URC Daily Devotion 8th February

In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised up above the hills. Peoples shall stream to it,  and many nations shall come and say:
‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.’

For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between many peoples, and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away; they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more;  but they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken.

For all the peoples walk, each in the name of its god, but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever.

On that day, says the Lord, I will assemble the lame and gather those who have been driven away, and those whom I have afflicted. The lame I will make the remnant, and those who were cast off, a strong nation; and the Lord will reign over them in Mount Zion now and for evermore.
And you, O tower of the flock, hill of daughter Zion, to you it shall come, the former dominion shall come, the sovereignty of daughter Jerusalem.

Reflection
Last Sunday, we read Mark’s story of Jesus really getting going in his ministry, travelling at breakneck speed, teaching, healing, praying and driving out evil from people’s lives and communities – the disciples struggling to keep up, and when they do, they are hurried on. “Let us go somewhere else – so that I can preach there also!” Next Sunday we are taken much later in the story of Jesus’ ministry where the glory Jesus is will be shared.  But we are ahead of ourselves – it is not Sunday yet – and we are between hearing the call of Jesus to follow him, and fully experiencing the glory of God on earth, when every knee shall bow at Jesus’ name.

So take a moment look around your world, listen to its cries and see Jesus for whom he is – God, today among the people for whom He died. On Sunday, when the disciples get to the top of the mountain, and see Jesus covered in heavenly glory, they will think they have seen Micah’s prophecy come true – surely this is a glimpse of heavenly glory. But it is then, that their journey of Faith really gets going – as they are led by Jesus to Jerusalem to his crucifixion. In that horrific, wasteful, underserved death of God, we see beautiful, all-giving, grace. It is from here, the highest mountain of all, that love will flow.

As you read Micah 6 see all that comes from Jesus’ death – drawing together all peoples to hear God’s Way of Life, “that we may walk in his paths”, with justice, peace, and healing for people and nations, by the building up of a community of Faith, the raising up of the weak and vulnerable, and calling home the rejected outcasts.

Come, we have rested well – our Risen Lord is waiting with other sisters and brothers, and “we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever!”

When we are on
one of life’s mountain-tops
Help us to treasure and appreciate
those moments of joyful celebration, achievement or deep spiritual experience.
Gently lead us safely down the
mountain-side,
returning to the business and busyness
of life.
Lead us ever to the highest peak of all –
the cross where Jesus died.
Teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.
Help us be peacemakers
and justice-fighters.
May your Holy Spirit
keep us going to
“walk in the name of the Lord our God
for ever and ever”.
Let us celebrate and rejoice
the true mountain-top experience
of the building up
of a community of Faith,
the raising up of the weak and vulnerable,
and the calling home
the rejected and outcasts,
Then true dominion shall come,
the sovereignty of daughter Jerusalem,
the kin-dom of God,
And at the name of Jesus
every knee shall bow
to recognise you as God of Love.

Today’s Writer

The Rev’d Kevin Watson, Yorkshire Synod and General Assembly Moderator

Bible Version

 

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

URC Daily Devotion 7th February

Hear this, you rulers of the house of Jacob
   and chiefs of the house of Israel,
who abhor justice
   and pervert all equity,
who build Zion with blood
   and Jerusalem with wrong!
Its rulers give judgment for a bribe,
   its priests teach for a price,
   its prophets give oracles for money;
yet they lean upon the Lord and say,
   “Surely the Lord is with us!
   No harm shall come upon us.”
Therefore because of you
   Zion shall be plowed as a field;
Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins,
   and the mountain of the house a wooded height.
Reflection
There is wisdom in the old saying: before you criticize someone walk a mile in their shoes. The real wisdom, of course, is that by the time you’ve finished criticizing them you’re a mile away and they don’t have any shoes…but the prophet isn’t mincing any words here, are they?

It doesn’t take much imagination to think about how relevant this prophecy is today. As relevant as it was when it was first delivered. The situation in the Holy Land doesn’t seem to have moved on much, does it?

Then again, let’s expand our geographical horizons a little more… let’s substitute Zion/Israel for any current country and leadership – there will be people who think this applies to their homeland, too.

And finally let’s go micro and think about our own lives. I’m not suggesting that we have built our lives on blood and that we abhor justice – but we’re so often seduced by the false prophets of advertising or the “I’m all right, Jack” mentality that lets others suffer because their situation doesn’t affect us.

