pretension endeared her to those to whom she ministered. She adopted unwanted children, particularly twins who would otherwise, according to local superstition, have been put to death. She was influential in organising trade and in settling disputes, contributing much to the development of the Okoyong people with whom she later settled. She died, still in Africa, on this day in 1915.

Isaiah 61: 1-3 

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
  because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
  to bind up the broken-hearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
  and release to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour,
  and the day of vengeance of our God;
  to comfort all who mourn;
to provide for those who mourn in Zion—
  to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
  the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
  the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.
Reflection My parents often entertained visiting preachers to our chapel and as a young, ardent Christian, I can remember being thrilled and excited when Missionaries from Abroad came to tell us wonderful stories about their ministry. They embodied the words of Isaiah. That’s where the work of the gospel needed to take place - abroad.

I can remember thinking: perhaps that’s what I should do?
I didn’t! I was too comfortable and scared.

Mary Slessor was no stranger to poverty and oppression: her father was an abusive alcoholic and she became the main breadwinner aged 11.  Her faith and church life upheld her; she determined to be a pioneer worker in the remote  African interior. From age 27 until  death she did just that and ‘with the spirit of the Lord upon her’ she fought cruel tribal customs and witchcraft. One custom that broke her heart was 'twin-murder'. Some tribes thought twins were a result of a curse caused by an evil spirit who fathered one of the children. Both babies were brutally murdered and the mother was shunned. Overwhelmed and depressed, she knelt and prayed, "Lord, the task is impossible for me but not for Thee. Lead the way and I will follow." Rising, she said, "Why should I fear? I am on a Royal Mission. I am in the service of the King of kings.”  Mary rescued many twins and ministered to their mothers.

Our work as missionaries today is much closer to home. We may not face some of the conditions that Mary  did and our stories may not have the romantic ring I remember from childhood, but the task is just as great as we follow Jesus more faithfully and involve ourselves in trying to make a real difference in our local communities.  Let us not be too comfortable and scared, but rise from prayer and say with Mary Slessor: “Why should I fear? I am on a Royal Mission. I am in the service of the King of kings”
 

Prayer

Holy God,
Help me to listen to your call
to go wherever you want me to be.
Whatever the challenge,
give me the bravery to respond.
Whatever the need,
give me the will to serve.
Where there are broken hearts,
help me find compassion.
Where there are imprisoned minds,
help me find wisdom.
Where there is oppression,
help me find courage.
Lord, the task is always too great for me,
but not for you.
Lead the way and I will follow.
Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Lis Mullen is a retired minister and member of Kendal URC

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
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URC Daily Devotion 10th January

URC Devotions - Wed, 10/01/2018 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 10th January Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Amos 2: 6 - 16

Thus says the Lord:
For three transgressions of Israel,
   and for four, I will not revoke the punishment;
because they sell the righteous for silver,
   and the needy for a pair of sandals—
they who trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth,
   and push the afflicted out of the way;
father and son go in to the same girl,
   so that my holy name is profaned;
they lay themselves down beside every altar
   on garments taken in pledge;
and in the house of their God they drink
   wine bought with fines they imposed.
Yet I destroyed the Amorite before them,
   whose height was like the height of cedars,
   and who was as strong as oaks;
I destroyed his fruit above,
   and his roots beneath.
Also I brought you up out of the land of Egypt,
   and led you for forty years in the wilderness,
   to possess the land of the Amorite.
And I raised up some of your children to be prophets
   and some of your youths to be Nazirites.
   Is it not indeed so, O people of Israel?
says the Lord.
But you made the Nazirites drink wine,
   and commanded the prophets,
   saying, ‘You shall not prophesy.’
So, I will press you down in your place,
   just as a cart presses down
   when it is full of sheaves.
Flight shall perish from the swift,
   and the strong shall not retain their strength,
   nor shall the mighty save their lives;
those who handle the bow shall not stand,
   and those who are swift of foot shall not save themselves,
   nor shall those who ride horses save their lives;
and those who are stout of heart among the mighty
   shall flee away naked on that day, says the Lord.
Reflection One of the interesting things about contemporary society is that politicians often are tempted to talk about personal morality whilst church leaders often talk about politics.  Archbishop Desmond Tuto famously rebuked those who told him to stay out of politics that he didn’t know what Bible they read as his inspired him to enter political debate.

