URC Daily Devotion Monday 12th October 2020

Monday 12th October 2020 – 1 Thessalonians – Live in Holiness and Charity

1 Thessalonians 4: 1 – 12

Finally, brothers and sisters, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus that, as you learned from us how you ought to live and to please God (as, in fact, you are doing), you should do so more and more.  For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.  For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from fornication;  that each one of you knows how to control your own body  in holiness and honour,  not with lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God;  that no one wrongs or exploits a brother or sister  in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, just as we have already told you beforehand and solemnly warned you.  For God did not call us to impurity but in holiness.  Therefore whoever rejects this rejects not human authority but God, who also gives his Holy Spirit to you. Now concerning love of the brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anyone write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another;  and indeed you do love all the brothers and sisters throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, beloved, to do so more and more,  to aspire to live quietly, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we directed you,  so that you may behave properly towards outsiders and be dependent on no one.


At ordination and induction ministers and church related community workers make solemn vows including the, rather catch all, promise to live a holy life.  Despite creative attempts to be unholy the URC has never fully defined what holiness, in that context, actually is.  

In today’s passage Paul puts some meat on the bones for believers in the earliest Church.    These new believers had to work out how to be faithful to Christ where Christianity was alien to the ideologies and practices of the age.  Paul, the observant Jew,  was horrified by the sexual mores of Roman society and here, clearly, is concerned that these new converts don’t wallow in Gentile sin.  He doesn’t limit his view of holiness to sexual morality, however.  Loving one another, supporting other communities of believers and keeping one’s head down were all forms of commended behaviour.  The earliest believers had to find a balance between living a radical commitment to Christ, being different from the people around them in terms of belief and behaviour and, at the same time, having to live quietly and attend to their own affairs to avoid persecution.

We also live in a time which is not that unlike Paul’s.  We live in a society with only limited knowledge of the claims of Christianity, where morals (and not just sexual ones) seem different to what’s gone before and where we debate the rights and wrongs of that.  We too need to support others – other believers as well as those who are vulnerable and oppressed by our economic and social systems.  Around the world believers still need to keep their heads down – not so much as a form of holiness but of survival.

Like the earliest believers we are called to be holy; what that means for us is informed by Paul’s words but has to be worked out, even in fear and trembling, in our own contexts.


O God, from whom all holy desires, 
all good counsels,
and all just works do proceed;
give unto thy servants that peace which the world cannot give;
that both, our hearts may be set to obey thy commandments,
and also that, by thee,
we being defended from the fear of our enemies
may pass our time in rest and quietness;
through the merits of Jesus Christ our Saviour.

Daily Devotion Service for Sunday 11th October 2020 – The Rev’d John Grundy

Sunday Worship from the United Reformed Church
for Sunday 11th October 2020



The Rev’d John Grundy

Good morning and welcome to worship and out time together today.  My name is John Grundy and I am delighted to serve as the Minister of St. Andrew’s Brockley and St. Michael’s in the Milton Court Estate in New Cross, both of which are in South East London.  St. Michael’s is an Ecumenical Partnership with the Church of England.
Most of today’s service I will be leading from the sanctuary at St. Andrew’s but for the Communion portion of our service, we will be in St. Michael’s.  If you would like to see our churches to get a better sense of where I am speaking from, please do have a look at our website: www.standrewsbrockley.com.
Today we will be sharing in Holy Communion together and the invitation is for all of us to share this. I invite you to have some bread and wine, or whatever suitable alternative you have, ready for that part of the service.
With people we know, with people we will likely never meet, as the gathered people of Jesus together, let’s pause and prepare to worship.
Call To Worship
The wisdom of God calls to us, from the heights, along the paths, and at the crossroads. Come into God’s presence to worship, sing, and pray.
From our scattered places we come. Let us worship God.
Jesus Calls Us Here to Meet Him
John Bell and Graham Moule  © Wild Goose Resource Worship Group
Jesus calls us here to meet him
as through word & song & prayer
we affirm God’s promised presence
where his people live and care.
Praise the God who keeps his promise;
praise the Son who calls us friends;
praise the Spirit who, among us,
to our hopes and fears attends.
2: Jesus calls us to confess him
Word of Life and Lord of All,
sharer of our flesh and frailness
saving all who fail or fall.
Tell his holy human story;
tell his tales that all may hear;
tell the world that Christ in glory
came to earth to meet us here.
3: Jesus calls us to each other:
found in him are no divides.
Race and class and sex and language –
such are barriers he derides.
Join the hand of friend and stranger;
join the hands of age and youth;
join the faithful and the doubter
in their common search for truth.
Prayers Of Approach
God of the journey, we gather together, from wherever we are to worship and praise you. We realise that we can’t know what will come next or what the future holds  but we thank you for inviting us to walk with you. When life becomes challenging, we thank you for being there, for wanting to journey with us, for offering hope when hope seems fleeting  and peace when peace is hard to see.
Loving God, sometimes life feels overwhelming and we forget where to place our faith, at times we get pulled by distractions and brighter lights. We forget you, we disregard to care for other people and their feelings, we neglect ourselves, our own wellbeing, our own hopes and dreams.
We bring all of those things we aren’t proud of, the things we didn’t do, the things we did, what we said, when we avoided ‘that’ person… and we lay it all down before you.
Forgiving God, we thank you for renewing us for forgiving us and for breathing your love into us. We continue in prayer as we share the words of The Lord’s Prayer together:
Our Father…
Reading: St Matthew 22: 1-14
Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying:  “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son.  He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come.  Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’  But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them.  The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.  Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy.  Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’  Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.
“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe,  and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’  For many are called, but few are chosen.”
Thy Hand O God Has Guided
Edward Hayes Plumptre (1821-1891)

Thy hand, O God, has guided
thy flock, from age to age;
the wondrous tale is written,
full clear on every page;
our fathers owned thy goodness,
and we their deeds record;
and both of this bear witness:
one Church, one Faith, one Lord.
2: Thy heralds brought glad tidings
to greatest as to least;
they bade folk rise and hasten
to share the great King’s feast;
and this was all their teaching
in every deed and word;
to all alike proclaiming:
one Church, one Faith, one Lord.

3: Thy mercy will not fail us,
nor leave thy work undone;
with thy right hand to help us,
the victory shall be won;
and then, by all creation
thy name shall be adored,
and this shall be their anthem:
one Church, one Faith, one Lord.
Prayer of illumination:
Will you pray with me?

