URC Devotions

URC Daily Devotion 17th November

Fri, 17/11/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 17th November Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

Hilda
Abbess of Whitby, 680    

Hilda was born in 614 of the royal house of Northumbria. Baptised in York at the age of twelve by the Roman missionary Paulinus, she was later an influential lay leader of the Church. She was encouraged by Aidan of Lindisfarne to become a nun, and subsequently established a monastery at Streanaeshalch (Whitby). This house became a great centre of learning and was the meeting-place for the important Synod of Whitby in the year 664 at which Hilda's rôle was that of a reconciler between the Roman and the Celtic traditions. She is remembered as a great educator, exemplified in her nurturing of Caedmon's gift of vernacular song. She died on 17 November in the year 680.

Ephesians 4. 1-6

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
 
Reflection North East England is one of my favourite places for a quiet break, I love to read about the ancient Celtic saints, and to see the places where they lived. There’s something profoundly moving about knowing I’m standing where others have shared my faith for over a thousand years, and, like many other people I find this can be a time for spiritual renewal, re-reading the stories and following in the footsteps of some of those saints, including Aidan and Cuthbert.

So, when I visit Whitby I wonder how Hilda really felt at the time of the Synod. She was a gracious and caring hostess to all the visiting clergy, but the decision to establish Roman Christian practice as the norm in Northumbria, must have been disconcerting for this powerful abbess of a Celtic-practice monastery, maybe it stretched her humble patience almost to the limit.

It seems that Hilda responded to this different way of being Church with more grace than the monks from Lindisfarne, who apparently refused to accept the decision and withdrew to Iona. Hilda lived by the standards laid down in Paul’s letter to the people of Ephesus, a tiny passage from the letter is today’s reading.

In this beautiful letter, Paul talks about God’s intention to unite Jews and Gentiles in a new community, which is the Church, the body of Christ. Paul offers a description of early Christian life, and in this passage, he is urging Christians to live their lives being focussed, disciplined and humble – supporting each other in love, regardless of ethnic differences. The Message paraphrase says: “Everything you think and do is permeated with Oneness.”

It resonates over the millennia for the Church today. Some churches may need to look different if they are to share faith with people who have never even heard of Jesus, yet we are all called to travel in the same direction and stay together, both outwardly and inwardly.

We can’t guess how the Church will look in the future; just like in Hilda’s time, and in Paul’s time too, culture is changing and the Church can join in by listening to and immersing itself in that culture, loving and serving and thus sharing faith. There are already many new expressions of Church which exist alongside more traditional churches. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians chapter 12, we are invited to be part of the body, accepting of the other parts. Our place, is to accept that there may be changes and yet be “completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love”. 1,500 years ago, Hilda understood the significance of this message, now it’s up to us.

Prayer

Compassionate God,
We know that you call us to be one church, yet sometimes we struggle to grasp that this church may take many different forms.
Help us to celebrate difference and understand that we are all working together to share the love of Jesus with people who may not be like us. Help us understand that this means sharing our faith in many different ways, and help us to celebrate new expressions of church as they bring people to Jesus – even if we don’t fully comprehend them.
In the name of your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Amen.

Today's Writer

Linda Rayner is the URC Co-ordinator for Fresh Expressions.

Bible Version

 
THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 16th November

Thu, 16/11/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 16th November Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 14: 1-21

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?
 
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
 
Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him,
 
“Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.
 
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.
 
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
 
“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”
Reflection Jesus challenges us both to believe and to love. For many who call themselves Christians, these have become increasingly difficult to do. Jesus’ words might shock us and disturb us.

Jesus encouraged his disciples to believe in him fully and then he said boldly, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” When I was sharing with a colleague how I, City Temple, and many other URC ministers and churches actually believed what Jesus said in this passage, the colleague accused me of being “divisive” and “controversial”. The colleague said he felt “shocked” and “grieved” by my level of “intolerance”. I was neither offended nor surprised by his comments. But they did remind me of how other people must have heard Jesus’ words in the same way. Jesus’ words have always seemed divisive and controversial, difficult to understand and even more difficult to rationalise — especially in our modern world.
 
Thankfully, Jesus didn’t tell us that we must fully understand or explain what he said. He simply encouraged us to trust him and believe. Then he showed us that he was worthy of our belief by dying on the cross for us and rising from the dead. Certainly, it is bold to believe that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. But Jesus asks for our belief.
 
We might think that Jesus’ encouragement for us to “love” would be far less controversial and divisive. However, for Jesus the command to love involves keeping his commandments — in other words, obedience. It is so easy for us to define “love” by cultural norms, societal whims and seemingly sacred sentimentality. “Love” thus defined becomes weak and wishy- washy, changing and easily changed.
 
Jesus defines love in terms of God and obedience to God no matter the cost, knowing that such love will always show itself as a self-giving, sacrificial commitment to others for their benefit. Love defined in these terms resembles the very heart of God as God has given himself through Jesus. If we really love Jesus then we will do what Jesus tells us to do. What Jesus tells us to do will always lead to a deeper love for others.
 
Since only God can generate and sustain such amazing love, Jesus promises that his followers would receive the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit would become our Helper, living in us so that we might love in truth and love to the fullest. Loving thus, we would become living embodiments of the reality of Jesus, loved by the Father and by the Son, and showing Jesus to the world.
 

Prayer

Loving God, we sometimes struggle to accept the full reality of what Jesus said. Jesus’ words challenge us and stretch us. So we need your help. Please fill us anew with your Holy Spirit so that we might believe and love as Jesus taught us. Help us both to believe and to love no matter the opposition, but always with gentleness and respect toward those who disagree with us. Thank you for the promise that you will never leave us nor forsake us. Thank you for the reality that you are with us now in love and grace. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Dr Rodney Woods is minister of City Temple in London.

Bible Version

 
The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®). ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. The ESV® text has been reproduced in cooperation with and by permission of Good News Publishers. Unauthorized reproduction of this publication is prohibited. All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 15th November

Wed, 15/11/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 15th November Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 13: 31 - 38

When [Judas] had gone out, Jesus said,

‘Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, “Where I am going, you cannot come.” I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’

Simon Peter said to him,

‘Lord, where are you going?’

Jesus answered,

‘Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow afterwards.’

Peter said to him,

‘Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.’

Jesus answered,

‘Will you lay down your life for me? Very truly, I tell you, before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times.
Reflection Peter’s foretold denial of Jesus appears in all four Gospels. John’s account places this in the Upper Room; the other three place it slightly later in the Garden of Gethsemane. Mark’s and Matthew’s accounts also echo the other Disciples’ resolve. We know what happened next: Judas betrayed Jesus; Peter denied Jesus; the other 10 ran away! The intimate meal they had just shared was thrown into chaos with a revelation of imminent betrayal; emotions ran high.

As Christmas approaches, TV soap-opera producers will already have filmed the explosive Christmas episodes, where some surprise revelation over Christmas Dinner will have the characters’ lives similarly thrown into chaos. Personal revelations can be life-changing for both the individual and the family. In the congregation where I serve as an Elder, many who come to us – myself included - have experienced similar when we ‘came out’ as lesbian or gay. For some, this led to fleeing their countries for their very lives; for others, estrangement from family.

Probably because we are so familiar with Jesus’ Passion narrative and that the four accounts blend into one in our minds, it is easy to overlook the verses unique to John’s account: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.” Here, the Greek uses ἀγαπᾶτε – ‘agape’ (sacrificial) love.

The brokenness we experience often stems from failure to love: others, God, even ourselves. In the middle of that painful scene in the Upper Room, Jesus focuses on love. Despite Peter’s denial, we know later from John 21 that Jesus restored Peter, where Jesus again focused on ‘agape’ love. Jesus’ command to love allows us to move beyond the denial and live once more.
 