Amos clearly knew a thing or two about political protest; but for the ancient Jews there wasn’t an easy divide between personal morality and political ideas.  The Jews saw God as their King bound to the People by the Covenant.  Of course the Jews insisted on having a king like the surrounding nations but Kings proved to be a mixed blessing - and were often removed by the prophets acting in the name of God if they strayed too far from the Covenant.  In this passage oppression of the poor is condemned alongside sexual immorality - I wonder if the prophet had in mind the poor woman who had to satisfy both father and son with her body.  
Amos reminded the people of all that God had done for them in the past in the hope that this reminiscence would bring them back to a fruitful relationship with God but, again and again, Amos is driven to remind the people where they have gone wrong - and the coming consequence of that neglect.  

Prophets are in short supply in our own age.  Political might is happier for the Church to talk about personal morality - then it can portray as out of touch, insular, and old fashioned - than it is when we make political statements.  This isn’t new.  In the 1980s the Brazilian bishop Dom Helder Camara famously noted that when he gave food to the poor they called him a saint but when he asked why the poor had no food they called him a communist.  I suspect he was happier with the latter rather than the former description.  
 

Prayer

God of the poor,
remind us of our obligations
to care for those on the edge,
to feed the poor,
clothe the naked,
give succour to the hungry and thirsty,
and,
at the same time
to do more than bandage the wounded,
but to put a spoke in the machinery of evil,
that your Kingdom will come
and your people will be free.
Amen.

Today's Writer

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

Bible Version

 
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URC Daily Devotion 9th January 2018

URC Devotions - Tue, 09/01/2018 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 9th January 2018 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Amos 2:4-5 

Thus says the Lord: For three transgressions of Judah, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment; because they have rejected the law of the Lord, and have not kept his statutes, but they have been led astray by the same lies after which their ancestors walked.  So I will send a fire on Judah, and it shall devour the strongholds of Jerusalem. Reflection The thought of the God of love sending fire and destroying a fortress may seem alien to our view of God today.  Amos had already spoken out against many of the surrounding pagan nations.  Now he turns to Judah and applies a very different standard.  The other nations had been judged according to a moral code, but Judah possessed the truth in God’s law and would be judged against this higher standard.  Amos has not used the term “The Law of The Lord” until this time and it is clear he  knows that those who know the law are judged by it.  Paul writes in a very similar way in Romans 2:11-12.  “For God does not show favouritism.  All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law.”

As Christians we can rejoice that we “have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life” (Romans 6:22).

We need to avoid being like Judah by following false gods.  In a series of radio broadcasts Martin Luther King, Jr suggested that we should avoid following false gods which he suggested include science, money and nationalism.  Each of us needs to be aware of the things that can come between us and the one true God.  We all know our weaknesses and it is through prayer and faithfulness to Jesus that we can avoid these pitfalls.  We can rejoice in the assurance that our relationship to God is secure and that we will not be destroyed but have eternal life.
 

Prayer

Loving God
we thank you for all that you do for us.
We thank you that you sent your son to set us free.
We ask that you guide us and protect us
and keep us from following false gods.
Keep us following the true path
that Jesus showed us
and let us rejoice in the knowledge
that we have eternal life with Jesus,
Amen.

Today's Writer

John Collings is a Lay Preacher in the Synod of Scotland and a member of Rutherglen URC.

Bible Version

 
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URC Daily Devotion 8th January

URC Devotions - Mon, 08/01/2018 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 8th January Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Amos 1:1 - 2-3