Loving God, take the smallness of the words I share and use them to speak as you need them to be heard. Open our hearts to respond to your calling; open our minds to consider your love at work within us, around us and despite us.  Amen
I remember, many years ago, I led worship at my sending church dressed, not in the usual shirt and tie I would wear, but wearing Jeans and a hoody.  Somewhere in the dim corners of my brain I remember there was a really good reason for this, I might have been going straight from church to somewhere else, but that detail is escaping me.
Of course, no one commented on the fact I wasn’t wearing a suit and tie but, in my head, I could very loudly hear a disapproving tut from my Grandmother.
She was a remarkable person in many ways, as were all of my Grandparents, but Grandma was the one, as children, that we sat with in church.  She did teach me a lot… but somehow never taught me to not fidget!  Grandma came from that almost indestructible generation that lived through the blitz and was, like many people we would see on Sunday’s mornings in the North of Liverpool, someone who always wore a hat and gloves and her Sunday coat to go to church in.
What you wore for church mattered not because someone else might judge you, but it was much more because you wore your best clothes as an outward sign of the honour you were paying to God. 
I see this still in the members of the churches I was called to serve here in South East London.  Our church family at both of our churches come from across the world, bringing different traditions, experiences and stories… but for all of us, how we honour the Lord’s Day remains important.
This parable that Jesus shared is of course about much more than making sure you show up in hats and gloves or a jacket and tie.
In some ways, this story could be read as a story of outrageous hospitality.
Jesus tells us about a King, a proud father, a proud father who is giving a banquet in honour of his son’s wedding.  Jesus doesn’t tell us which one of his sons this is, but there’s a fairly strong chance that in this parable, Jesus wants us to think about the oldest, the heir to the kingdom.  This could easily be the wedding of this country’s next king. 
Like with all of those royal weddings we’ve seen on the television, we can imagine that the list of guests would be packed with the great and the good, the allies, those with power, those the King really wants to show the son off to. So, the king sends the slaves out to get them to come… and all that comes back are insults and refusals.  None of the people with position want to be there.
You can see why the king is really angry, any of us might be if we had been insulted, maybe humiliated.  At this point in the story, it pauses.  We get this interesting gap which allows the kings rage to happen.  The troops are called together, they go out, the invited guests are murdered, their cities destroyed.  The banquet is paused for the bloodshed to happen and then the king starts to prepare again.
This time though, anyone the slaves can find get brought into the banqueting hall, anyone at all – good, bad, a bit of both – all are called to come and join the party.
I like to imagine the face of the never-mentioned bride at this point – by now she will have realised that she has married the son of a really angry king, but all of the guests at her big day have been dragged in off the streets to make the place look fuller than it was.
I don’t imagine that’s what any bride would put on her wish-list as she dreams of her special day, but in this parable that is definitely what this poor girl has got.
Perhaps she thought the grumpiness of her new Father in law was sort of over with now… but it doesn’t seem to be the case. Instead of celebrating a job done, a wonderful day sorted, his son and daughter-in-law happily married… the king spots someone not dressed in the way he expected and loses his temper yet again.
We have another affront to the already fragile ego of our insulted king – a guest not wearing the correct robes for this occasion.
And the guest is thrown from the building, hands and feet bound, thrown into the darkness where there will be gnashing of teeth and weeping!
And that’s where Jesus ends this story but really this is a story of reactions, overreactions, and it is overly absurd on purpose.
But what this story is though is a bit disturbing. 
In many ways Jesus sharing a parable which lays out what disobedience and retribution looks like in the much bigger scripture story.  This story in Matthew 22 forms part of the story of the last week of Jesus’s life.  Immediately before it in Matthew 21, we read “When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet”.  Our passage began, “once more Jesus spoke to them in parables”.  This parable is almost Jesus saying – whoa! hang on, I’ve more to say to you… I’m not finished yet.
This is another story of insult, and another story of those who should know better not giving due recognition and the honour that they should.  And again, it is those people who should be more aware of what God is doing among them that are at risk of being left behind in the future that Jesus’s parables explore.
As I read this passage this week, I wondered if what I needed to see this time was the call to radical and open hospitality?  The king does throw the doors open and does offer this glorious banquet to everyone.  He even calls the man friend… and then spoils it by throwing him into the place of tears and teeth gnashing.
I wonder if you feel sorry for that man too.  How could he have got a beautiful wedding robe to wear? He was outside on the streets five minutes ago.
We should never take this parable as an excuse to evict people from our churches if they’ve not come that day in hats and gloves or suits and ties  and even, I’m sorry to say it, if they have inadvertently sat in our pew…
The way people are dressed isn’t the message of this parable for me.
The man was at the banquet, he got in with everyone else – but maybe, we are supposed to think of him as someone who was there but who didn’t take the hugeness of what he was being offered seriously enough? 
Sometimes it can be easy to forget just how wonderful that radical open invitation to be part of the transformative life of Jesus really is, and to be in relationship not just with God, with Jesus but with fellow pilgrims journeying together through joys, sadness’s, through challenges: this year through a pandemic?

It would be one thing to just show up.  It’s another thing to be in relationship – ready to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world – that needs us to be ready, together and alone.
How wonderful would it be if the whole world stopped worrying about what ‘clothes’ we are wearing, we need to make sure that we are making sure we are clothed, and sharing, love, justice, peace, hope and compassion.  Those are the gifts of God which we can all share. 
And what matters more than what we wear is that we strive to live a life without pretence and take seriously the gift of grace that Jesus offers.

We are invited to be in relationship with one another, with God, with Jesus.  Let’s embrace the gift. Amen.
Affirmation of Faith
Do you believe in the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who gathers, protects, and cares for the Church through Word and Spirit. This God has done since the beginning of the world and will do to the end. We do

Do you believe that God is the One who wishes to bring about justice and true peace among people. We do.

Do you believe that God, in a world full of injustice and enmity, is in a special way the God of the destitute, the poor, and the wronged? We do.

This is the faith of the Church!  We are proud to confess it in Jesus Christ, our Lord.   Amen
For Your Generous Providing
© The Rev’d Leith Fisher


For your generous providing
which sustain us all our days,
for your Spirit here residing,
we proclaim our heartfelt praise.
Through the depths of joy and sorrow,
though the road be smooth or rough,
fearless, we can face tomorrow
for your grace will be enough.
2: Hush our world’s seductive noises
tempting us to stand alone;
save us from the siren voices
calling us to trust our own.
For those snared by earthly treasure,
lured by false security,
Jesus, true and only measure,
spring the trap to set folk free.