Prayer

Risen Christ, Your miracle in us in Your constant forgiveness.
Risen Christ, You take us with our hearts just as they are.
Why think we must wait for our hearts to be changed before we go to you:
    You change them.
Your voice comes to bring light to our darkness,
and the river of praise opens up within us.

    (Prayer: Brother Roger of Taizé)

Today's Writer

Walt Johnson is a serving elder at Wilbraham St Ninian’s, Manchester.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 14th November

Tue, 14/11/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 14th November Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 13: 21-30

After he said these things, Jesus became visibly upset, and then he told them why. “One of you is going to betray me.”

The disciples looked around at one another, wondering who on earth he was talking about. One of the disciples, the one Jesus loved dearly, was reclining against him, his head on his shoulder. Peter motioned to him to ask who Jesus might be talking about. So, being the closest, he said, “Master, who?”

Jesus said, “The one to whom I give this crust of bread after I’ve dipped it.” Then he dipped the crust and gave it to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot. As soon as the bread was in his hand, Satan entered him.

“What you must do,” said Jesus, “do. Do it and get it over with.”

No one around the supper table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that since Judas was their treasurer, Jesus was telling him to buy what they needed for the Feast, or that he should give something to the poor.

Judas, with the piece of bread, left. It was night.
Reflection Jesus became visibly upset.  The Greek word is ἐταράχθη - the root word is transliterated as tarraso, meaning “to stir up, to trouble, to put into motion”.  In some manuscripts of the Gospel of John, angels tarraso healing waters (5:4).  Jesus is tarraso-ed when he sees Mary crying at Lazarus’ tomb (11:33).  Jesus is tarraso-ed again as he realises that soon he will bring glory to God’s name (12:27).  And in this passage, Jesus is tarraso-ed on the night before the Passover feast.  (In John’s gospel, Jesus is crucified as the Passover lambs are sacrificed in the Temple.)  From healing, to compassion, to obedience, to determination – God stirs.

One of you will betray me – Jesus is stirred.  A friend who had witnessed time and time again the power of God first hand was trying to usurp the will of God.  Someone was trying to thwart the advancement of the Kingdom of God.  A betrayal – an attempt to shackle the coming liberation.  Someone still did not understand what God was trying to do.  Jesus was stirred into action.  The only way to free this betrayer from himself would be to face the cross.  It was time.

What you must do, do. Possibly the betrayal by a close friend made Jesus even more resolved, more determined to help humanity?  His presence, ‘God dwelling among us’, wasn’t enough to save us from ourselves.  Part of us would never really fully understand God’s ‘kingdom-of-grace-and-mercy’ project.  Part of us would always rebel.

Creation? We rebelled.
Rainbow? We rebelled.
Kingdom with a Temple? We rebelled.
Promise of a Messiah and restoration? We rebelled.

And even at that moment, one of the closest of the close to Jesus rebels. Jesus had to wonder – would we ever get it?

By betrayal, Jesus was stirred, even more determined to defeat sin and death for the sake of us all.

What stirs you?  What troubles you to the point of action?  What makes you stand up, roll up your sleeves and get stuck in?  What sets you in grace-filled, God-led motion for the sake of others?
 

Prayer

Holy Spirit of God, Help me to see my work colleagues, friends, family, church family, and community as You do.  Show me what stirs You into action.  Stir me up!  Empower me and set me into motion, working with You on Your ‘kingdom-of-grace-and-mercy’ project.  For Your glory and for the sake of us all.  In Jesus’ name  Amen

Today's Writer

Angela Rigby is an ordinand at the Northern College and member of Christchurch URC in Haydock, St Helens.

Bible Version

 
THE MESSAGE, copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 13th November

Mon, 13/11/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 13th November Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 13: 1-20

Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper  Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself.  Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.  He came to Simon Peter, who said to him,
 
‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’
 
Jesus answered,

‘You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’  
 
Peter said to him,
 
‘You will never wash my feet.’
 
Jesus answered,
 
‘Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.’  
 
Simon Peter said to him,
 
‘Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!’  
 
Jesus said to him,
 
‘One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.’  
 
For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said,
 
‘Not all of you are clean.’
 
After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them,

‘Do you know what I have done to you?  You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am.  So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them.  If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.  I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But it is to fulfil the scripture, “The one who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.”  I tell you this now, before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am he.  Very truly, I tell you, whoever receives one whom I send receives me; and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.’
Reflection In Catholic Churches around the world, on Maundy Thursday, priests, bishops, cardinals, even the pope, wash the feet of members of the congregation in emulation of Jesus at the Last Supper.  In some American churches foot washing is an integral part of every celebration of Holy Communion.  This rite is a visual reenactment of the command to love and serve each other.
 
I suspect that Foot Washing isn’t an integral part of normal URC communion services though I suspect some may reenact this on Maundy Thursday.  Yet the command to love and serve one another is something we should follow as disciples of the Lord.  
 
Foot Washing was a necessary task in a dusty country where open sandals are worn; what might contemporary Foot Washing consist of?  Listening to those in mental pain; generously giving food to the food bank; inviting a destitute asylum seeker to share your home or any number of practical acts of love emulate our Master who washed his servants feet.
 

Prayer

Lord Jesus,
as a servant you washed the feet of your disciples,
showing love, humility and grace.
May we,
through acts of loving kindness,
so serve your people,
that all may come to know you
and your saving love for all.
Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Andy Braunston is minister of Barrhead, Shawlands and Stewarton URCs in the Southside Cluster in the Synod of Scotland.  He also co-ordinates the URC Daily Devotions project.

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 © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 12th November

Sun, 12/11/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 12th November Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

Psalm 23
 

The LORD is my shepherd; no want shall I know.
He makes me lie down where the green pastures grow;
He leads me to rest where the calm waters flow.

My wandering steps he brings back to his way,
In straight paths of righteousness making me stay;
And this he has done his great name to display.

Though I walk in death’s valley, where darkness is near,
Because you are with me, no evil I’ll fear;
Your rod and your staff bring me comfort and cheer.

In the sight of my en’mies a table you spread.
The oil of rejoicing you pour on my head;
My cup overflows and I’m graciously fed.

So surely your covenant mercy and grace
Will follow me closely in all of my ways;
I will dwell in the house of the LORD all my days.


You can hear a Free Church congregation sing this to the unusual tune Twarthie here
Reflection Today, on Remembrance Sunday, we all unite in thinking of the many men and women who have sacrificed their lives during war.  We stand to honour them and in remembering the horrors they have suffered we hope and pray for a more peaceful future.

As I write this, a Service of Remembrance is taking place at Tyne Cot Cemetery in Belgium where the graves of almost 12,000 soldiers (3/4 of them unidentified) stand in stark whiteness against a blue sky.  It was very different 100 years ago when the battle of Passchendaele raged for 100 days under grey rain clouds and in mud that drowned and buried men from across the world.

I visited this place in April and stood amongst the tombstones, read their stories and felt the keen wind blowing across the flat land, trying to imagine the soldiers suffering the cold, the wet, the fear and the utter desperation, never knowing if they would survive the next attempt to gain ground. I wondered if those frightened men would pray in longing and recite the 23rd Psalm – the one that was probably most familiar to them – for it is, more than anything, a psalm of confidence and a prayer of hope.