Maybe we should spend some time sorting our own lives out before we start criticizing others.

Loving God
Forgive us when we are angry
at injustices done by others
but in denial
of the wrongs that we have done.
Shine your light of love
onto our own lives
so that we can see more clearly
how we need to change
to more faithfully
walk the way of your son,
Jesus Christ.

Amen

Today’s Writer

Leo Roberts, Children and Youth Development Officer, North Western 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

Derek Leighton – A Tribute

On the 25th January at 12.30 we said our last goodbyes to our dear friend and member of this church and the previous churches which had amalgamated over the years.

A Tribute from friends at Church
Derek was an active member both of our Church and his former Church, Trinity St David’s.

He had been a serving Elder at Trinity St David’s URC. He was then also a Boys Brigade Officer.

That part of Derek’s church life will be documented in the archives of Trinity St David’s which closed in 1991 after it amalgamated with Salem – one of our then 3 churches in our Team Ministry.

Following the amalgamation Derek became a serving Elder at Salem URC.

He joined in the Church life fully supported by Ada and when Salem closed and this new build was opened in 2011 he continued to worship and join in many activities.

Both Derek and Ada have been active members of Trinity Network, our Activity Centre for Older People (which is just along the corridor) for many years.

We operate a Charity Shop at our other Church, Dewsbury Road, on Tuesdays and Ada and Derek have worked there for several years welcoming and serving the customers.

At Christmas Derek has previously acted, in full costume, as a stand-in for Santa Claus both here and in the Charity Shop.

Over the last couple of years Derek had become frailer and mobility became a problem. He was still able to attend the activities that he and Ada shared thanks to patience and support.

Derek was a gentle man in the true sense of the word.

The Church, the Charity Shop and Trinity Network will miss Derek – but we shall continue to support Ada and we know we’ll see her about – particularly in the Charity Shop and Trinity Network.

A Tribute from Trinity Network
Derek and Ada have attended Trinity Network for many many years, they were always very welcoming to new members and staff and would help out whenever they could.

Dominoes is always played on a Thursday afternoon, Ada is ‘in charge’ of the dominoes and when Ada tells us it is time to move tables, we do as we are told! Derek used to enjoy his dominoes but was not able to join in as he became more frail but would sit in the easy chair listening to everything happening around him.

Several years ago Ada and Derek would join Sylvia on her ‘itchy feet walks’ which took place on a monthly basis on a Wednesday morning.

They also had several holidays with Trinity Network and we tried to ensure that Ada could have some time to herself while staff and volunteers took care of Derek, they enjoyed holidays and day trips.

Last year we went to a sixties event at an Hotel and people from other groups commented on how lovely it was to see them both together and asked how long they had been married.

Ada and Derek celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary at Trinity Network, we had a very memorable day joining in their celebrations and looking at photographs from their younger days.

Ada and Derek were founder members of the Reflections café which was organised by Julie Rowley and operates on a monthly basis.

Derek will be sadly missed by everyone at Trinity Network.

URC Daily Devotion 6th February

Almost fifty years after Francis Xavier had arrived in Japan as its first Christian apostle, the presence of several thousand baptised Christians in the land became a subject of suspicion to the ruler Hideyoshi, who soon began a period of persecution. Twenty-six men and women, monastic and lay, were first mutilated then crucified near Nagasaki in 1597. After their martyrdom, their bloodéd- clothes were kept and held in reverence by their fellow Christians. The period of persecution continued for another thirty-five years, many new witness-martyrs being added to their number.
Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written,

‘For your sake we are being killed all day long;
  we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.’

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Reflection
Shusaku Endo’s novel, Silence, set in mid-seventeenth century Japan, focuses on Jesuit priest, Fr. Sebastian Rodrigues, and his passion to help the local Christians in the face of brutal oppression.  The novel is a powerful depiction of the challenge faced – both by the fragile Christian community and by Fr. Sebastian himself – against those determined to force them to abandon their faith in God.
Within every service of ordination, induction or commissioning for a minister or church related community worker these words are addressed to the candidate:

“Do you promise to live a holy life, and to maintain the truth of the gospel,
whatever trouble or persecution may arise?”