3: Round your table, through your giving,
show us how to live and pray
till your kingdom’s way of living
is the bread we share each day:
bread for us and for our neighbour,
bread for body, mind, and soul,
bread of heav’n and human labour –
broken bread that makes us whole.
Introduction to offertory:
We have been given so much from God: skills, opportunities, relationships and hopes. So let us together consider what we have and how we offer it to God as we pray together.
Loving God, we bring ourselves and our gifts for the wider work of your kingdom. Use who we are, what we offer;  all of our experiences and our hopes. Use them to make change within us, around is and despite us,
help us to build community, to share peace and to create spaces of grace. Amen.
Prayer of Intercession:

We now approach God in prayer. This service has been recorded in advance so should there have been a huge event happen this week, please know that we are all praying for it and in the silence, I invite you to pray for it too.
Loving God, today, we pray for your world, for places and people we know, and those we don’t. We pray for places where there have been wars and disasters: help us to respond to the needs we see as we can.
We pray for people who are continuing to shield, or aren’t yet ready to leave home: be with them and support them.
We pray for people who are grieving, struggling to move on or needing peace: Loving God, we pray that you will help us to support them as best as we can, at the right time, but help us to know when to listen and not to speak and ‘be’ and not ‘do’.
We pray for ourselves, our communities and our churches: Knowing our own issues, local needs and the challenges we all face,  we offer, into the silence, our own private prayers:
Gracious God, Hear our prayers
We thank you for listening to us,  for hearing our concerns and needs  and for knowing how we can be best held, supported and loved. Loving God, accept these, and all of our prayers, in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Holy Communion

As we come to share in Holy Communion, we bring the bread and wine that we prepared earlier and pause as we prepare to share in this meal with one another.
In our own homes, at our own tables, we meet with Jesus. At our own tables, Jesus calls us to meet him and Jesus knows us. He welcomes us without the need for show,  without the need to be what others expect us to be,  without any baggage that might be weighing us down. Come, together in our own spaces you have been given a welcome.
Come and drink of the love of God,  which has been poured out for each of us; Come and taste the bread – the bread which isn’t dependant on the supermarket shelf or the food bank parcel The bread which never spoils, which never grows mould Come and share, come and experience, come and see.
We hear again the story of that night: While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, ‘Take; this is my body’.  Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.  Truly, I tell you, I will never again drink the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.’ (Mark 14: 22-24)
We are the friends of Jesus today.  He invites us to break bread together, to remember him and to pray that God’s Kingdom will come.
We pray together:
Thank you loving God for these gifts which we share  and for the love that you give to us. We meet with you here filled  with your promise of welcome and community. So, we gather here as we are, as you need us to be  and as you have called. Long ago, you welcomed your people to you  and made known your greatness and glory; you sought out the outcast, you welcomed the stranger, you reached outside society’s expectations,  beyond tradition and though the power of empire.
Help us to be mirrors of your glory,  to be the people that you need us to be so that  we can shine as beacons of hope and love in your world. Transforming God, we thank you that your Holy Spirit  meets with us and we pray that she will take  these human made gifts and symbols: Wheat harvested, baked and prepared; Grapes picked, trodden and transformed and make them for us your body broken and shared and your blood spilt and poured out and offered. All of this we ask in Jesus’ name… Amen.
For all that we are offered here, we thank God, as we gather at our own tables, as we hear again the story, and as we consider the signs of Jesus’s love for us: the cross a sign of Jesus’ arm stretched out in love His empty tomb a declaration that God’s love is greater than human power and stronger than death.
Holy, Holy, Holy Lord,  Holy, Holy, Holy Lord,
God of power and might,  God of power and might,
Heaven and earth are full, Heaven and earth are full of your glory!
Hosanna in the highest! Hosanna in the highest!
Hosanna in the highest! Hosanna in the highest!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest. Hosanna in the highest!
Hosanna in the highest! Hosanna in the highest!
May God’s peace be with you always, with your community and the world we live in.  Amen.
When Jesus had given thanks, he took bread and broke it and said: “Take and eat, this is my body which is broken for you”
When Jesus had given thanks, he gave his cup to those gathered there and said: “Take and drink all of you, for this is the blood of the new covenant spilt for you and for many for the forgiveness of sin”
As we follow the example of Jesus, I invite you, if you are able, to hold the bread: This is Jesus’s body broken for you – so let us take and eat.
Jesus, Lamb of God, Jesus, Lamb of God,
Jesus, Saviour, have mercy on us!
Jesus, bearing all our sin, Jesus, bearing all our sin,
Jesus, Saviour, have mercy on us!
Jesus, Redeemer of the World, Jesus, Redeemer of the World,
Jesus, Saviour, O give us your peace!
I invite you, if you are able, to hold the wine:
The blood of Jesus poured out for each one of us – take it and drink it.
Jesus, Lamb of God, Jesus, Lamb of God,
Jesus, Saviour, have mercy on us!
Jesus, bearing all our sin, Jesus, bearing all our sin,
Jesus, Savour, have mercy on us!
Jesus, Redeemer of the World, Jesus, Redeemer of the World,
Jesus, Saviour, O give us your peace!
Prayer of thanks
Loving God, You have met us here and fed us again, may our hands be prepared to work for you, may our eyes see what you show us, may our ears hear your voice speak to us and call us, may our hearts burn with the hope that you have given to us. We thank you God for all that you have offered to us here, may we respond as you need us to. May we go and tell of your love.  Amen.
Hymn:  We Are Marching
Siyahamb’ ekukhanyeni kwenkos, Siyahamba ekukhanyeni kwenkos’.
Siyahamb’ ekukhanyeni kwenkos’, Siyahamba ekukhanyeni kwenkos’.
[ekukhanyeni kwenkos’]
Siyahamba… ooh
[Siyahamba, hamba, Siyahamba, hamba]
Siyahamba ekukhanyeni kwenkos’.
[ekukhanyeni kwenkos’]
Siyahamba… ooh
[Siyahamba, hamba, Siyahamba, hamba]
Siyahamba ekukhanyeni kwenkos’.
We are marching in the light of God. We are marching in the light of God.
We are marching in the light of God, we are marching in the light of God.
[in the light of God] We are marching… ooh
[We are marching, marching, we are marching, marching,]
We are marching in the light of God. [the light of God]
We are marching… ooh
[We are marching, marching, we are marching, marching,]
We are marching in the light of God.
We go, strengthened to do the work of Jesus, standing in the gap, extending the invitation to the eternal banquet, rejoicing in God.
Let your gentleness be known to everyone and don’t worry about anything. The God who created you, Jesus who redeems you and the Spirit who empowers you is with you today and ever more. Amen.

Sources and Copyright

Call To Worship from Worship Aids for the Revised Common Lectionary from the Presbyterian Church of the USA
Affirmation of Faith from selected sections of the Belhar Confession of Faith.
Benediction from Standing in the Gapwritten by Rev. Dr. Bob Gross, OCC, pastor at Lake Avenue United Church of Christ, Elyria, OH and posted on the United Church of Christ website. 
All other prayers by John Grundy based on Rootsontheweb.com resources.
Jesus Calls Us Here to Meet Him by John Bell and Graham Moule from the BBC’s Songs of Praise
Thy Hand O God Has Guided by Edward Hayes Plumptre from the BBC’s Songs of Praise.
For Your Generous Providing by The Rev’d Leith Fisher performed by the Scottish Festival Singers, Ian McCrorie (Conductor), John Langdon (Organ) made available by the Church of Scotland.
Sanctus and Agnus Dei by Paul Inwood © Magnificat Music performed by the Choir of Brentwood Cathedral.
We are Marching from a Zulu folk song written down by Andries Van Tonder.  Performed by the KwaSisabantu Mission.