This simple but deeply spiritual psalm became especially meaningful to me (and my goodness, it sounds trite and pathetic compared with the horror of Passchendaele) when I walked my first long distance walk. The weather was variable and we had to contend with mud and snow and my boots hurt! The route was beautiful through pastures of wild flowers and besides flowing streams but it was very steep at times and I came to rely on my walking sticks which I began to call affectionately ‘my rod and my staff’ - for they comforted me! The words of the psalm accompanied me throughout that long walk and has done so on subsequent ones which have, at times, been even higher and tougher and it has reminded me that God always walks beside me and can transform the scariest, most threatening situations into ones that even though I suffer fear I can feel confidence in God’s presence.

I see so many of our church friends walking with sticks these days and I hope they too see them as their ‘rod and staff’ to comfort them and give them confidence, but perhaps we all need to consider what our rod and staff could be as we walk the way as disciples of Jesus.

Prayer

We pray for peace, loving God.
Peace amongst the nations,
amongst all peoples and amongst all faiths.

And we pray for peace in the hearts and minds
of all who are distressed, troubled and frightened.

Be their rod and staff, their comfort and confidence.
Anoint us with your goodness and mercy
and follow us closely as we walk in your ways.
Amen
 

Today's Writer

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

Bible Version

 
Sing Psalms (C) Psalmody and Praise Committee, Free Church of Scotland, 15 North Bank Street, Edinburgh, EH1 2LS.
Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 11th November

Sat, 11/11/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 11th November Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 12: 37 - 50

Although he had performed so many signs in their presence, they did not believe in him.  This was to fulfil the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “Lord, who has believed our message, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”  And so they could not believe, because Isaiah also said, “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, so that they might not look with their eyes, and understand with their heart and turn and I would heal them.”   Isaiah said this because he saw his glory and spoke about him.  Nevertheless many, even of the authorities, believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they did not confess it, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved human glory more than the glory that comes from God.

Then Jesus cried aloud: “Whoever believes in me believes not in me but in him who sent me.   And whoever sees me sees him who sent me.  I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in the darkness.  I do not judge anyone who hears my words and does not keep them, for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.  The one who rejects me and does not receive my word has a judge; on the last day the word that I have spoken will serve as judge, for I have not spoken on my own, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment about what to say and what to speak.  And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I speak, therefore, I speak just as the Father has told me.”
Reflection The first part of this passage is quite troubling.  John takes two quotes from Isaiah; it is the second that is troublesome: Isaiah 6:9-10.  Isaiah heard to voice of the Lord saying to him, ‘… make the mind of this people dull, stop their ears and shut their eyes …’  This apparent demand from God for Isaiah to prevent the people from hearing the word of God was a recognition of what was going on, not an act of retaliation; some people would just not listen and understand.  Isaiah seemed to be using shock tactics to get them to ‘wake up.’

In the rest of the passage Jesus is reflecting the same issue many years later – it was ever thus!  Interestingly, Jesus introduces a third category to the believers and unbelievers – those who are closet believers; they understood the implications of openly accepting Christ: rejection from the synagogue and Jewish society which would severely restrict their access to friends, family and wealth creation.  Jesus neither condemns the unbelievers nor the closet believers but warns them that they will not escape judgement forever.

We are not all gifted with the courage of the apostles (and don’t forget even Peter the ‘rock’ stumbled).  I have often wondered what I would do under those circumstances.  My first father-in-law (who died before I met his daughter) was a conscientious objector, a steadfast Congregationalist and a staunch CND supporter.  I remember some of the stories of the hate, prejudice and ostracism he and his wife ‘enjoyed’ in their west country village during WW2: this was not an easy option, but one which resonates with the treatment the OT Jews would have received had they admitted their faith in Jesus.
 

Prayer

Forgiving Father,
we give thanks to you for all your faithful and courageous disciples;
those who fear God more than they fear humankind.
Lord, we pray that you will continue to support,
guide and inspire those who love you so much
that they put themselves into positions of danger by not denying you.
Almighty and omnipotent saviour
we ask that you will gives us all
the courage and stamina needed
when we are put to the test in your name.
Amen.

Today's Writer

Alan Yates is the Moderator of General Assembly 2016 to 2018.

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 © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 10th November

Fri, 10/11/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 10th November Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 12: 20 - 36

Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.  Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.  Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.  Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.  Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour.

‘Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—“Father, save me from this hour”? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour.  Father, glorify your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’  The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, ‘An angel has spoken to him.’  Jesus answered, ‘This voice has come for your sake, not for mine.  Now is the judgement of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out.  And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’  He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.  The crowd answered him, ‘We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains for ever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?’  Jesus said to them, ‘The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going.  While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.’

After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them.
 
Reflection John’s Gospel gives us a different angle to other gospels, by which to look both at the Jesus of history and the one who meets us here and now, bringing life in abundance and to making us children of light.  The gospel writer tells this story so that readers and hearers ‘may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God and through believing ..may have life in his name’ (John 20.31).

Today’s passage follows on from Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem.  The storm clouds are gathering and Jesus speaks of his death in three ways.  First he gives the picture of the seed sown in the ground, dying to bring new life, a harvest of many.  It’s a picture drawn from the kingdom parables – the mustard seed and the sower – but now focussed on the act of Jesus dying, his giving of his life for the world God so loves.  The death Jesus dies is a real death – and it troubles his soul – but in John’s telling of the story he refuses to ask to be saved from it.  Rather this self-giving is his raison d’être.  So the second picture is of his death as glorifying God: ‘Father glorify your name.’  This is to be Jesus’ hour – and it will bring glory both to his Father and ultimately to himself.   And thirdly John pictures the cross as a lifting up of Jesus – to show him to the world and to draw people (Jew and Gentile) to him.

So in a world where there are many disturbing pictures let reflect on these three pictures of the cross – ‘we wish to see Jesus.’
 

Prayer

Prayer
Lord Jesus we picture you on the cross
- a seed sown in our world
           and bearing an amazing harvest of grace
- a moment of strange glory,
           for which we praise you.
- a sign of eternal love
           that draws us to yourself.
Help us to see you in our world today.  Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev'd Terry Hinks is the Minister of Trinity URC, High Wycombe and Cores End 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 © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 9th November

Thu, 09/11/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 9th November Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 12:12-19

The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting,

‘Hosanna!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord—
   the King of Israel!’
Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it; as it is written:
‘Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion.
Look, your king is coming,
   sitting on a donkey’s colt!’

His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him. So the crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to testify.  It was also because they heard that he had performed this sign that the crowd went to meet him.  The Pharisees then said to one another,

‘You see, you can do nothing. Look, the world has gone after him!’
Reflection Nobody has a clue what is happening...apart from the Pharisees.

The disciples don’t get it, as usual.  It’s not until later when they look back on things that it all starts to make sense.  Isn’t that the way of life?  Often when we are in the middle of something we don’t realise its significance until well afterwards.  It’s like watching someone tipping that first domino, knowing that a train of events has been set in motion but also knowing that you won’t really know what has happened until all the other dominoes have fallen and the pattern they have made can be seen.

Decisions we make as people, as a church, a denomination and a country.  Unintended consequences.  Expediency.  Lack of foresight.  Lazy thinking or plain self interest.  We have all done it and will all do it again.

Perspective is one of the gifts of the Gospels.  They are not diaries.  They are accounts, written with hindsight, something I think we often forget.  The writer of John is watching the dominoes fall and making sense of the pattern for us.

A prophecy fulfilled.  A crowd behaving oddly.  Waving palms and shouting for the King of Israel is treason, but this Jesus can raise people from the dead.  They had seen the ultimate miracle for themselves, so maybe, just maybe, it’s worth the risk.  

The pharisees know that their moment is not yet here.  The crowd are fickle.  Their time will come.  But not yet.