And he said:
The Lord roars from Zion,
  and utters his voice from Jerusalem;
the pastures of the shepherds wither,
  and the top of Carmel dries up.
Thus says the Lord:
For three transgressions of Damascus,
  and for four, I will not revoke the punishment;
because they have threshed Gilead
  with threshing-sledges of iron.
So I will send a fire on the house of Hazael,
  and it shall devour the strongholds of Ben-hadad.
I will break the gate-bars of Damascus,
  and cut off the inhabitants from the Valley of Aven,
and the one who holds the sceptre from Beth-eden;
  and the people of Aram shall go into exile to Kir,
says the Lord.
Thus says the Lord:
For three transgressions of Gaza,
  and for four, I will not revoke the punishment;
because they carried into exile entire communities,
  to hand them over to Edom.
So I will send a fire on the wall of Gaza,
  fire that shall devour its strongholds.
I will cut off the inhabitants from Ashdod,
  and the one who holds the sceptre from Ashkelon;
I will turn my hand against Ekron,
  and the remnant of the Philistines shall perish,
says the Lord God.
Thus says the Lord:
For three transgressions of Tyre,
  and for four, I will not revoke the punishment;
because they delivered entire communities over to Edom,
  and did not remember the covenant of kinship.
So I will send a fire on the wall of Tyre,
  fire that shall devour its strongholds.
Thus says the Lord:
For three transgressions of Edom,
  and for four, I will not revoke the punishment;
because he pursued his brother with the sword
  and cast off all pity;
he maintained his anger perpetually,
  and kept his wrath for ever.
So I will send a fire on Teman,
  and it shall devour the strongholds of Bozrah.
Thus says the Lord:
For three transgressions of the Ammonites,
  and for four, I will not revoke the punishment;
because they have ripped open pregnant women in Gilead
  in order to enlarge their territory.
So I will kindle a fire against the wall of Rabbah,
  fire that shall devour its strongholds,
with shouting on the day of battle,
  with a storm on the day of the whirlwind;
then their king shall go into exile,
  he and his officials together,
says the Lord.
Thus says the Lord:
For three transgressions of Moab,
  and for four, I will not revoke the punishment;
because he burned to lime
  the bones of the king of Edom.
So I will send a fire on Moab,
  and it shall devour the strongholds of Kerioth,
and Moab shall die amid uproar,
  amid shouting and the sound of the trumpet;
I will cut off the ruler from its midst,
  and will kill all its officials with him,
says the Lord.
Reflection Well this is the wrath of God, in all its plain and terrible fury. The opening of the book is an uncomfortable read  and it’s going to be like this for some while before we get to the more popular parts.

It’s hard to read these passages without picturing the places that carry these names as they are now. We’ve all seen Damascus broken by violence and Gaza ‘punished’ with fire. We know that with broken gates and walls of fire come death for human beings; for soldiers and civilians, adults and children. And it’s hard to hear such anger, whether it comes from God or from another human.

I could tell you that Amos plays a little trick on Judah and Israel in chapter two. He gets his readers cheering at the thought of God punishing the other nations, but then tells them that God has their own injustice in sight too. I could tell you that by the end of the book the tone is different and God is not just condemning, but also relenting and even promising restoration. But perhaps it is better if, for today, we try to stay in a place where we listen to God’s anger, really listen and allow it is to rock us and challenge us. Maybe there are days when we need a kind of righteous anger to be stirred in us; anger at the kind of exploitation, slavery and truly appalling violence that God names here, according to Amos, in these places and peoples. When we stop being so angry at these kinds of things we can sink into complacency. We may know that retributive violence is not the answer, but neither is any kind of meek tolerance and forgetting. On some days, and so let it be this day, we need to be reminded just how terrible injustice can be. But then, we need to wait, and see, what God will do, even in us, once anger can be tempered by reason.
 

Prayer

O God,
stir in me a truly righteous anger
at the sorrow and suffering of the world,
and so shape my anger
with your wisdom
that I may know what to pray for
and what to do
in response to what I see.
Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev'd Dr Susan Durber is the minister of Taunton URC.

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Our Next Daily Devotion series

URC Devotions - Sun, 07/01/2018 - 18:45
96 Our Next Daily Devotion series View this email in your browser

Next Daily Devotions Series

Dear <<First Name>>

I hope you have enjoyed the Devotions between Christmas and Epiphany as we reflected on the songs of the season.  Now Christmas is fast becoming a memory and, in our Daily journey together, we turn to the book of Amos which will work through over the next few weeks.

Amos is portrayed as a shepherd from the north of Israel who preached, for a short time, with fine, rural imagery in the rich northern Kingdom of Israel against the corruptions of wealth, luxury, perversion of justice and external religion.  

The punishment of the “Day of the Lord” was already looming in the form of the threat of invasion by Assyria, in 721.  Amos is the first to teach that a faithful remnant will survive - the one ray of hope in his writing.  

Amos has much to teach us in an age where, in the West, many live in luxury, use religion for their own ends and neglect God and His commands to look after the poor.

I hope the series strengthens your knowledge of Amos and his message and, at the same time, inspires you to live as a closer disciple of the Lord Jesus.

with every good wish

Andy

Andy Braunston
Coordinator, Daily Devotions from the URC Project

 

  

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URC Daily Devotion 7th January

URC Devotions - Sun, 07/01/2018 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 7th January Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Psalm 29

You mighty ones, give to the LORD as his right,
Ascribe to the LORD God both glory and might.
To the LORD’s name due glory and honour accord;
In beauty of holiness worship the LORD.