Organ Voluntaries.  Opening:    Ein Feste Burg (“A mighty fortress”) by Max Reger (organ of Basilica Santo Spirito, Florence, Italy – 2016) Wir Glauben all’ an Einen Gott (“We all believe in one God”) by Johann Sebastian Bach (organ of St Thomas-on-The Bourne, Farnham – 2001)  Brian Cotterill.  http://briancotterill.webs.com

Thanks To

Jonnie Hill and Adam Scott, Ruth and Kingsley Browning, Phil, Lythan and Carys Nevard for recording the Call to Worship and Affirmation of Faith and John Young, David Shimmin, Anne Hewling, Lorraine Webb, and Carol Tubbs for recording other spoken parts of the service.

URC Daily Devotion Saturday 10th October 2020

Saturday 10th October 2020 -I Thessalonians – Thanking God

1 Thessalonians 3: 6 – 13

But Timothy has just now come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love. He has told us also that you always remember us kindly and long to see us—just as we long to see you. For this reason, brothers and sisters, during all our distress and persecution we have been encouraged about you through your faith. For we now live, if you continue to stand firm in the Lord. How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you?  Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore whatever is lacking in your faith. Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you. And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you.  And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.


Six United Reformed Church Synods are due to meet on this day, but will they?  This is written during the lockdown brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic which would prohibit such gatherings and leads me to wonder about the function and value of such events.  There is Church business to which attention has to be given but which rarely proves contentious, there is information sharing which may be done more effectively than by mail or email, but, above all, there is the opportunity to meet and share what is happening in the life of our congregations and to catch up with friends from other churches.

Paul had not been able to return to the Thessalonians himself so had sent Timothy on his behalf as “co-worker for God in proclaiming the gospel of Christ.”  Paul was greatly encouraged by Timothy’s report.  What news and encouraging reports do we share at Synods and on less formal occasions?  It is good to learn of the ways that local churches are reaching out in service to their communities; it is good to recognise long service by dedicated servants and to welcome new arrivals, but how often do we celebrate growth in our fellowships and deepening of our faith in Christ?

For the young churches to which Paul wrote the uniqueness of the Christian Gospel set them apart from their fellow citizens in clear and sometimes dangerous ways.  To what extent is this still the case for us? It is correct to recognise the right of others to follow different religions or none, but that should not mean that we accept the validity of other faiths on equal terms with Christianity.
Paul was encouraged by reports of the faith and commitment of the Thessalonian Christians: may we be able to share such reports in our Synods and all church groups.


Most gracious God, we give thanks for those who have supported and encouraged us on the Christian Way, and we give thanks for the opportunities we have to support and encourage others. Guide us and strengthen us, we pray, to share with others in action and word the Good News of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour: Amen

URC Daily Devotion Friday 9th October 2020

Friday 9th October 2020 – 1 Thessalonians – Timothy’s Mission in Macedonia

1 Thessalonians 3: 1 – 5

Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we decided to be left alone in Athens;  and we sent Timothy, our brother and co-worker for God in proclaiming the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you for the sake of your faith,  so that no one would be shaken by these persecutions. Indeed, you yourselves know that this is what we are destined for.  In fact, when we were with you, we told you beforehand that we were to suffer persecution; so it turned out, as you know.  For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith; I was afraid that somehow the tempter had tempted you and that our labour had been in vain.


Paul experiences not just the pain of self-isolation, but the anxieties and frustrations of being cut off from a faith community.  “I ought to be there” is a natural reaction when we hear of the needs of a family member or a friend – or (as with Paul) when there is no news of them.  The hurt and regret that so many people have felt when lockdown regulations insisted “You stay where you are” will take a long time to heal.  And for Paul there is a similar hurt in not being able to travel to where he is surely needed.

But think of Timothy, knowing that he is only the stand-in.  Paul wanted to be travelling to Thessalonica himself, and the Thessalonians would certainly have preferred to welcome the “real” apostle.  But between them they recognise that good may come out of this less than ideal compromise, and there is genuine hope for a strengthening of faith and mutual encouragement.

Paul is writing against a background of threat and persecution.  Maybe the threat of the pandemic is still a factor in our life decisions – or maybe travel restrictions, lack of finance, or the loss of energy that comes through ageing are holding us back from what we hoped to do, and from where we hoped to be. Although Paul has seen the hand of Satan holding him back and blocking his way, finding another way forward now gives Timothy the opportunity to develop his own gifts and ministry.

Paul has to move on from thinking of himself as indispensable for the life of the community he loves and cares for. If I can’t manage myself to do what I once thought God was asking of me, maybe it’s time to look around and find someone else to take my place.


Loving God
may we find ourselves
where you want us to be
and through the community of your people
may we know encouragement in our daily living
and strength to remain faithful to the end.

URC Daily Devotion Thursday 8th October 2020

Thursday 8th October 2020 – 1 Thessalonians – Paul’s Anxiety

1 Thessalonians 2: 17 – 20

As for us, brothers and sisters, when, for a short time, we were made orphans by being separated from you—in person, not in heart—we longed with great eagerness to see you face to face. For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, wanted to again and again—but Satan blocked our way.  For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you?  Yes, you are our glory and joy!


Does this remind you of any situation that you have faced recently?

Being separated, changed plans, diaries cleared, events cancelled and postponed, family that you want to support but only allowed to do it from a distance?

Paul wants to visit his family.  He has described himself as both mother ‘Like a nursing mother taking care of her own children’ (2:7) and Father ‘For you know how, like a father with his children’ (2:11)

Paul has become an orphan (that’s one way to describe lockdown) to those he cares deeply about and he wants to be back with them, sharing the gospel of the person of Jesus.

Who knew, when we have uttered these or similar words: ‘Absent in body but present in mind’ that was a common phrase in Graeco-Roman letter writing?

I am uncomfortable with any thought that Covid-19 is seen as the devil’s work but many will want to have that conversation with you.  Paul says that’s what has messed up his plans. For Paul the devil always puts obstacles in the way of the progress of the Kingdom of God and tries to hamper the good works of God’s servants.

May we experience some of Paul’s joy as we gradually return from being on-line, disconnected, re-connected to our New/Old frontlines. Walking the way of Jesus today we can be freed from the guilt of those things that have may have dragged us down in lockdown.  Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever,

Paul pins everything on this community: ‘They are his hope, joy and crown of his claim to honour; in the presence of his Lord Jesus at his Parousia they will be his honour and joy’*

What an incentive to keep working in order to attain the glory that is to come!

*The Oxford Bible Commentary Page: 1205.

Loving God,
As we pray and praise you without ceasing
fill us with your grace and love.
When faced with distance
may we be present through your Spirit,
so that we seek more opportunities,
not obstacles to following you.
We pray that our lives with you will be
Changed from glory into glory,
Till in heaven we take our place,
Till we cast our crowns before you,
Lost in wonder, love and praise. Amen.