Each time I read this story I wonder where I would stand, and who I would stand with.  And wish once again that I had the gift of perspective.
 

Prayer

God who takes the long view
Help us who are right in the middle of it all
To step back,
To slow down,
To look around
And to see with your eyes
The consequences of our actions
For those we rarely even give a thought to.

Help us to learn from our past
And the past of others.
Give us eyes to see
And ears to hear
Your perspective.
Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Stewart Cuter is the minister of St Ninian’s LEP, Stonehouse in the Synod of Scotand.

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 © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 8th November

Wed, 08/11/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 8th November Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 12: 1-11

Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.    But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said,

“Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?”   

(He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said,

“Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.
Reflection “The unbound tresses, appropriate for the harlot, would be regarded as shameful on the part of the lady of the house” - this delicate description of Mary’s Rapunzel moment comes from my 1952 version of the Interpreter’s Bible. Tom Wright is a bit more racy when talking of the unbound locks, “roughly the equivalent, at a modern polite dinner party, of a woman hitching up a long skirt to the top of her thighs.”

It seems that Mary’s action goes beyond good taste. It also surpasses extravagance – perfume worth nearly a year’s wages. Both can make the onlookers and indeed the reader, somewhat uncomfortable.

John tells us though, that Jesus accepts it all graciously and gives her action meaning. He allows himself to be ministered to. That is one point.

More, according to John, the woman doesn’t speak. When this story, or versions of it, is told in all the other Gospels she never speaks, though everyone else has plenty to say about what she has done. She doesn’t speak, she acts. In the midst of carp and small mindedness and terribly good common sense, her somewhat bizarre, loving actions echo down the centuries and as John so poetically puts it, ‘fill the whole house with fragrance.’

A final thought for those not really in a position to pour out a year’s wages or not inclined to show their knickers (men included) at a dinner party – there are times when it is not prudent but nevertheless necessary, to put yourself in a place where good sense does not reign. If today, God gives you the opportunity to go beyond yourself, to be a bit foolish, to open your home, or your heart, or your closed mind, or your purse - grasp it. In Christ, all love is graciously received and given meaning.
 

Prayer

Today, Lord Jesus
let me know and share your love;
teach me the way I should walk
and help me walk it in wonder.
Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Ros Lyle is a retired minister working in Thames North Synod and a member of Muswell Hill.

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 © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 7th November

Tue, 07/11/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 7th November Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 11: 55-57

Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves.  They were looking for Jesus and were asking one another, as they stood in the temple,

“What do you think?  Surely he will not come to the festival, will he?”  

Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone who knew where Jesus was should let them know, so that they might arrest him.
Reflection What do you think? Surely he will not come to the festival, will he?

They were looking for Jesus (v.56), the crowds in Jerusalem, that is.  Looking for Jesus.  But really, he wouldn’t come here would he, not at this time, not when the tensions are high, not when the Romans are here, the Jewish leaders are plotting, and there’s a price on his head.  Surely not.  He won’t come.  I don’t know, what do you think?  The small addition of the words ‘will he?’ indicating a vain hope that he should, and it would be amazing if he did, but he probably won’t.  It’s the remark of a people whose hopes have been dashed on too many occasions, whose lives are stuck rather than going somewhere - it’s the hope of a people who are struggling to believe that this Jesus really is who he says he is.   Although there have been miracles, healing, joys, truth, sermons and compassion in the past - can we dare to believe that he can now complete what he has begun?

What do you think? Surely he will not come to the festival, will he?

They were looking for Jesus, the Church in the UK, that is.  Looking for Jesus.  But really, he wouldn’t come here would he, not at this time, not when the bombs are going off and cars, vans and lorries are being used as machines of terror, not when this government is in charge, not when the Brexit plans are like this, not when there’s a price for naming Jesus as Lord.  Surely not.  He won’t come.  I don’t know what do you think?  The small addition of the words ‘will he?’ indicating the vain hope that he should, and it would be amazing if he did, but he probably won’t.  It’s the remark of a people whose hopes have been dashed on too many occasions, whose lives are stuck rather than going somewhere, it’s the hope of a people who are struggling to believe this Jesus really is who he says he is.  Although there have been miracles, healing, joys, truth, sermons and compassion in the past - can we dare to believe that he can now complete what he has begun?

What do you think? Surely he will not come to the festival, will he?

I’m looking for Jesus; well I really mean you - yes you, sat reading this. Looking for Jesus. But really, he wouldn’t come here would he, not today and now, not when life is like this, not when these struggles are so real, sin so nagging, brokenness so broken, not when I’ve failed quite so often as I have, not when the price he must pay for me is so high. Surely not. He won’t come. I don’t know what do you think? The small addition of the words ‘will he?’ indicating the vain hope that he should, and it would be amazing if he did, but he probably won’t. It’s the remark of someone whose hopes have been dashed on too many occasions, whose life is stuck rather than going somewhere, it’s the hope of someone who is struggling to believe this Jesus really is who he says he is. Although there have been miracles, healing, joys, truth, sermons and compassion in the past - can I dare to believe that he can now complete what he has begun?


 
 

Prayer

Lord Jesus,

Come.

Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Paul Robinson is the minister of the United Church in Rhyl.

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 © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 6th November

Mon, 06/11/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 6th November Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 11: 45 - 54

Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what he had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the council, and said,

‘What are we to do? This man is performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation.’

But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them,

‘You know nothing at all! You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed.’

He did not say this on his own, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus was about to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the dispersed children of God. So from that day on they planned to put him to death.

Jesus therefore no longer walked about openly among the Jews, but went from there to a town called Ephraim in the region near the wilderness; and he remained there with the disciples.
Reflection This short passage tells of a pivotal moment in the life of Jesus, as told by John.  Occurring immediately after the Raising of Lazarus, the final miracle or ‘sign’ of Jesus, it marks the end of one phase of the gospel – the ‘book of signs’ and sets the scene for the next phase – the ‘book of glory’.  Jesus’ hour had now come, and the Temple authorities began to make plans to put him to death.

Whilst it is clear that some people recognised these signs as from God and believed in Jesus as a result, others remained blind and were quick to report Jesus to the Pharisees.  They in turn had only one concern - to protect their own interests in the face of the Romans.  

It is perhaps too easy for us to condemn the Jewish leaders for their attitude and subsequent actions when we so often are prone to behave in similar ways.  How many times do we fail to see God at work in our lives, or are blind to good things that are happening in the world because we fear for our established way of life, resisting change or personal upheaval?  How often do we say we are acting to protect the interests of others when in reality it is our own interests that are at stake?  We dress things up to make it look like we are helping others when our primary aim is to look after Number One.  
Caiaphas’ solution to the problem was quite simply put.  Get rid of Jesus.  Eliminate the trouble maker and everything can return to normal.  The status-quo can be restored.  And so, this is what they began plotting to do.  Unwittingly though Caiaphas makes a very profound statement – prophetic even – that Jesus’ death would lead to the saving of the nation of Israel and those beyond it too.   

The good news in this is that God’s work in the world cannot be snuffed out as easily as some might hope or believe.  In the face of selfish ambition and the desire to remain in control, the power of God to overcome even death itself proves much stronger.  Perhaps those who sought to get rid of Jesus in order that they might save themselves should have realised this.  And perhaps we, who so often act in ways that have similar aims should realise this too.   The irony however is that when we, sometimes unwittingly, attempt to protect our lives and our selfish interests from the disruption that true discipleship might bring, there we find Jesus with outstretched arms, saving us from our very selves.

Prayer

Saving God, help us, today and all days
To recognise the signs of your presence
In our lives and in the lives of others.