To which the minister is invited to respond,

“Relying on the strength of Christ, I do.”

The question certainly accompanied my reading of Silence … would I “maintain the truth of the gospel, whatever trouble or persecution may arise”?   What is chilling in Endo’s novel is the apparent silence of God – in contrast to the stark reality of the suffering experienced by the Japanese Christians.   Endo writes, “Beneath the light of the candle I am sitting with my hands on my knees, staring in front of me.  And I keep turning over in my mind and thought that I am at the end of the earth, in a place which you do not know and which your whole lives through you will never visit.”

Some of our sisters and brothers – in places where the Church faces “trouble and persecution” – know the reality of Endo’s battleground.  We do well to acknowledge that “trouble and persecution” in our context are as nothing compared to what is embraced by those who risk life and livelihood in other parts of the world Church.   They and we can but respond, “Relying on the strength of Christ I will hold fast to faith and God.”   Ultimately such strength comes from the conviction that nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

God, from whose love
in Christ Jesus our Lord,
nothing can separate us,
look with compassion
on those who endure
trouble and persecution
as a consequence
of their faithfulness to the gospel.
May those who are tempted,
in the face of suffering and hardship,
to feel engulfed by silence
know the peace that the world
can neither give nor take away.
Relying on your grace
may we remain steadfast
and faithful witnesses
to your Word
breathed into the world’s silence:  
even Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Amen.

Today’s Writer

The Rev’d Geoffrey Clarke is Minister of The Crossing Church & Centre, Worksop & Wales Kiveton Methodist Church

Bible Version

 

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

URC Daily Devotion 5th February

Things had been going so well until now; decades of a sort of peace had been marked by dizzingly rising living standards for some and escalating celebrity status for a small number of well-known persons.

But now, external threats are darkening the horizon and the internal contradictions and complacencies of the society are being exposed as never before. The poor and vulnerable are being exploited and destroyed by the rich and powerful and many religious leaders are openly conniving with this state of affairs.

Are we talking about eight century BC Israel and Judah or twenty first century AD Western Europe and North America?

Clearly both.

Micah demonstrates God’s especial anger at those religious leaders who misuse their position and vocation to pander to the self-interests of the rich and who also turn on those who raise inconvenient truths or refuse to fawn and flatter them.

I hear echoes of 1 Corinthians 13 v. 2 when Paul writes “,,,, if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”

God will leave them literally and metaphorically in the dark as a punishment.

He contrasts these false and simpering prophets with his own confidence in channelling God’s love and power for His people. After all, Micah means ‘who is like God.’

Too often in our society, we Christians seek the comfort of being respectable first and the voices of the Kingdom second, if at all.

We row back from holding our society to God’s account and settle for being ‘nice’, when we should be lovingly outspoken.

A particularly memorable scene in the film Ryan’s Daughter is when the priest, played by Trevor Howard, lashes out at the hypocritical villagers who have just attacked the Sarah Miles character for transgressing their social norms.

One indignant citizen argues “You’re abusing your position, Father” to which the priest replies, growlingly, “that’s what it’s there for!”

URC Daily Devotion 4th February

Joyfully sing to the LORD, all you righteous;
for it is good that the upright give praise.
With harp and lyre praise the LORD and make music;
with shouts of joy, a new song to him raise.

Righteous and true is the word God has spoken;
all the LORD’s actions his faithfulness prove.
He loves true righteousness, judgment and justice;
all earth is full of his unfailing love.

By the LORD’s word were the heavens created,
their starry host by the breath from his lips.
All the sea’s waters he gathers together
and in his storehouses lays up the deeps.

Let all the world fear the LORD in his greatness;
rev’rence his name, all you peoples of earth!
For when he spoke, all things came into being;
when he commanded, then all things stood forth.

Foiled by the LORD are the plans of the nations;
thwarted by him are the peoples’ designs.
But the LORD’s purposes stand firm for ever;
his plans endure through all ages and times.

Favoured and blessed is the nation he’s chosen,
whose God the LORD is throughout every age;
Blessed are the people he called to be near him,
those whom he chose as his own heritage.

From heaven’s height the LORD looks down and watches;
he sees mankind from his own dwelling-place.
He who has moulded the hearts of all people
knows every deed of the whole human race.