© R&S 663 Love Divine Charles Wesley 

URC Daily Devotion Wednesday 7th October 2020

Wednesday 7th October 2020 1 Thessalonians – Faith and Patience

1 Thessalonians 2: 13-16

We also constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s word, which is also at work in you believers. For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you suffered the same things from your own compatriots as they did from the Jews, who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out; they displease God and oppose everyone by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. Thus they have constantly been filling up the measure of their sins; but God’s wrath has overtaken them at last.


The book of 1 Thessalonians, likely being Paul’s first letter, is a book of its time.  As we read it we enter the ‘harsh first-century Mediterranean world of violent stereotypification and vilification of out-groups’ (The Oxford Bible Commentary, p.1205, OUP). In it we can hear words that sound, to us, unethical and harmful, such as denigrating the Judeans of killing Jesus (even though he was crucified by the Romans!).  Many of us hoped and believed that overt prejudice and public condemnation had begun to disappear from our world.  Yet we have seen a growing number of hurtful, harmful, judgemental and divisive words being shared on social media and in public forums in recent years.  Some of these words have even come from those in positions of power and responsibility.  When we read this text, we can see why some have used words from the Bible to hurt and harm; using the phrase ‘God’s Word’ has been used as a reason to condemn, criticise or shame others.  Yet we believe in a God of love, so if our words destroy and hurt then we surely need to ask if they are of God or of us!  When I share a Bible reading in public, I end with the words: ‘in this is the Word of the Lord’ as there are some texts, such as this, that are problematic.  I believe God wants us to consider carefully and critically what we hear or read in Scripture and sometimes we need to look closely before we can find God’s authentic word to us. God is love and, as followers of Jesus, we are called to ensure we reflect that love by our words, actions and attitudes (in public and private) and cannot use the excuse of ‘God’s word’ to harm or damage others. 


Loving God, 
We inhabit a world that is the result of all that has gone before:
a world of good and bad, kind and hurtful.
As we seek to live authentic God-focused lives,
we pray that we may choose our words carefully,
using those that build up and encourage.
We pray for strength as we share your love,
in many and varied ways, with the hurting world in which we live.  

URC Daily Devotion Tuesday 6th October 2020

Tuesday 6th October 2020  1 Thessalonians – Paul’s Example

1 Thessalonians 2:1 – 12

You yourselves know, brothers and sisters, that our coming to you was not in vain,  but though we had already suffered and been shamefully maltreated at Philippi, as you know, we had courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in spite of great opposition.  For our appeal does not spring from deceit or impure motives or trickery, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the message of the gospel, even so we speak, not to please mortals, but to please God who tests our hearts.  As you know and as God is our witness, we never came with words of flattery or with a pretext for greed;  nor did we seek praise from mortals, whether from you or from others, though we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children.  So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.

You remember our labour and toil, brothers and sisters;  we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and God also, how pure, upright, and blameless our conduct was towards you believers.  As you know, we dealt with each one of you like a father with his children, urging and encouraging you and pleading that you should lead a life worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.


This is the relational gospel. Four decades ago, when I started out in youth work, this was the core text for ministry among unchurched young people.  Here Paul demonstrates how fully he has embraced the way of Jesus, how deeply he understands that the medium and the message are one.

He shows us that we can only truly tell people the good news that God loves them by actually loving them ourselves.  Our evangelism must be deeply rooted in love for God AND love for those we are called to reach out to.  Otherwise we are just a sales force, with all the patter.  The gospel is costly to those sharing it, free to those receiving it.  The vulnerability of offering love can be very costly.  Ask any parent, sibling or friend.  Paul uses the imagery of the tender care of a breastfeeding mother, the fatherly nurture of character and life choices, the sibling relationships of living and working alongside each other to describe this love.  It is the day-to-day intimacy of lives shared, living out the gospel in the most ordinary ways, that gives the message of new life in Christ real meaning.

God in Christ became human and came to live among us to be the way, the truth and the life.  He did not seek praise, wealth, power.  He never tricked anyone or took advantage.  He spoke of loving like the forgiving father of a prodigal, or a mother hen keeping her chicks safe, and his words rang true because he lived out that love.  If communication is famously only 7% verbal, then not surprisingly it is against our lives, and the quality of our relationships, that our words will be tested.  Jesus shared his very self. Integrity and intimacy were his mission methods.  They were Paul’s.  They should be ours.


Jesus you lived a life poured out for others:
You loved the unlovely and the loveless,
You shared your very self,
You invited all to share new life through you.
Help us to step out in costly love:
To reach out in love,
To speak the truth in love,
Sharing our very selves with all our brothers and sisters
As we share your love and your life.

URC Daily Devotion Monday 5th October 2020

Monday 5th October 2020 1 Thessalonians – Thanksgiving

1 Thessalonians 1

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.

We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly  remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labour of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers and sisters beloved by God, that he has chosen you,  because our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of people we proved to be among you for your sake.  And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for in spite of persecution you received the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit,  so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.  For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place where your faith in God has become known, so that we have no need to speak about it.  For the people of those regions report about us what kind of welcome we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God,  and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming.


Read this first chapter of the first letter to the Thessalonians and I suspect that many of us come away with that ‘feel good’ factor.  The letter is thought to be one of the oldest – probably the oldest – of the books contained in the New Testament. Written in about 51 CE merely twenty years after Jesus’ death and resurrection and here were a group of people for whom the gospel had come alive. Not only had it come alive for them in Thessalonica but they had spread the message through the province of Macedonia and Achaia.

In this prayer of thanksgiving, Paul talks of them as faithful, hopeful and loving, chosen by God but crucially people who responded with joy, inspired by the Holy Spirit. It was this joy and inspiration that enabled the gospel message to be spread beyond their own city. And so it was that Paul gave thanks, not just for a group of faithful people but in recognition that God is at the centre of their lives and the journey of faith which they are travelling.

Wouldn’t any church be pleased to receive such affirmation and encouragement. 2000 years later it might cause us to look carefully at our own situation and to ask the question ‘is this the church to which I belong?’

As I write this at the end of May we have lived through 10 weeks of lockdown. There is much talk of what the world post Corvid-19 might look like and encouragement to churches to think about how the experience will shape their future ministry and mission. Of one thing we can be sure, as the Thessalonians had found, that future must be built on having God at the centre, enabling a faithful, hopeful and loving people to be witnesses in a changing world.


Eternal God,

we hear your call to be faithful, hopeful and loving citizens of your kingdom.

May our joy in your service inspire us to witness to you, our living and true God.