Give us the courage to act on what we see.
To rid ourselves of selfish ambition
And to live our lives in the service of others.

And when we fail,
Remind us that by your grace alone
we are redeemed and restored.

Through the saving power of Jesus our Lord.
Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d David Salsbury is minister of Dyserth and Holywell and Training and Development Officer in the National Synod of Wales.

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 © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 5th November

Sun, 05/11/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 5th November Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

Psalm 22
 

My God, my God, O why have you
Forsaken and abandoned me?
Why are you far from giving help,
From listening to my anguished plea?

My God, I cry to you by day;
You do not hear when I complain.
I call to you throughout the night;
In silence I cannot remain.

Yet you are holy: on the praise
Of Israèl you are enthroned.
In you our fathers put their trust;
They trusted, and were not disowned.

They called, and you delivered them;
You listened to them when they cried.
Our fathers were not put to shame,
Because on you they had relied.

But I’m a worm and not a man,
By people scorned, reproached by all.
And those who see me shake their heads;
They sneer at me, and thus they call:

“This man has trusted in the LORD,
So let him save him from his plight.
Now let his God deliver him,
Because in him he takes delight.”

Yet you, LORD, brought me from the womb;
When I was at my mother’s breast
You gave me cause to trust in you.
From birth upon you I was cast.

Yes, from my mother’s womb till now,
O LORD, you are my God alone.
Be not far off, for trouble’s near,
And other helper I have none.

Strong bulls of Bashan circle me,
Wild bulls approach on every side.
As roaring lions tear their prey,
At me their mouths they open wide.

Like water I am emptied out,
And all my bones are torn apart;
My inmost being melts away,
And into wax is turned my heart.

My strength is dried like shattered clay,
And, as I fight to draw my breath,
My tongue is sticking to my jaws;
You lay me in the dust of death.

A pack of dogs encloses me;
Their circle round me is complete.
I am beset by evil men
And they have pierced my hands and feet.

I count the number of my bones;
With gloating eyes the people stare.
They throw the dice to get my coat;
Among themselves my clothes they share.

Come quickly, rescue me, my Strength;
Do not be far from me, O LORD.
Save me from power of evil dogs,
My precious life from cruel sword.

From menace of the lions’ mouths
And from their fury set me free.
From peril of wild oxen’s horns
You heard my cry and rescued me.

Now to my brothers I’ll declare
The praises of your glorious name;
Within their gathering I will stand
And your renown I will proclaim.

Praise him, all you that fear the LORD;
Give honour to him, Jacob’s race.
All Isr’el’s children, worship him;
Bow down with awe before his face.

He has not scorned the suffering
Which on the afflicted one is laid;
He did not hide his face from him,
But listened to his cry for aid.

You are the theme of all my praise
Within the great assembly, LORD;
Before all those who fear your name
I will fulfil my solemn word.

The poor will eat and will be filled
And those who seek the LORD will give
A shout of joyful praise to him.
O may your hearts for ever live!

The whole earth will remember him
And turn towards the LORD their God.
All peoples will bow down to him—
The nations of the world abroad.

Dominion to the LORD belongs
And over nations he is king.
The rich of all the earth will feast
And worship with an offering.

All those whose destiny is dust
Will humbly kneel before his throne;
They cannot keep themselves alive,
For they depend on him alone.

Posterity will serve the LORD;
And generations still to come
Will tell a people yet unborn
The righteous acts that he has done.

You can hear a Free Church congregation sing this to the tune St Clement here or to the tune Marrel here.
Reflection I have such strong memories of singing this psalm every year to a plainsong chant during the stripping of the altar in an Anglican church that I attended for many years.  It always brought tears to my eyes and it does so, now.

It is referred to as the Song of David but we will never know if David really was the writer/composer.  Even in the introduction to the psalm, David asks the chief musician to play this song on a ‘particular instrument’ indicating that it was meant to be sung.

There is such sadness and anguish about this psalm.  It is a heartfelt prayer of lament from one who feels abandoned by God.  The psalmist is confused. He has grown up hearing about God’s faithfulness towards his people, but in his situation God seems to be absent? What seems to be the problem? He is resolutely confident in God, but at the same time confused. Why is God absent for him, when God has intervened in the lives of so many others?

Surrounded by enemies who are persecuting him, the psalmist cries out for help in the day and the night, and still God remains silent. The psalmist remembers how, in the past, the people of Israel called trustingly upon the Lord in times of trial, and he answered their prayer. He remembers the tenderness with which the Lord cared for him personally in his earlier life, as a child in his mother’s womb, as an infant in his mother’s arms, and yet now God seems strangely distant. Despite such difficult and distressing times, though, the psalmist’s faith and trust in the Lord remains steadfast. The psalm ends on a note of confidence, as God’s name is praised before all the nations. There are many echoes of this psalm in the gospels of the New Testament.  In the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, the opening line of this psalm is recorded as being repeated by Jesus as he calls upon the Father from the Cross. He too seems to have been abandoned to a cruel fate, while his enemies mock him, attacking him like ravenous and roaring lions, dividing his clothing among them as if he were already dead.

There have been times in my life when I have felt that God is far from me.  I call and He doesn’t respond. I seek Him but cannot find Him.  There have been times when I have felt that instead of God being our Father and Creator, that in fact, we create God to fulfil a need within us.  It is possible that you have felt this on occasion, too.  Remember that the shadow of the Cross gives way to the bright hope of the Resurrection. We too, when we call upon him in times of trial, must place our trust in the God who brings salvation, who conquers death with the gift of eternal life.

Prayer

Loving God,
we live in a world that doubts everything it hears;
and, even with open eyes, doubts everything it sees.  
We know that we can trust you in all things.
In a world that often scoffs at our faith and trust in God,
we praise you that you continue to demonstrate your trustworthiness
to people who have eyes to see,
and ears to hear your gentle words of encouragement, grace and mercy.
We offer you our lives,
our love
and our faithfulness in response.  
Father, strengthen our faith.
Amen

Today's Writer

Ann Barton, Facilities Manager, Church House.

Bible Version

 
Sing Psalms (C) Psalmody and Praise Committee, Free Church of Scotland, 15 North Bank Street, Edinburgh, EH1 2LS.
Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 4th November

Sat, 04/11/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 4th November Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 11: 1 - 43

Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus,

‘Lord, he whom you love is ill.’

But when Jesus heard it, he said,

‘This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’

Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples,

‘Let us go to Judea again.’

The disciples said to him,

‘Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?’

Jesus answered,

‘Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.’

After saying this, he told them,

‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.’

The disciples said to him,

‘Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.’

Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly,

‘Lazarus is dead. For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.’

Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow-disciples,

‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’


When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus,

‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.’

Jesus said to her,

‘Your brother will rise again.’

Martha said to him,

‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’

Jesus said to her,

‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’

She said to him,

‘Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.’

When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately,

‘The Teacher is here and is calling for you.’

And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him,

‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said,

Where have you laid him?’

They said to him,

Lord, come and see.’

Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said,

‘See how he loved him!’

But some of them said,

‘Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?’

Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said,

‘Take away the stone.’

Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him,

‘Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead for four days.’

Jesus said to her,

‘Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?’

So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upwards and said,

‘Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.’

When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice,

‘Lazarus, come out!’
Reflection Scientists believe that the Universe is self-consistent, that is, that every event which occurs does so in accord with a set of rules commonly called the Laws of Physics or Natural Laws. At any point in history, we may not know all the rules and some rules may be probabilistic so that more than one outcome is possible. But rules are rules. When something comes along that seems to violate these rules, the scientist needs to consider whether or not their understanding of the rules is correct, or if a new set of rules needs to be formulated to resolve this violation. That’s how quantum mechanics came about in the early 20th Century for example.