The LORD’s voice is over the waters abroad,
And thunder proceeds from the glorious God.
Above all the waters God’s thunder is heard;
A powerful voice is the voice of the LORD.

The voice of the LORD is majestic and loud;
By the voice of the LORD the great cedars are bowed.
Yes, even the cedars of Lebanon tall,
The LORD breaks in pieces and shatters them all.

Like the leap of a calf he shakes Lebanon’s rocks,
And Sirion skips like a startled wild ox.
The voice of the LORD causes lightning to flash;
The voice of the LORD makes the wilderness crash.

The LORD makes the desert of Kadesh to shake;
The LORD causes oaks of the forest to quake.
The trees of the forest he strips of their leaves,
And he in his temple great glory receives.

The LORD over floods sits as monarch alone;
The LORD sits for ever as King on his throne.
The LORD makes the strength of his people increase;
The LORD gives his people the blessing of peace.


You can hear a Free Church of Scotland congregation sing this to the tune St Denio (Immortal Invisible) here. Reflection Storm and strength

As I paused in the middle of writing this, the computer screen switched to a picture I had not expected nor seen before. It was a magnificent forked lightning, crackling with force and electricity, piercing and pleating the dark sky, yet reaching across the land with the touch of a tender light. That image, one fixed frame from a mighty tempest, carried in it much of the message of Psalm 29. For this is a tempestuous song, about a trustworthy God.

The Psalm’s big idea is simply told: if you want to see the strength of God, look into the face of a storm. Hear the thunder. Stagger against the wind. Hear great trees creak and bend. Sense the energy and animation that convulse the land. Feel the world shudder and strain.

Then give praise. Remember that all this force is not rootless or meaningless. It is testimony. It tells of the one who shaped and sustains the earth. It speaks of power and purpose, of a constant vigour and creative voice, of majesty and might, of an intense ruling presence. Here is a God worthy of worship, a God who is neither limited nor absent nor uninvolved. For God is not dull, nor dead nor detached. God is alive, alert and active – known in creation though not bound by it, at work within nature yet not inhibited by it. God stirs in the deserts and empty spaces, speaks into the world’s silences, and shakes its static landscapes from lethargy into life.

This is the Lord who beckons the praise of heaven, and blesses people on earth. This is the Lord who sits as King, and summons our faith, hope and love. This is a God before whom we tremble – and in whom we trust.
 

Prayer

God of strength,
when I sense the forces of nature,
help me to remember your majesty;
when I feel my weakness,
tell me of your strength;
when the world seems to lack purpose,
teach my heart to praise you;
and when days seem slow,
and hope is thin,
remind me of the energy that raised Jesus
from death to life. Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d John Proctor is a member of Emmanuel URC, Cambridge and works as General Secretary of the URC.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
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URC Daily Devotion 6th January

URC Devotions - Sat, 06/01/2018 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 6th January Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Hymn: We Three Kings of Orient Are
 

We three kings of orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar
Field and fountain, moor and mountain
Following yonder star.

O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
 Guide us to thy Perfect Light.


Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain
Gold I bring to crown him again
King forever, ceasing never
Over us all to reign.
 O Star of wonder……

Frankincense to offer have I
Incense owns a Deity nigh
Prayer and praising, all men raising
Worship Him, God most high.
O Star of wonder……

Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume
Breaths a life of gathering gloom
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying
Sealed in the stone-cold tomb.
O Star of wonder…….

Glorious now behold Him arise
King and God and Sacrifice
Alleluia, Alleluia
Earth to heav’n replies
 O Star of wonder…..

 
The Rev'd John Henry Hopkins wrote this in 1857 as a Christmas surprise for nieces and nephews.  You can hear it here.

St Matthew 2: 1 - 12 

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.’ When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:

“And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
  are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
  who is to shepherd my people Israel.” ’

Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, ‘Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.’ When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure-chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

 
Reflection The story and the carol were both written for a specific reason. John Hopkins wrote ‘We three Kings’ for a family pageant. Matthew wrote his gospel to a church that was breaking from the Jewish community of which it had once been a part and was now declaring its new mission to the Gentile world. The story about the ‘wise men from the East’ who ‘knelt down and paid [the baby] homage’, reflects the challenge the Church was experiencing in receiving Gentile worshippers, whilst at the same time retaining the rich heritage of the Hebrew Scriptures in the many quotations from them.  This story, around which so many myths – the carol being one of them – are woven, presents The Way as a radical departure from old ways.