Worship for Sunday 4th October, the Rev’d Ruth Dillon

Sunday Worship from the United Reformed Church
for Sunday 4th October 2020


The Rev’d Ruth Dillon
Good morning and welcome to worship.  My name is Ruth Dillon and it is my privilege to serve two United Reformed Church congregations in Wessex Synod.  Today we will be thinking about one of the most striking images in Matthew’s Gospel, the strong vineyard imagery, and the challenging, threatening and violent image of the parable that Jesus shares with his disciples.  
Call To Worship
The wisdom of God calls to us, from the heights, along the paths, and at the crossroads. Come into God’s presence to worship, sing, and pray.
From our scattered places we come. Let us worship God.
Beautiful City, Heavenly Salem  
from a Latin 7th Century hymn translated by JM Neale (1818-66)

Blessèd city, heav’nly Salem,
vision dear of peace and love,
who of living stones upbuilded
art the joy heav’n above,
we, with all thy holy people,
glorious to thy glory move.
2: Christ is made the sure foundation,
Christ the head and corner-stone,
chosen of the Lord and precious,
binding all the Church in one;
holy Zion’s help for ever,
and her confidence alone.
3: All that dedicated city,
dearly loved of God on hight,
in exultant jubilation
ours perpetual melody.
God, the One in Three, adoring
in glad hymns eternally.
4: To this temple where we call thee,
come, O Lord of Hosts, today
with thy wonted loving-kindness
hear they people as they pray;
and they fullest benediction
shed within its walls for aye.


5: Hear vouchsafe to all thy servants
what they ask of thee to gain
what they gain for thee for ever
with the blessed to retain,
and hereafter in thy glory
evermore with thee to reign.
Prayers of Approach and Confession
Leader:  Come, the Holy Spirit encourages us to glorify
All         the one true God,
             the Almighty
             the creator of heaven and earth
God of Grace in whom we live and move and have our being,
We come to you this joyful day, aware of your presence in the world.
Each new day we marvel at your touch – we feel the breeze caress our face, or a person smile when greeting one another.
We marvel at your creativity – as we ponder the fragility of butterfly wings, and the wonders of the human body.
We marvel at your fragrance of freshly baked bread and the heady rose in summer bloom.
All these things, and many more bring us to the point of saying  you are a creative and awesome God. A God worthy of praise and adoration.
God of grace, you have moulded us in love. But there have been times when we have refused to acknowledge your presence in the world:
when our lack of touch has been cold and disheartening;
when our lack of creativity has been unhelpful and destructive;
when our lack of sensitivity sours our relationships;
In the silence we humbly come before you and ask your forgiveness
Prayer of Illumination
God of grace in whom we live and move and have our being.
By your grace we are restored healed and transformed.
By your grace we can bathe in your love.
You have wiped the slate clean.
Enable us to be your touch in the world,
enable us to be your fragrance in the world,
enable us to be your voice in the world.
Illuminate our whole bodies, physically, emotionally and spiritually to your goodness and open our minds to your words of forgiveness and wisdom.
You say to each one of us ‘your sins are truly forgiven’, yet you also say these words, ‘come now and follow me’.
And now let us say together the prayer that Jesus taught his friends to say.
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done,
in earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those that trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
Isaiah 5: 1-7 (The Message)
Let me sing for my beloved my love-song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill.  He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it;  he expected it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes.
And now, inhabitants of Jerusalem and people of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard.  What more was there to do for my vineyard that I have not done in it?  When I expected it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes?  And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard.  I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured;  I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down.  I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed, and it shall be overgrown with briers and thorns;  I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.  For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel,  and the people of Judah are his pleasant planting;  he expected justice, but saw bloodshed; righteousness, but heard a cry.
Matthew 21:33-46 ( The Message)
“Here’s another story. Listen closely. There was once a man, a wealthy farmer, who planted a vineyard. He fenced it, dug a winepress, put up a watchtower, then turned it over to the farmhands and went off on a trip. When it was time to harvest the grapes, he sent his servants back to collect his profits.
“The farmhands grabbed the first servant and beat him up. The next one they murdered. They threw stones at the third but he got away.
The owner tried again, sending more servants. They got the same treatment.
The owner was at the end of his rope. He decided to send his son. ‘Surely,’ he thought, ‘they will respect my son.’
“But when the farmhands saw the son arrive, they rubbed their hands in greed. ‘This is the heir! Let’s kill him and have it all for ourselves.’

They grabbed him, threw him out, and killed him.
“Now, when the owner of the vineyard arrives home from his trip, what do you think he will do to the farmhands?”

“He’ll kill them – a rotten bunch, and good riddance,” they answered. “Then he’ll assign the vineyard to farmhands who will hand over the profits when it’s time.”
Jesus said, “Right – and you can read it for yourselves in your Bibles: The stone the masons threw out is now the cornerstone. This is God’s work; we rub our eyes, we can hardly believe it!
“This is the way it is with you. God’s kingdom will be taken back from you and handed over to a people who will live out a kingdom life.
Whoever stumbles on this Stone gets shattered; whoever the Stone falls on gets smashed.”
When the religious leaders heard this story, they knew it was aimed at them.
They wanted to arrest Jesus and put him in jail, but, intimidated by public opinion, they held back. Most people held him to be a prophet of God.
Hymn:      Inspired by Love and Anger
John L Bell and Graham Maule © Iona Community Wild Goose Resource Group

Inspired by love and anger,
disturbed by need and pain,
informed of God’s own bias,
we ask Him once again:
“How long must some folk suffer?
How long can few folk mind?
How long dare vain self-interest
turn prayer and pity blind?”
2: From those forever victims
of heartless human greed,
their cruel plight composes
a litany of need:
“Where are the fruits of justice?
Where are the signs of peace?
When is the day when prisoners
and dreams find their release?”

3: From those forever shackled
to what their wealth can buy,
the fear of lost advantage
provokes the bitter cry:
“Don’t query our position!
Don’t criticise our wealth!
Don’t mention those exploited
by politics and stealth!”
4: To God, who through the prophets
proclaimed a different age,
we offer earth’s indifference,
its agony and rage:
“When will the wronged be righted?
When will the Kingdom come?
When will the world be generous
to all instead of some?”
5: God asks, “Who will go for me?
Who will extend my reach?
And who, when few will listen,
will prophesy and preach?
And who, when few bid welcome,
will offer all they know?
And who, when few dare follow,
will walk the road I show?”
6: Amused in someone’s kitchen,
asleep in someone’s boat,
attuned to what the ancients
exposed, proclaimed and wrote,
A saviour without safety,
a tradesman without tools
has come to tip the balance
with fishermen and fools.

Sermon… This is not a pretty parable
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts here, be acceptable to you O Lord, for you are our Rock, our Strength, and our Comforter.  Amen
This is not a pretty parable.
Over recent years, violence seems to have been on the increase. From the tragic and pointless death of Stephen Lawrence in London in 1993, to the murder of Anthony Walker in Huyton in 2005, then to the recent global scene of violence in North America, Hong Kong and the Middle East, to name just a few. In fact the list is endless. These images have burrowed into my imagination relentlessly, and perhaps they have for you, too…and for many of our people.