No king is saved by the size of his army;
no warrior lives by the strength of his hand.
Vain is man’s trust in a horse for deliverance,
nor by its strength can it victory command.

But the LORD’s eyes are on those who revere him,
those who rely on his unfailing love;
So that from famine and death he may save them,
giving them life by his power from above.

We wait in hope for the LORD, our defender;
trusting his holy name, our hearts are blessed.
LORD, may your unfailing love rest upon us,
just as in you our sure hope has been placed.

This can be sung to the tune Springfield which you can hear here

Reflection
Working for Christian Aid, 25 years ago, took me to Sri Lanka to visit partner organisations, of all faiths, who were undertaking community development projects with peasants, fisher folk, trades unions, and tea pickers. One ran an organic farm in the centre of the country, advising families who had been given small plots of impoverished land through limited nationalisation of tea plantations in the 1970s. The lead activist rested rarely, constantly seeking ways forward which would bring about justice for the communities scraping a living from the land. One afternoon he suggested that we walk up the hill to a meditation centre, and as we went, we discussed the latest news of civil unrest in various regions of the country. For 30 minutes we said nothing – the longest I remember this companion sitting in peace and quiet, both wordless in the face of the sheer beauty of our surroundings.

This came to mind as I read Psalm 33, with its  wonderment at creation, wisdom about nationhood, and reassurance in times of anxiety. I find it hard to agree that belief in God saves people from famine and death, or that the power of God comes from above. Too often the idea of an all-knowing divine being lets humanity off the hook when it comes to taking responsibility for our actions. And yet, like the leaders of the community organisations I used to visit I believe that all the earth is full of the unfailing love of God, who is recognised in true righteousness, judgement and justice.

Unbounded God
who speaks the cosmos into existence
whose name is upright, faithful, steadfast
enlist us in your justice-ing.
Be the hope that is within us,
and the calm at the heart of the world’s turbulence
that we may have the courage
to join in your new song
rising from the world you are creating now.

Today’s Writer

The Rev’d Fiona Thomas is the Secretary of the Education and Learning Committee of the URC.

Bible Version

 

Sing Psalms, Psalmody and Praise Committee
Free Church of Scotland, 15 North Bank Street, Edinburgh, EH1 2LS

URC Daily Devotion 3rd February

And I said:
Listen, you heads of Jacob
   and rulers of the house of Israel!
Should you not know justice?—
    you who hate the good and love the evil,
who tear the skin off my people,
   and the flesh off their bones;
who eat the flesh of my people,
   flay their skin off them,
break their bones in pieces,
   and chop them up like meat in a kettle,
   like flesh in a cauldron.
Then they will cry to the Lord, but he will not answer them;
he will hide his face from them at that time, because they have acted wickedly.
Reflection
Micah, really doesn’t pull any punches today as he tells the political and judicial leaders of the people exactly how it is.  Talk about speaking truth to power!  I say truth, but I really hope the idea of cannibalism was hyperbole rather than fact; and it probably was a way of the prophet dramatically describing the abuse of those less powerful, by those who should have defended the rights of those in their care.

But Micah also has a great sense of poetic justice for the powerful who fail to hear the cries of the needy will find their own cries for help ignored by God.

We live in a world which is often unjust; where leaders do not always govern in the best interest of all people.  I have been writing this when the so-called ‘Paradise Papers’ have been released and we see just how the uber-rich can legally avoid paying their fair share of tax.  At the same time, the introduction of Universal Credit has left many with no choice but to turn to foodbanks as they wait for their claims to be assessed; while MP’s can claim for televisions and furniture for a second home, not to mention £25 a day for food!

None of us like to hear words of condemnation or to think that we have done something wrong – the people of Israel were happy to hear criticism of their neighbours but not themselves.  We are keen to criticise those in power, especially those we disagree with politically, yet if we were to honestly look at ourselves there are times when we do not do what is required of us which is, as Micah will go on to say, ‘to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with God’.

Creator God,
ruler of heaven and earth,
you call us to act justly,
to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with you.  
Help us to do just that,
to look out for the needs of others and,
when we see it,
challenge the abuses perpetrated
by those with power.  Amen

Today’s Writer

The Rev’d Branwen Rees, Minister, Port Glasgow and Greenock East URCs

Bible Version

 

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

URC Daily Devotion 2nd February

But I will gather you together, all you people of Israel that are left. I will bring you together like sheep returning to the fold. Like a pasture full of sheep, your land will once again be filled with many people.