Occasionally, an extremely unusual, possibly unique, event occurs which might be difficult if not impossible to explain within the current framework of natural law. Depending on its nature, some people may refer to the event as a miracle, especially if the event is one of healing or some such. However, the scientist may eschew the word miracle, agreeing with philosophers like Hume that as a matter of principle miracles cannot occur, so that all such events will ultimately be explicable in rational terms.

Thinking about miracles is at present an active field of study in science and religion circles, with scientists and theologians seeking to shed light on the subject. Believer scientists may seek to invoke the somewhat spooky world of quantum mechanics as the vehicle for divine action and theologians like Pannenberg and Nichols suggest that miracles happen when God chooses to act in the world but that this action is expressed in the context of faith and prayer.

Bringing Lazarus back to life is an event which may be described as miraculous. The focus of faith and prayer is Jesus himself through whom the miracle is mediated. The nub of the passage is then Jesus’ firm emphasis on the glory of God and not the act itself.

Focussing our lives in prayer and on the glory of God revealed in Jesus may result in miracles, although they may be less spectacular!
 

Prayer

(pause for reflection between each line)

Wonderful God
open my eyes
to the everyday
miracles
in life.
Focus my life
on Jesus
that I too
may be
a mediator
of your
action
today.

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 © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 3rd November

Fri, 03/11/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 3rd November Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 10:  22 - 42

At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon.  So the Jews gathered around him and said to him,

‘How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.’

Jesus answered,

‘I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me;  but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep.  My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.  What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand.  The Father and I are one.’

The Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus replied,

‘I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these are you going to stone me?’  

The Jews answered,

‘It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you, but for blasphemy, because you, though only a human being, are making yourself God.’

Jesus answered,

Is it not written in your law, “ said, you are gods”?  If those to whom the word of God came were called “gods”—and the scripture cannot be annulled— can you say that the one whom the Father has sanctified and sent into the world is blaspheming because I said, “I am God’s Son”? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.’  

Then they tried to arrest him again, but he escaped from their hands.

He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing earlier, and he remained there. Many came to him, and they were saying,

‘John performed no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.’  

And many believed in him there.
Reflection Many years ago I knew a Christian minister who had been asked to pray for a sick person. Her brother lived in one of the villages he ministered in and she had been very sick for many years.  The sister concerned lived in a nursing home due to her condition which was caused by a drug she had taken for many years damaging the sheath surrounding the nerves.  This meant that she could not be still; her arms and legs were in constant motion and in turn this meant she hadn’t slept for seven years nor could she feed herself.   I’m told she wanted to die but agreed to my minister friend, together with a sister of the ill woman, praying for her.   My friend tells me they spent quite some time in pastoral conversation and then prayed with the laying on of hands.  Of course nothing happened but on their way out the minister suddenly felt angry about the condition of this poor woman and asked to pray again.  She accepted the offer.  Of course still nothing happened but my friend now, mysteriously, felt peace in his heart.  However two weeks or so later, he met the brother who had first begged him to pray for his ill sister.   The brother told him with tears running down his cheeks that his sister was fully well.  She was sleeping and feeding herself, she said she now was happy to be alive and they were taking her out into the park in a wheel chair whilst her muscles got their strength back.  She hadn’t been outside in many a year.   The brother also told my friend that people would begin flocking to the church he cared for as a result, but you know what?  Not a single person came to the church even though the family were well known in the village.

Perhaps that’s something of what Jesus faced.  Recorded here in John 10 we have our friends the Jewish religious leaders saying on the one hand “Go on then prove yourself!” And on the other hand “ It doesn’t matter what “works” you do we already know you’re not from God!”  People believe what they want to believe and disbelieve what they want to disbelieve.  C.S.Lewis once wrote “Experience proves this, or that, or nothing, according to the preconceptions we bring to it” (God in the Dock pg 12).   It was and is so often the case that the poor and the marginalised are the ones who seem to have the acutest hearing when it comes to the voice of Jesus .  “My sheep hear my voice”. This was Jesus’s explanation for why the religious leaders, lay and ordained could not believe that he is “God's Son” even though they were witnesses to the works Jesus did.  Such a belief did not match their “preconceptions” even though their prophets were often called “gods” because they bore the word of God to the people.  We are not immune, we too can be deafened by our preconceptions and we all have them.  God longs us to hear the good news that we are God’s and “No one can snatch us out of the Father’s hand for the Father and I are one.”   John here as so often, making explicit what is heavily implicit in the three other gospels.
 

Prayer

Merciful and gracious God, may we always be attentive to your voice, whether it comes to us as a still small voice whispering in our inner being, or through a church service or a friend, or from whatever source.   Thank you that in your Son, Jesus, we find our true security and our true home.  
We pray today for all who do not have the security of decent jobs, or homes to live in both in the UK and abroad.  

We pray particularly for refugees  who have risked life and limb to find a safer and better place to live only to be met with hostility in many European countries especially our own.  We pray for a change of heart for the UK government , that the hearts of those in government may soften towards children and adults fleeing war, famine and persecution.  

In the name of the Great Shepherd and Lover of humanity, God’s own Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Peter Meek is the Moderator of the  East Midlands Synod.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 2nd November

Thu, 02/11/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 2nd November Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 10: 1 - 21

Jesus said:

‘Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit.  The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.   The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.    When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.    They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.’    

Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. So again Jesus said to them,

‘Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep.  All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them.  I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.   The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.   The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep.  I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,   just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep.  I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.  For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.  No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.’

Again the Jews were divided because of these words.  Many of them were saying,

‘He has a demon and is out of his mind. Why listen to him?’  

Others were saying,

These are not the words of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?’
Reflection Before coming into URC ministry I was a teacher, completing my teacher training at St. John’s College, York (now York St. John University) and the motto of the college was, and I believe, still is “Ut vitam habeant et abundantius” – that they may have life and have it more abundantly; drawing upon John 10:10. It was an excellent word for our training which, in those far-off times (the sixties) was supposed to prepare us to teach people who would have shorter working hours and more leisure in which to discover for themselves a fullness of life. Ironically, of course, the reverse has turned out to be true; people either work very long hours or have no work at all, and as for abundant life . . .

But John 10:10 remains very special for me: always the words challenge me to consider just what is life in all its fullness? Does it lie in wealth or health? Both would have come into it for Jesus’ hearers, and still must, surely, for living a full life in extreme poverty or when profoundly ill – mentally or physically - is not impossible but very hard. For many a full life lies in possessions; in travel. For many fullness of life is found in relationships.

But if we look at the image of the shepherd which Jesus uses here, a competent shepherd looks to the whole life of the sheep. He or she makes sure they have good grazing and water and are physically healthy; worries about their safety and works hard for and with them and notices when they are happy or not because their contentment actually matters. This matters to all good keepers of any animals. My late father had a friend who kept free-range turkeys and chickens; one evening, on a trip around an agricultural college we were approaching the poultry sheds, which weren’t impressing him. “But,” he muttered gloomily, “I have to admit the hens sound happy.” How did he know? From the way they were clucking, which to me sounded like – well, just hens clucking. The good farmer really understands the creatures under his care, even if no-one else does!

Is there a clue there as to the meaning of ‘abundant life’?

For me, it is life in which we do care for the body and for the mind, but in which we also maintain a curiosity about life as it is and as it can be even while finding a contentment in the here and now; in which we have the security of being understood and loved by God, and it brings a deep desire that all people should know fullness of life – and a deep desire to work towards that.

But that’s just me. Where do you believe fullness of life lies for you, and for the world?
 