Violence – inexplicable, seemingly random violence – is part of what is most frightening. It is becoming clear that not only is there no easy way to protect vulnerable crowds from gun violence, but also that we can discover no motive, which makes these acts of horrific violence seem even more random and harder to understand, and also makes us all feel more vulnerable.

Who next?
What next?
We think about ‘when’, not ‘if’.
We may think that random violence is a recent phenomenon, but we would be mistaken. Random violence has been immersed in our culture since Cain and Abel. Two themes are often present: power and possessiveness are traps that we can all fall into; however for some people it is a thirst for power and desire to possess everything that causes the earth to groan through the petty feuds of humankind; and the blood stained earth cries out ‘why?’ 
This is not a pretty parable.
It is violent and threatening, and the situation was all too familiar to Jesus’ audience. Absentee landlords were not uncommon. Someone buying a field, improving it, leasing it to tenants, and then departing to live in another region was part and parcel of the ancient world, where a very few people often held much of the land and agricultural wealth.
Nor would it have been terribly uncommon to imagine tenants resisting the landlord’s assertion of authority and demand for a return on investment. We don’t know how long the landlord had lived away. It could have been years. The tenants may have assumed by this time that the landlord had died, or forgotten about them, and may have similarly assumed the land was now theirs by right of possession and labour.
None of this is uncommon. What is uncommon is the repeated requests of the landlord. Once, is ok… but several times? More likely, a landlord wealthy enough to buy and improve land while living abroad, and who employed multiple servants – well, this kind of landlord likely would have sent not just servants but soldiers to collect his due.
There are two things that don’t make a lot of sense about this parable. 

  • The first is the tenants’ assumption that, if they kill the heir, they will now be inheritors, an assumption that the crowds listening to Jesus’ parable intuitively contradict. It is, in short, a little far-fetched.
  • The second is the landlord sending his son and heir, alone and unaccompanied, to plead for a sensible response from these tenants after all this violence. It is, quite frankly, the act of a landlord so desperate to restore relationship with these wayward and wicked tenants that he is willing to try anything, do anything to repair the breach between them. Or maybe it’s the act of a desperate parent who will try anything, do anything to draw back a wayward child into a loving embrace. Or the act of a desperate God who will try anything, do anything to win back a wayward people.
This parable, violent as it seems, is about a passionate kind of love. The kind of love that makes no sense, that will listen to no counter argument, and that will never, ever give up, risking even violence, rejection, and death in order to testify to God’s commitment to these tenants…and to us. Violence was ever present in the days of Jesus and we see the culmination of that violence towards Jesus in the stark and bloodied cross, with Jesus’ arms outstretched, still desperate to find a way for God’s people to turn to the God who is Love.
Matthew tells this parable to accuse those who rejected Jesus and to assure his community that justice, in time, will be served. But I do not think this parable is only about Jesus’ opponents. I think that ultimately this parable tells the truth about how often we get caught up in our own devices and demands, to the point of absolutely rejecting God’s just claim on our devotion, and also just how far God will go to win us back.

Jesus does not shrink from the sacrifice on the cross, he does not return with vengeance, he does not kick anyone out of the kingdom of heaven. Instead, the resurrected Jesus, having taken on the worst that our violence can inflict, comes back and instructs his disciples to take the good news of the Gospel to the very ends of the earth, promising to be with them always.
And for me, reflecting on the violence in the world you and I live in, that good news means in part that violence does not, and will not, have the last word.
That the only response to violence is not more violence.
That tragedy and death and loss and hatred are, in the end, no match for love and life and forgiveness and peace.
Historians have suggested that members of Matthew’s largely Jewish community, perhaps worn down by distress and danger in the wake of the destruction of the Temple, were contemplating returning to the faith of their youth and that Matthew consequently saw the Pharisees as competitors for their loyalty.
When I keep in mind that Matthew’s community was a vulnerable religious minority of the day, I can sympathize with his plight and response. But I still regret it, because when Christianity went from a minority to a majority religion of the Roman Empire, and grew into the most powerful political and cultural force in Europe, these same verses, and others like them, helped to justify centuries of mistreatment of Jews by Christians. Violence yet again.
For while Jesus’ words, Matthew’s words, and our words all matter, Jesus’ deeds matter even more, as Jesus’ death and resurrection create more possibilities than those we can see, including the possibility of peace.

  • In the Gospel of John we hear the words, ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid’.
  • In the Gospel of Matthew we hear the words, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God’.
  • And again from Matthew’s Gospel, ‘Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age’.
  • And finally from Romans, Paul writes, ‘Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.’

As I said, this isn’t a pretty parable, but it is one that is steeped in the context of its day, and yes, in ours too.
This does not erase our grief or lessen our call to act to make such atrocities less likely. But it does, in the meantime, offer us hope; and hope is the birthplace of faithful action, compassion, and resolve.
Let us pray
Enter our lives, Lord, that we may understand that tragedy, death and hatred  can be replaced by life, forgiveness, and peace.
Enter our lives, Lord,  that we may accept the work that needs to be done in your name.
Enter our lives, Lord, that the peace that is truly beyond all human understanding  will be with us this day and each day we live in your service. Amen
My Song is Love unknown
Samuel Crossman (1624 – 1683)

My song is love unknown,
my Saviour’s love to me;
love to the loveless shown,
that they might lovely be.
O who am I, that for my sake
my Lord should take
frail flesh, and die?
2 He came from His blest throne
salvation to bestow;
but folk made strange,
and none the longed-for
Christ would know:
but oh, my friend,
my friend indeed,
who at my need
His life did spend.
3 Sometimes they strew His way,
and His sweet praises sing;
resounding all the day
Hosannas to their King:
then “Crucify!”
is all their breath,
and for His death
they thirst and cry.
4: Why what hath my Lord done?
What makes this rage and spite?
He made the lame to run,
He gave the blind their sight.
Sweet injuries! yet they at these
themselves displease
and ‘gainst him rise.
5 They rise and needs will have
my dear Lord made away;
a murderer they save,
the Prince of life they slay.
Yet cheerful He to suffering goes,
that He His foes
from thence might free.
6 In life, no house, no home
my Lord on earth might have;
in death, no friendly tomb,
but what a stranger gave.
What may I say?
Heav’n was His home;
but mine the tomb
wherein He lay.
7 Here might I stay and sing,
no story so divine;
never was love, dear King,
never was grief like Thine.
This is my friend,
in whose sweet praise
I all my days could gladly spend.
Affirmation of Faith
Do you believe in the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who gathers, protects, and cares for the Church through Word and Spirit. This God has done since the beginning of the world and will do to the end. We do
Do you believe that God is the One who wishes to bring about justice and true peace among people. We do.
Do you believe that God, in a world full of injustice and enmity, is in a special way the God of the destitute, the poor, and the wronged? We do.
This is the faith of the Church!  We are proud to confess it in Jesus Christ, our Lord.   Amen.
Prayers of Intercession
Landowner God, you have planted and tended the vines,  you have pruned us  that we may continue to bear good fruit.
We pray for the world; that the world may hear your words of justice and peace and act in harmony with each other instead of competition and possessiveness…….
Silence for personal prayer 
We pray for those finding life hard; for the victims of violence left with external and internal scars, who find it difficult to express emotions and feelings and to experience love and tenderness…….
Silence for personal prayer 
We pray for your Church, that they may always be witnesses to unity and community and wherever conflict emerges,  your Spirt of Hope and reconciliation will prevail…..
Silence for personal prayer.
Landowner God, we pray for ourselves that the fruit on your vine will always yield a bountiful harvest obedient to your word and message …….
Silence for personal prayer
God of the vines, source of all nourishment and growth, keep us always in your vineyard, tend and care for us for the Glory of Christ and the creativeness of the Holy Spirit  Amen 
Lord God, we offer what we have; coins of different worth, notes of different colours. Accept these gifts for we give them gladly, for they are the work of our hands of minds; they are our faithfulness in action; they are an expression of all that you mean to us, and for our brothers and sisters throughout your world. Bless us in our giving Lord and bless us in our discipleship. In Jesus name we pray  Amen  
God of the Poor
Graham Kendrick © 1993 Make Way Music