God will open the way for them and lead them out of exile. They will break out of the city gates and go free. Their king, the Lord himself, will lead them out.

Reflection
When I was a younger Christian, the church I attended held a series of talks on the promises of God and it was very helpful, especially as I was new in the faith. Restoration was one of that series and so it was lovely to find it in these readings as well. I don’t hear so much about the promises of God any more, at least not as a unified theme, but the Bible and Jesus Himself teach us how important it is to hold God’s promises in our hearts as deeply as possible.

After all, it’s very easy to forget all the good things that God has planned for us in our lives, as there is just so much else to concentrate on and worry about. Not only that, but our lives are so very busy that God’s promises often take a back seat in our priorities. At least, they do for me.

However, that’s exactly when it becomes so important to ponder on this wonderful passage to remind ourselves that, no matter how terrible things are right now and even in cases where we might consider ourselves to be abandoned by God, this promise is as true for us today as it was for the Israelites all those years ago. Because, however scattered we feel mentally and physically, God will gather us together and make us whole, both as individuals and as a people for His glory. Because, however barren our lives may be, God will fill us with all good things once more. Because no matter how trapped or crushed we feel, God will open the way and lead us into freedom again. He has sealed this promise through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, and this promise will never fail.

Dear God,
thank You that Your promise
of personal and social restoration
remains as true as it ever was.
Help us to hold that promise
at the centre of our lives and hearts
so that it may encourage us deeply
and also be a blessing for others.
Amen

Today’s Writer

Anne Brooke is an attender of Elstead URC in Surrey.

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

URC Daily Devotions 1st February

Alas for those who devise wickedness
  and evil deeds on their beds!
When the morning dawns, they perform it,
  because it is in their power.
They covet fields, and seize them;
  houses, and take them away;
they oppress householder and house,
  people and their inheritance.
Therefore, thus says the Lord:
Now, I am devising against this family an evil
  from which you cannot remove your necks;
and you shall not walk haughtily,
  for it will be an evil time.
On that day they shall take up a taunt-song against you,
  and wail with bitter lamentation,
and say, ‘We are utterly ruined;
  the Lord alters the inheritance of my people;
how he removes it from me!
  Among our captors he parcels out our fields.’
Therefore you will have no one to cast the line by lot
  in the assembly of the Lord.
‘Do not preach’—thus they preach—
  ‘one should not preach of such things;
  disgrace will not overtake us.’
Should this be said, O house of Jacob?
  Is the Lord’s patience exhausted?
  Are these his doings?
Do not my words do good
  to one who walks uprightly?
But you rise up against my people as an enemy;
  you strip the robe from the peaceful,
from those who pass by trustingly
  with no thought of war.
The women of my people you drive out
  from their pleasant houses;
from their young children you take away
  my glory for ever.
Arise and go;
  for this is no place to rest,
because of uncleanness that destroys
  with a grievous destruction.
If someone were to go about uttering empty falsehoods,
  saying, ‘I will preach to you of wine and strong drink’,
  such a one would be the preacher for this people!
Reflection
“For man proposes, but God disposes” (Thomas à Kempis) begins one commentary on this portion of Micah’s prophecies. The back and forward play in these verses between the the deeds of those who have power and use it against those who are weak, and the future response of God, indeed suggests some good old-fashioned preaching opportunities: “the wicked may seem to prosper, but God’s justice awaits!”

Of course, in such bouts of righteous loquacity, it would be tempting to draw parallels with the social situation in Britain today. For there are plenty. As I write this reflection, we are beginning to understand more and more of the implications of the roll-out of Universal Credit on the vulnerable, with the rocketing extent of rent arrears as one effect. We see a sharp upward trend in those being referred to Foodbanks. There has been a recent flood of reports revealing the huge extent of tax “planning” by the wealthy, apparently designed, in part, to allow them to avert their obligations to those who go without the necessities of life. We are experiencing an avalanche of allegations of improper sexual behaviour by “celebrities” and politicians.

However, are such targets too easy?