The beauty of the pageantry in both story and song though, hides the brokenness of the world this baby came to save. We rarely hear in church the terrifying continuation of the narrative that the ‘(un)wise men’ set in motion – the slaughter of all baby boys so that the one who was such a threat could be eliminated. It reminds me not to wrap up the Christmas story in gold paper and scented candles but remember that whilst our children may dress in velvet robes and paper crowns to enact weird and wonderful versions of the nativity, there are many children who, like Jesus, are at great risk and need the wisdom and gifts of strangers. Can we be the wise visitors of today?

Prayer

Guiding Light,
give us the hope that invites us to journey,
however difficult and dark the road.
Guiding Light,
give us the wisdom to know the right questions
when we want to find The Way.
Guiding Light,
give us both strength and vulnerability
so that our hearts and minds are open to the unexpected.  
Guiding Light,
give us generous hearts to offer gifts for life
and the grace to receive forgiveness when we go wrong.
Guiding Light,
give us wisdom.
Bring us to the Light of life.
Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Lis Mullen is a retired minister and member of Kendal URC

Bible Version

 
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URC Daily Devotion 5th January

URC Devotions - Fri, 05/01/2018 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 5th January Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Hymn: Hail to the Lord's Anointed
 

Hail to the Lord’s Anointed,
  Great David’s greater Son!
Hail, in the time appointed,
  His reign on earth begun!
He comes to break oppression,
  To set the captive free;
To take away transgression,
  And rule in equity.

He shall come down like showers
  Upon the fruitful earth;
And love, joy, hope, like flowers,
  Spring in His path to birth:
Before Him on the mountains
  Shall peace, the herald, go;
And righteousness, in fountains,
  From hill to valley flow.

Kings shall fall down before Him,
  And gold and incense bring;
All nations shall adore Him,
  His praise all people sing;
For He shall have dominion
  O’er river, sea, and shore,
Far as the eagle’s pinion,
  Or dove’s light wing can soar.

To Him shall prayer unceasing
  And daily vows ascend;
His kingdom still increasing,
  A kingdom without end.
The mountain dews shall nourish
  A seed in weakness sown,
Whose fruit shall spread and flourish,
  And shake like Lebanon.

O’er every foe victorious
  He on His throne shall rest,
From age to age more glorious,
  All-blessing and all-blest.
The tide of time shall never
  His covenant remove;
His Name shall stand forever,
  His changeless Name of Love.

The Moravian, James Montgomery* (1771-1854), wrote this in 1821 for a Moravian Christmas occasion.  It is a free paraphrase of Psalm 72, a psalm of righteousness and justice. 

This works particularly well to the tune Ellacombe.  You can hear it sung to this here.

Psalm 72

Give the king your justice, O God,
   and your righteousness to a king’s son.
May he judge your people with righteousness,
   and your poor with justice.
May the mountains yield prosperity for the people,
   and the hills, in righteousness.
May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
   give deliverance to the needy,
   and crush the oppressor.
May he live while the sun endures,
   and as long as the moon, throughout all generations.
May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass,
   like showers that water the earth.
In his days may righteousness flourish
   and peace abound, until the moon is no more.
May he have dominion from sea to sea,
   and from the River to the ends of the earth.
May his foes bow down before him,
   and his enemies lick the dust.
May the kings of Tarshish and of the isles
   render him tribute,
may the kings of Sheba and Seba
   bring gifts.
May all kings fall down before him,
   all nations give him service.
For he delivers the needy when they call,
   the poor and those who have no helper.
He has pity on the weak and the needy,
   and saves the lives of the needy.
From oppression and violence he redeems their life;
   and precious is their blood in his sight.
Long may he live!
   May gold of Sheba be given to him.
May prayer be made for him continually,
   and blessings invoked for him all day long.
May there be abundance of grain in the land;
   may it wave on the tops of the mountains;
   may its fruit be like Lebanon;
and may people blossom in the cities
   like the grass of the field.
May his name endure forever,
   his fame continue as long as the sun.
May all nations be blessed in him;
   may they pronounce him happy.
Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
   who alone does wondrous things.
Blessed be his glorious name forever;
   may his glory fill the whole earth.
Amen and Amen.
The prayers of David son of Jesse are ended.
 
Reflection Is this a prayer written for an anointed king?

There are a number of ways to interpret this Psalm and the impossible task of kingship which is represents.