Beauty for brokenness
Hope for despair
Lord, in the suffering
This is our prayer
Bread for the children
Justice, joy, peace
Sunrise to sunset
Your kingdom increase!

2: Shelter for fragile lives
Cures for their ills
Work for the craftsman
Trade for their skills
Land for the dispossessed
Rights for the weak
Voices to plead the cause
Of those who can’t speak

God of the poor
Friend of the weak
Give us compassion we pray
Melt our cold hearts
Let tears fall like rain
Come, change our love
From a spark to a flame
3: Refuge from cruel wars
Havens from fear
Cities for sanctuary
Freedoms to share
Peace to the killing-fields
Scorched earth to green
Christ for the bitterness
His cross for the pain
4: Rest for the ravaged earth
Oceans and streams
Plundered and poisoned
Our future, our dreams
Lord, end our madness
Carelessness, greed
Make us content with
The things that we need

5: Lighten our darkness
breathe on this flame
Until your justice burns
brightly again
Until the nations
learn of your ways
Seek your salvation
and bring you their praise
May the faithfulness of God keep you secure and safe
May the friendship of Jesus bring you joy and contentment
May the inspiration of the Holy Spirit enable you to break from the fears you have, and rediscover what is means to live in harmony with each other.
May you feel God’s blessing every moment of every day now and for evermore. Amen

Sources and Copyright

Call To Worship from Worship Aids for the Revised Common Lectionary from the Presbyterian Church of the USA
Affirmation of Faith from selected sections of the Belhar Confession of Faith.
All other prayers by Ruth Dillion.
Beautiful City, Heavenly Salem, Latin 7th Century translated by J M Neale performed by Vocal Ensemble Magnificat, 6th February 2016.
Inspired by Love and Anger written by John L Bell and Graham Maule of the Iona Community © WGRWG performed by Stephanie Hollenberg and Luke Concannon.
My Song is Love Unknown by Samuel Crossman sung by the Choir of the Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Truro.
God of the Poor by Graham Kendrick performed by the writer. 
Biblical readings taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group

Opening voluntary: Nun Komm Der Heiden Heiland (“Now the Gentile saviour comes”) by Johann Sebastian Bach
(organ of The Spire Church, Farnham – 2020)  Closing:  Songs of Praise Toccata by Robert Prizeman
(organ of St Andrew’s, Farnham – 2019)  played by Brian Cotterill http://briancotterill.webs.com


Thanks To:

Jonnie Hill and Adam Scott, Ruth and Kingsley Browning, Phil, Lythan and Carys Nevard for recording the Call to Worship and Affirmation of Faith. Morag Donaldson, John Wilcox, Ruth Watson, Carol Tubbs, Anne Hewling, and John Young for recording other spoken parts of worship.

URC Daily Devotion Saturday 3rd October 2020 Colossians – The Apostolic Spirit and Final Greetings

Saturday 3rd October 2020 Colossians – The Apostolic Spirit and Final Greetings

Colossians 4:2 – 18

Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with thanksgiving. At the same time pray for us as well that God will open to us a door for the word, that we may declare the mystery of Christ, for which I am in prison, so that I may reveal it clearly, as I should. Conduct yourselves wisely towards outsiders, making the most of the time.  Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone.

Tychicus will tell you all the news about me; he is a beloved brother, a faithful minister, and a fellow-servant in the Lord. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, so that you may know how we are and that he may encourage your hearts;  he is coming with Onesimus, the faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will tell you about everything here.

Aristarchus my fellow-prisoner greets you, as does Mark the cousin of Barnabas, concerning whom you have received instructions—if he comes to you, welcome him. And Jesus who is called Justus greets you. These are the only ones of the circumcision among my co-workers for the kingdom of God, and they have been a comfort to me. Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you. He is always wrestling in his prayers on your behalf, so that you may stand mature and fully assured in everything that God wills. For I testify for him that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis. Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas greet you. Give my greetings to the brothers and sisters in Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. And when this letter has been read among you, have it read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you read also the letter from Laodicea.  And say to Archippus, ‘See that you complete the task that you have received in the Lord.’

I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.


Two friends had to get to the island airport.  They didn’t have any transport and so set off on foot hoping to hitch a lift.  But there weren’t any vehicles on the road.  They knelt down and screwed up their eyes in earnest prayer.  When they opened their eyes, they saw the back of a bus disappearing into the distance; the moral of the story is watch and pray!

As I write this over the last few weeks we have been encouraged to keep alert because of the ongoing threat of COVID-19.  Keeping alert has been associated with illness, danger and even fear.  Here Paul is associating it with thanksgiving.  He rejoices despite his circumstances – he is in prison with no prospect of being released.  Hopefully as you read this we will be experiencing greater freedoms.  But Paul encourages us to be thankful in all circumstances.  He is able to count his blessings and recognises that God is at work.  He is thankful for his friends, companions and fellow ministers.  He doesn’t see his imprisonment as an impediment to the spread of the Gospel.  God’s love cannot be constrained by a cell or chains.  But he also recognises that it is not just about him, he affirms his fellow workers for the sake of the Gospel. And above all else he recognises the power of prayer.

Whatever our circumstances might be, may we not forget the power of prayer, but let us keep our eyes open to see what God is doing and rejoice.  Let us give thanks for the way that the Gospel has spread in word and deed despite lockdown and let us rejoice for our brothers and sisters who minister with us in places and ways we can’t.


Dear God,
We rejoice in your goodness and blessings. 
Lift up our eyes beyond all that seems to imprison and constrain us.
Let your Gospel, your Good News reach beyond us to those who need to hear it today. Amen