Prayer

Loving, living God,
our newspapers, televisions, radios, Internet
show us a world in which millions live highly restricted lives
and it is too easy to look away.
As Jesus the Good Shepherd knows and understands his sheep,
help us, by the guiding of the Holy Spirit,
to ever seek the good of others,
in prayer and in action
that one day all may indeed find life in all its fullness;
the life that Jesus brings.
Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Ruth Crofton is a retired minister living near Durham.

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 © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 1st November

Wed, 01/11/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 1st November Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 9: 1-41

As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth.  His disciples asked him,

‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’

Jesus answered,

‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.  We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work.  As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’  

When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him,

‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam’ (which means Sent).

Then he went and washed and came back able to see. The neighbours and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask,

‘Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?’  

Some were saying,

‘It is he.’

Others were saying,

‘No, but it is someone like him.’

He kept saying,

‘I am the man.’  

But they kept asking him,

‘Then how were your eyes opened?’  

He answered,

‘The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, “Go to Siloam and wash.” Then I went and washed and received my sight.’  

They said to him,

‘Where is he?’

He said,

‘I do not know.’

They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes.  Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them,

‘He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.’

Some of the Pharisees said,

‘This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.’

But others said,

‘How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?’

And they were divided.

So they said again to the blind man,

‘What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.’

He said,

‘He is a prophet.’

The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight and asked them,

‘Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?’

His parents answered,

‘We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind;  but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.’

His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said,

‘He is of age; ask him.’

So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him,

‘Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.’

He answered,

‘I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.’

They said to him,

‘What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?’

He answered them,

‘I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?’

Then they reviled him, saying,

‘You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.’

The man answered,

‘Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will.  Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.’

They answered him,

‘You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?’

And they drove him out.

Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said,

‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’

He answered,

‘And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.’

Jesus said to him,

‘You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.’

He said,

‘Lord, I believe.’

And he worshipped him.  Jesus said,

‘I came into this world for judgement so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.’

Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him,

‘Surely we are not blind, are we?’

Jesus said to them,

‘If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, “We see”, your sin remains.
Reflection This passage of scripture throw up profound issues.  Jesus and his disciples are in Jerusalem and the passage begins almost casually: “As he walked along…”  And yet it is as if Jesus expected to meet this man.  Clearly he and his disciples know something of him, because they knew that this man was born blind, therefore they must have met him before; Jerusalem was after all a very small city.   The disciples here show that they share with all of their generation the superstitious belief that anyone with disability must have sinned to be that way and if their disability was inherited, then it must have been his or her parents who sinned against God.  Tragically there are still those in the church who hold this superstitious view.  The disciples were certain of this which is why they ask the question of Jesus " Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” The answer they expect is a clear and simple “Parents or him”.  Jesus’ reply demonstrates that whilst he was very much rooted in first century Palestine, he was also a man out of his time.   His reply reminds me of what he said about those who died in the disaster of the Tower of Siloam ( same place name as the pool, interestingly).   Jesus’s reply in one sense is altogether modern: “ Neither his parents nor he sinned…..” Yet Jesus takes it beyond busting superstitious nonsense and sees in this moment a Kairos moment, God’s moment.  Not only is this man innocent of the charges laid against him and his parents but also he has a key part to play in God’s purposes.  His healing not only reveals that Jesus is sent from God, but also that it is so often the case that the blind can truly see and the sighted are often blind.   

The reaction of the religious authorities here is what we’d expect.  As an aside where we read the word “Jews” here, let us be clear.   The author of John’s gospel means the Jewish leaders and authorities, not all Jews.  Passages like this have been used to justify anti-semitism quite wrongly and quite wickedly.  So the religious authorities do not like what has happened.  They cannot see the good news because they cannot see past their interpretation of the law of Moses nor their right to interpret it.  This imposter, Jesus of Nazareth, is usurping their God given role in society and it won’t do!   Isn’t it awful, even frightening what legalism and pride can do?  Both can blind us to what God is doing.  Here both lay people, the Pharisees, and ordained people , “the Jews” ( at least in my interpretation) are guilty of this.   The man’s poor parents are grilled and are terrified, but the healed man is then found and he tells what he knows.   He becomes a teller of the good news himself!

So, let us always treat those with special needs with great compassion and more than that, let us listen for what God is saying to us through them for these sisters and brothers can often be more “sighted” than those whose bodies work as they ought.   Let us also not fall into the trap of the Pharisees and the Jewish Leaders, in other words let us be attentive to what God is already doing amongst us and where God wants to lead us.  Let us never write something off because “ It’s not the way we do things here!”   Too many churches have been killed by such legalism and close mindedness!
 

Prayer

Praying in the tradition of Stephen and Origen:

Lord Jesus, thank you for the love you showed to the man born blind.  Thank you that you took him seriously and treated him as fully beloved of God.  Thank you too for the risk you took to yourself in healing him on a sabbath day and in doing so, revealing your Father’s glory.  We pray today for all who have special needs, that our society will cherish them and that they and we together may see more and more of your love at work in our lives.   For those who are harshly judged in church and out of church we pray.  Lord Jesus help us to see with eyes of compassion and not the eyes of the legalist.  In and through even us ,may your glory be revealed that many more people may come to know you and know they are loved by you.  We pray too for the churches we belong to, that our churches may be ever open to the leading of God and never dismiss works of God amongst us, even when they are surprising and not what we are used to.  Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Peter Meek is the Moderator of the East Midlands Synod.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 31st October

Tue, 31/10/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 31st October Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

Martin Luther
Reformer, 1546

Martin Luther was born in 1483 at Eisleben in Saxony and educated at the cathedral school in Magdeburg and the university in Erfurt. He joined an order of Augustinian hermits there and was ordained priest in 1507, becoming a lecturer in the university at Wittenberg. He became vicar of his Order in 1515, having charge of a dozen monasteries. His Christian faith began to take on a new shape, with his increasing dissatisfaction with the worship and order of the Church. He became convinced that the gospels taught that humanity is saved by faith and not by works, finding support in the writings of St Augustine of Hippo. He refuted the teaching of the Letter of James, calling it 'an epistle of straw'. Martin sought to debate the whole matter by posting ninety-five theses or propositions on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg on this day in the year 1517. The hierarchy chose to see it as a direct attack on the Church, which forced Martin into open rebellion. The Protestant Reformation spread throughout Germany and then Europe, many seeing it as liberation from a Church that held them in fear rather than love. Martin Luther died in 1546, having effected a renaissance in the Church, both Protestant and Catholic.

Jeremiah 1. 4–10

The Lord said to me,   

“I chose you before I gave you life, and before you were born I selected you to be a prophet to the nations.”

I answered,

“Sovereign Lord, I don’t know how to speak; I am too young.”

But the Lord said to me,

“Do not say that you are too young, but go to the people I send you to, and tell them everything I command you to say.  Do not be afraid of them, for I will be with you to protect you. I, the Lord, have spoken!”

Then the Lord reached out, touched my lips, and said to me,

“Listen, I am giving you the words you must speak.  Today I give you authority over nations and kingdoms to uproot and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”
 
 
Reflection You probably do not need reminding that today is the 500th anniversary of the start of the Reformation, if you did, consider yourself reminded! I am sure we do not need to think too hard about the impact that Martin Luther made when he nailed his ninety-five theses on the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg on this day five hundred years ago.  Like Jeremiah he wouldn’t have then known the impact of his ministry.  

In the passage the part that stood out for me was “Listen, I am giving you the words you must speak”. In isolation this sounds authoritarian, but Jeremiah is panicking because he does not have the words to speak. Instead of authoritarianism, is it not provision? God’s provision for Jeremiah’s journey.