It may have been written for the inauguration of a Davidic king in Jerusalem,  there is  some evidence to suggest that it is closely linked with King Solomon who prayed for wisdom to judge the people with justice. It is equally possible to read it as a prayer for anyone holding the office of king.  The lists of all those attributes of an ideal king - justice and righteousness, concern for the poor and needy, long life, dominion over his enemies and defence against oppression and violence - set a challenge and the goal for any monarch.

Surely this is about more than a human king, written at a time when Israel’s king was believed to be the one through whom God’s promise to Abraham would be worked out. This is a prayer which calls for divine government to be manifest in human rulers, which does rather have the potential to set them up to fail!

If we change the focus slightly it is not difficult to find that the prayer, and its expectations, fit precisely the example set by our Lord Jesus Christ.

We could leave it there – it’s about Jesus, it’s about some long-gone kings. We could wish that today’s leaders demonstrated more about justice and righteousness and certainly – in some cases - we hope they won’t ‘endure for ever’!

But that will not do – in the 21st century we do not vest such power in our leaders and each of us is called to a responsibility to help others to live in a way which enables them to glimpse the glory of God in their daily lives. The conduit for sharing God’s love is a responsibility for each one of us, leaders and people alike.

I leave you to decide on the answer to my initial question.

Prayer

God of righteousness and justice
we thank you for the challenge to our way of living,
demonstrated in the life of your Son Jesus Christ.
We pray for all in authority
that they may defend the cause of the poor of the people,
give deliverance to the needy
and crush the oppressors of this world
We pray for the courage to follow in the way of peace
which enables people to blossom.
And we offer our praise and thanks
for all your glorious works.
Amen

Today's Writer

Val Morrison Elder at Hall Gate URC Doncaster andformer Moderator of General Assembly.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 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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URC Daily Devotion 4th January

URC Devotions - Thu, 04/01/2018 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 4th January Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Hymn: Of the Father's Love Begotten
 

Of the Father’s love begotten
ere the worlds began to be,
he is Alpha and Omega,
he the source, the ending he,
of the things that are, that have been,
and that future years shall see:
evermore and evermore.

By his word was all created;
he commanded, and ‘twas done;
earth and sky and boundless ocean,
universe of Three in One,
all that sees the moon’s soft radiance,
all that breathes beneath the sun:
evermore and evermore

O that birth forever blessed,
when the Virgin, full of grace,
by the Spirit’s power conceiving,
bore the Saviour of our race;
and the babe, the world’s Redeemer,
first revealed his sacred face:
evermore and evermore.

This is he whom seers in old time
chanted of with one accord,
whom the voices of the prophets
promised in their faithful word:
now he shines, the long expected;
let creation praise its Lord:
evermore and evermore.

Let the heights of heaven adore him;
angel hosts, his praises sing:
powers, dominions, bow before him
and extol our God and King;
let no tongue on earth be silent,
every voice in concert sing:
evermore and evermore.

 
You can hear the hymn here.

St John 1: 15-18 

John testified to him and cried out, ‘This is he of whom I said, “He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.” From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.
 
 
Reflection This much-loved hymn is wonderfully expressive of the miracle of the Incarnation, and its origin goes way back into antiquity. The original, Latin, version of the hymn (“Corde natus ex parentis”) was written by one Aurelius Clemens Prudentius, a Christian poet living in Northern Spain during the latter half of the 4th century and the early part of the 5th century. Through the translation above, J. M. Neale’s, extended by H. W. Baker, it speaks to us all down the centuries.

Theology is an ancient and honourable discipline. It constrains us to keep our beliefs substantial and sound, and to eschew mere sentimentality and wishful thinking. Likewise, the law-giver’s task can well to impose some discipline into our spirituality - Moses, mentioned in our Bible passage, occupied an honoured place on the Mount of Transfiguration.

But spirituality transcends both these great disciplines. Both disciplines can analyse and offer their own frameworks of understanding. Yet neither must be allowed to incarcerate revelation within those frameworks - because neither is adequate to convey the great incarnational miracle. It is only to the heart with love, wonder, and humility that true understanding can be given.

Our passage is an excerpt from one of the great passages of the Bible. The hymn conveys with profound expressive eloquence this part of the greatest story ever told. It is for us to take this narrative to ourselves, marvel alike at its meaning and expression, in the prose of John’s Gospel and in the poetry of the hymn, and resolve to live in the light shed by this story.