“‘Do not preach’– thus they preach – ‘one should not preach of such things; disgrace will not overtake us.’ If someone were to go about … saying, ‘I will preach to you of wine and strong drink’, such a one would be the preacher for this people!”

Are we sometimes guilty of preaching what the people want to hear; are comfortable to hear; rather than being challenged about what it means to “live a holy life” as Ministers of the URC are challenged at their ordination?

Radio 4’s Thought for the Day has recently been accused of being trite. Pray God that our teaching and preaching never become trite.

God, your prophets called the people to return to the ways of your law.
Jesus, you called the people to return to the ways of God’s life.
Spirit, you provide us with all that we need to live a holy life.

May the wine and strong drink we preach
be not befuddling, but sustaining
for the holy life
you call us to preach
and to live.


Amen

Today’s Writer

The Rev’d Ron Reid is a retired minister in the Mersey Synod serving as Link Minister at Rock Chapel, Farndon. He is a member at Upton-by-Chester URC

Bible Version

 

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

URC Daily Devotions 31st January

For this I will lament and wail;
I will go barefoot and naked;
I will make lamentation like the jackals,
and mourning like the ostriches.
For her wound is incurable.
It has come to Judah;
it has reached to the gate of my people,
to Jerusalem.
Tell it not in Gath,
weep not at all;
in Beth-leaphrah
roll yourselves in the dust.
Pass on your way,
inhabitants of Shaphir,
in nakedness and shame;
the inhabitants of Zaanan
do not come forth;
Beth-ezel is wailing
and shall remove its support from you.
For the inhabitants of Maroth
wait anxiously for good,
yet disaster has come down from the LORD
to the gate of Jerusalem.
Harness the steed to the chariots,
inhabitants of Lachish;
it was the beginning of sin
to daughter Zion,
for in you were found
the transgressions of Israel.
Therefore you shall give parting gifts
to Moresheth-gath;
the houses of Achzib shall be a deception
to the kings of Israel.
I will again bring a conqueror upon you,
inhabitants of Mareshah;
the glory of Israel
shall come to Adullam.
Make yourselves bald and cut off your hair
for your pampered children;
make yourselves as bald as the eagle
for they have gone from you into exile.
Reflection
For all of us there are times when we need to try to understand or accept hard things and find a way to express overwhelming feelings. Some people find wisdom in painting or music or meditation or a walk in a quiet place; all are ways to pray. For others, poetry (either reading or writing it) is the way to find meaning in events. Working with words, grasping them, wrestling with them, shaping them, can finally lead to understanding and release.

Micah is a poet. His oracle of judgement on the cities of Samaria and Jerusalem is written in a poetic form; it is a powerful and emotive lament. He expresses his grief in graphic terms, and we hear howling anguish (lamentation like the jackals) when he reflects on the destruction of Samaria.

The poet pictures the advancing Assyrian army travelling from the southwest towards Jerusalem, razing the towns and villages on their route. He lists the communities that will be destroyed, and warns each one of what is to come. These are Micah’s own people: he has known these places all his life. He came from Moresheth-Gath. Perhaps his own family would eventually join the groups of homeless travellers who fled to Jerusalem, where they might find refuge for a time, if they got there before the Assyrians laid siege to the city …

Micah believes that disaster has come down from the LORD to the gate of Jerusalem as punishment for the sins of the cities: their corruption, their failure to uphold justice for the poor. He makes this very plain. In the 21st Century we still have corruption and injustice, blatant and unrepentant, creating conflict and forced migration. Are we as forthright as Micah in pointing to this inevitable link in every way we can? We can find in music or meditation, in painting or poetry, praying and preaching, in living and loving, ways to see and share the truth. It will make us free.

Straggling lines of refugees
carrying their lives in a bundle,
nowhere safe to go;
Rich folk needing bonuses
to supplement their tax breaks,
fund the second home:
Lord have mercy.
Frightened, hungry, silenced child
on a cold unwelcoming shore
finding no warm embrace;
Innocent children pestering,
Will Santa bring an i-Pad?
They’ve all got one but me …
Christ have mercy.
Everyday clichés of injustice:
God of love and justice, peace and joy,
Give us wisdom to understand
and courage to speak and vision to act.
    Lord have mercy on us all. Amen

Today’s Writer

The Rev’d Heather Pencavel is a retired minister and member of Thornbury URC in Gloucestershire.

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