Can we not see that through Jeremiah and Martin Luther’s lives, the impact just one individual can make?

To understand our gifts and the impact that God wants us to make, it needs to be fuelled by listening…unless we can listen to God, how do we know what God has in store for us?

God will have different paths for each of us, because the thing is, there is only you, that can be you. There is no-one else in the world that can do that, and I don’t think if you were not here, that God would fill the you shaped hole, because no-one else could travel along your path.

So, let us then embrace ourselves, with humble and confident gratitude and prayerfully discern our future, knowing that with God, all things are possible!

I have often been comforted by the prayer of St Teresa of Avila, when she so powerfully helps us to understand that whatever limitations we see – God does not. I pray therefore that we look above our own barriers and see the horizon God has given us.

Prayer

Christ Has No Body
Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

Teresa of Avila (1515–1582)

Today's Writer

Lee Battle is an ordinand at Northern College and member of Wilbraham St Ninian’s URC in Chorlton, South Manchester.

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 © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 30th October

Mon, 30/10/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 30th October Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 8: 31-59

Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.’  They answered him, ‘We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, “You will be made free”?’

Jesus answered them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.  The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there for ever.  So, if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.  I know that you are descendants of Abraham; yet you look for an opportunity to kill me, because there is no place in you for my word.  I declare what I have seen in the Father’s presence; as for you, you should do what you have heard from the Father.’

They answered him, ‘Abraham is our father.’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing what Abraham did, but now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did.  You are indeed doing what your father does.’ They said to him, ‘We are not illegitimate children; we have one father, God himself.’  Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now I am here. I did not come on my own, but he sent me.  Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot accept my word.  You are from your father the devil, and you choose to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.  But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.  Which of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me?  Whoever is from God hears the words of God. The reason you do not hear them is that you are not from God.’

The Jews answered him, ‘Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?’  Jesus answered, ‘I do not have a demon; but I honour my Father, and you dishonour me.  Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is one who seeks it and he is the judge.  Very truly, I tell you, whoever keeps my word will never see death.’  The Jews said to him, ‘Now we know that you have a demon. Abraham died, and so did the prophets; yet you say, “Whoever keeps my word will never taste death.”  Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets also died. Who do you claim to be?’ Jesus answered, ‘If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, he of whom you say, “He is our God”, though you do not know him. But I know him; if I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you. But I do know him and I keep his word.  Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day; he saw it and was glad.’  Then the Jews said to him, ‘You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham? Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.’  So, they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.
Reflection What is “truth” and what is “freedom”? These are two questions begged by this passage, and both raise live issues for our day.

Truth is a significant theme in the Fourth Gospel where we not only find such phrases frequently on the lips of Jesus but also Pilate’s question, “What is truth?”  There have been innumerable, disheartening, instances of politicians in the UK, the USA and elsewhere claiming that their assertions are truthful and factually correct when their statements twisted facts and were untruthful, if only by omission and distortion – economical with the truth, indeed. Within this passage the reliance of the Jews on Abrahamic descent was true insofar as it reflected their confidence in being on the right side with God, but their conclusion from such reliance was negated by their failure to recognise and accept Jesus as coming from the Father.
        
It can be difficult, and for some people seemingly impossible, to accept that what they have been told to be true is in fact wrong. We find this among Christians who have grown up within fellowships dependent on narrow interpretations of either Scripture or the teachings of their Church. We once had an Elder who was dogmatic and decisive in expressing his views; another Elder challenged him, “Don’t you ever change your mind?” The response was instant, “Never” – a response that all too accurately reflected his attitude and revealed his personal tragedy.
        
And Jesus said, “the truth will make you free.” When we have the courage to face up to the truth, accepting where we have been wrong or in denial about ourselves or others, then we are offered freedom, but how are we to understand what that means?
        
The writer of our Gospel was steeped in both Jewish and Hellenistic (Greek) religious thought and was able to use such learning to develop and advance Christian understanding. For Jews the Law was truth and the study of the Law made people free – the greater and deeper the study, the greater the freedom. In the Hellenistic world the Stoics taught that people could obtain freedom by regulating their lives in accordance with the ultimate divine authority of the Logos. For Jews truth brought a total reliance on the Law and freedom from worldly concerns; for Stoics it meant deliverance from ignorance and error. Christians can benefit much from both approaches and here in the Gospel we find that ultimate freedom is deliverance from sin, born again to a new life with our Saviour, fully accepted of children of the Father without needing specific human ancestry.
 

Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ,
the Way, the Truth and the Life;
strengthen and guide us to live in your Way,
growing in our understanding of your Truth
and so finding the Freedom of those
whose lives are grounded in your love and peace:
trusting in your power we pray:
Amen.

Today's Writer

The Revd Julian Macro is a retired minister and 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 © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 29th October

Sun, 29/10/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 29th October Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

Psalm 21
 

O LORD, in your strength how the king is exultant!
How great is his joy in the triumphs you bring!
To him you have granted his heart’s deepest longing;
you answered the plea from the lips of the king.

You welcomed him richly with blessings of goodness;
a crown of fine gold you have placed on his head.
He asked you for life, and you gave him it freely—
abundance of days, that his years should not end.

Through triumphs you gave his renown is exalted,
and you have bestowed on him splendour and grace.
You surely have granted him blessings eternal;
you filled him with joy by the light of your face.

For the king puts his trust in the LORD high above;
unshaken he stands through the LORD’s steadfast love.

Your hand will lay hold upon all your opponents;
your right hand will seize all the foes in your path.
You’ll set them ablaze with your glorious appearance;
you’ll swallow them up in the fire of your wrath.

From earth you will utterly wipe out their offspring.
They plot wicked schemes, but will never prevail.
Because when you aim with your bow at the ready
you’ll make them turn back and their courage will fail.

Be exalted, O LORD, in the strength of your arm;
we will praise your great might to the sound of a psalm.

You can hear a Free Church sing this to the jolly tune Exultation here.
Reflection The Psalms, together with Job, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, are known as Wisdom Books.  Psalm 21 is one of the collection of poems or songs, composed over centuries, that were set to music and sung by Jewish worshippers at home, on the road during pilgrimages to Jerusalem and in the Temple. More than half of the psalms are associated with David (who may have written some of them) while the rest were inspired by him or dedicated to him.

There are many songs of thanks to God. Psalm 21 gives praise for a royal victory. The Psalm is addressed directly to God who has answered the king’s requests for long, lasting life, giving him strength and blessings. The king rejoices in his victory and the crown of gold, fame and majesty that he has received, as a gift from God.

We are reminded, by today’s reading, that we can likewise speak directly to God with our requests for healing, forgiveness, peace of mind or courage to take the next steps in our pilgrim life.

The psalmist petitions for the destruction of God’s enemies. We must put our trust in God to deal with “enemies”, as God sees fit . God will secure our deliverance and, in God, we shall come to know the joy of the divine presence. Psalm 21 speaks of the security that God’s unfailing love brings to the king and so, also, to us in the face of struggles. The strength and persistence that ultimately leads to victory will depend on our turning to God in open, honest prayer.

We may not know when or by whom Psalm 21 was written or the king whose praises to God we read here but we can take his approach as our example to believe and trust in God.

Prayer

Dear God,
we open our heart’s desires to You,
asking You to meet our needs
and answer our requests,
as You see fit.
Amen.

Today's Writer

Pamela Dowling served as an Elder at the former St. John’s URC, Forest Hill. London.

Bible Version

 
Sing Psalms (C) Psalmody and Praise Committee, Free Church of Scotland, 15 North Bank Street, Edinburgh, EH1 2LS
Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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