Prayer

Lord, we know this story well
- too well for our response always
to be as fresh as it should be.
Save us from being bored by its annual repetition,
and enable us to find something ever new,
to marvel and ponder over.
We thank you for poets and poetry,
to keep these great truths ever fresh.
We thank you for the beauty and facility
of language to enhance our understanding.
We thank you for the expressiveness of music and musicians,
to deepen these great hymns for us in our worship.
But most of all we thank you for the gift of your Son.
He inspires our devotion, our wonder,
and our confidence of that fuller life to be experienced
in the full and glorious light
of that closer presence with you.

Amen.

Today's Writer

Ed Strachan is an Elder and Lay Preacher at Heald Green URC.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 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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URC Daily Devotion 3rd January

URC Devotions - Wed, 03/01/2018 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 3rd January Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Hymn: Before the World Began / I Am For You
 

1.            Before the world began
               one Word was there;
               grounded in God he was,
               rooted in care;
               by him all things were made;
               in him was love displayed;
               through him God spoke and said
               'I AM FOR YOU.'

2.            Life found in him its source;
               death found its end;
               light found in him its course,
               darkness its friend,
               for neither death nor doubt
               nor darkness can put out
               the glow of God, the shout:
               'I AM FOR YOU.'

3.            The Word was in the world
               which from him came;
               unrecognized he was,
               unknown by name;
               one with all humankind,
               with the unloved aligned,
               convincing sight and mind:
               'I AM FOR YOU.'

4.            All who received the Word
               by God were blessed;
               sisters and brothers they
               of earth's fond guest.
               So did the Word of Grace
               proclaim in time and space
               and with a human face
               'I AM FOR YOU.'

 
John Bell (b.1949) and Graham Maule (b.1958) 'Before the world began' was included 'Wild Goose Songs' volume 1. A collection of hymns dedicated to the Iona Community on its fiftieth anniversary in 1987. The hymn can also been found in a couple of hymnbooks in common use in URC Churches namely 'Rejoice and Sing' (180) and 'Church Hymnary', 4th Edition (317). The author's note in 'Wild Goose Songs' says: 'The Prologue to St John's Gospel, of which this song is a paraphrase, celebrates that the world is not an accident. It's creation was and is rooted in the will and Word of God.

 

St John 1:1-14  

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

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.  He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him.  He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God,  who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.
Reflection It isn't hard to find parallels between the first five verses of John's Gospel and first four verses of Genesis, both are about creation and start with the words 'In the beginning' speaking of God's activity in the world. In John's Gospel  the Word is with God and in Genesis the Spirit of God hovers over the waters. John refers to the light shining in the darkness and in Genesis God speaks and there is light. The first two verses of the hymn cover those same four verse in John's Gospel.

The third verse of the hymn refers to the Word in the world, but at the same time unrecognised, and unknown by name for the hymn isn't only about creation. The theme of creation links with the theme of incarnation, a link there in the prologue of John's Gospel. The Word, unknown by name is also one with us and to use the words of the hymn is aligned with the unloved.

John writes that those who received the Word and believed in his name are given the power to become children of God. In the fourth verse of the hymn we sing about those who receive the Word being blessed and becoming sisters and brother of 'the earth's fond guest'.

John's Gospel (1:14) refers to the Word becoming flesh and living among us, we see the Word's glory, like a  father's only son, 'full of grace and truth'. The final three lines of the last verse of the hymn refers to the Word of grace, proclaimed in time and space, who has a human face.

In the final line of each verse is printed in upper-case 'I AM FOR YOU' which at least suggests that this is central to the hymn in the authors’ minds. 'I am' of course being key words in John's Gospel not only used by Jesus as self-identification but also linked with the divine 'I AM'.

The Word is present with God from the beginning creating this universe and all that is in it, but the Word also discloses God's love, is present with us and shows solidarity with us.

We are in the closing days of the Christmas season. Christmas is about God coming among us in Jesus Christ who is the living Word, we hear him saying 'I am for you'.

Prayer

Loving God,
you speak to us through your living Word,
one with you,
through whom we may become your children,
sisters and brothers of each other,
one with you.

We thank you that Christ comes among us,
and is for us and for the whole of creation.
We thank you that you are active among us
through your Word and your Holy Spirit.
Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev'd Dr, David Whiting Minister, Sunderland and Boldon URC Partnership

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 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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URC Daily Devotion 2nd January

URC Devotions - Tue, 02/01/2018 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 2nd January Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

In the Bleak Mid Winter

In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan;
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

Our God, heaven cannot hold Him
Nor earth sustain,
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty —
Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom Cherubim
Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk
And a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom Angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
Which adore.

Angels and Archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air;
But only His Mother
In her maiden bliss
Worshipped the Beloved
With a kiss.

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am? —
If I were a Shepherd
I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man
I would do my part, —
Yet what I can I give Him, —
Give my heart.



You can hear Christina Rossetti's hymn here

St Luke 2: 22 - 32 

When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, ‘Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord’),  and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, ‘a pair of turtle-doves or two young pigeons.’

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him.  It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law,  Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,

‘Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
   according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
   which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
   and for glory to your people Israel.’
Reflection Christina Rossetti wrote this hymn in 1872.  She describes the physical circumstances of Jesus’ birth in teh frist verse, contrasts his original and second coming in the second, and dwells again on the first coming in the third verse.  In verse 4 she contrasts the angels, without bodies, who attend Jesus birth with Mary’s body who worships him physically.  The last verse switches to our response to the Incarnation.

When we encounter Jesus we need to respond - everyone does.  Sometimes that response is simple indifference, sometimes it is hostility - after all Jesus makes demands on us - sometimes the response is to worship, sometimes to follow where he leads.  

Simeon’s response is to see his dreams fulfilled in this young baby; he sees in Jesus the hopes of Israel being fulfilled and responds with praise.  

At the start of this New Year how will you respond to Jesus?
 

Prayer


I am no longer my own but yours.
Put me to what you will,
rank me with whom you will;
put me to doing,
put me to suffering;
let me be employed for you,
or laid aside for you,
exalted for you,
or brought low for you;
let me be full,
let me be empty,
let me have all things,
let me have nothing:
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things
to your pleasure and disposal.
And now, glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
you are mine and I am yours. So be it.
And the covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.

(Covenant Prayer used in Methodist Churches in January)

Today's Writer

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

Bible Version

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


 
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URC Daily Devotion - 1st January 2018

URC Devotions - Mon, 01/01/2018 - 09:14
96 URC Daily Devotion - 1st January 2018 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

O LIttle Town of Bethlehem 

O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight

For Christ is born of Mary
And gathered all above
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
Their watch of wondering love
O morning stars together
Proclaim the holy birth
And praises sing to God the King
And Peace to men on earth

How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him still,
The dear Christ enters in.

O holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us, we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in
Be born to us today
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell
O come to us, abide with us
Our Lord Emmanuel
 

Micah 5.2 

But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah,
   who are one of the little clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
   one who is to rule in Israel,
whose origin is from of old,
   from ancient days.
Reflection There was darkness on the edge of town. Ahaz had spoken. Uncertain times. Successive rulers moved from serving God to serving self, corruption flourished, people suffered. Beyond the boundary, powerful and threatening forces were gathering for siege, yet God spoke into this darkness through Micah of hope and new life to emerge from the least.

There was darkness on the edge of town. Caesar Augustus had decreed. Uncertain times. The Romans were in charge, marshalling, counting, assessing. Amidst the melee, a couple carrying the hopes and fears of first-time parents to be, found inadequate shelter, and....God sang into the darkness through angels’ song and baby’s cry.

American minister Phillip Brooks was visiting Jerusalem and on Christmas Eve rode to Bethlehem, stopping at the field of the shepherds, before midnight mass. Three years on… God moved into the darkness, through Phillip’s heart and O little town of Bethlehem, was penned.

There is still darkness on the edge of our towns. The shadow of homelessness from bed and breakfast accommodation to sofa surfing, and doorway-lined rough sleeping. Some homes watch and wait for benefit to arrive, surviving with food bank meals, fearing encircling debt. In other homes the shadow of illness lurks; a worrying diagnosis, concern about a loved one. Other homes host empty chair and bereaved heart.

And it is into such dark streets and homes that light may still shine. Flickering, yet inextinguishable. Because of that one night 2000 years ago when the hopes and fears of all the years were met, for… God still speaks, sings, and moves in the darkness, through those whose resolution is to serve from soup run and welcoming hostel to food bank and advice centre, coupled with questioning and campaigning. God is still present and active through those whose resolution is to send cards, offer prayer, visit, proffer a listening ear or show loving care.

And thus the hopes and fears of this New Year are met in thee tonight, and each tomorrow, so the everlasting light shines.

 
 

Prayer

O God,
in this season of reflection,
help me to find the people
who are calling me to change my ways
and to search my heart.
As the Winter deepens,
may my heart be stripped bare,
so that when comes the Spring,
I can rise renewed
and flourish into life. Amen.

Today's Writer

The Revd Dr David Pickering, Moderator National Synod of Scotland, Member Rutherglen 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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