URC Daily Devotion Thursday 18th April 2024

Reading 1 Corinthians 1:18-21

For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,
‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.’
Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe.


On the surface this text is challenging us with the idea that the Cross can seem to some as foolishness. Maybe this is our lived experience quite a bit of the time. Christians may not always agree on what was going on when Jesus died for us but it remains central to our faith.  Proclamation with integrity and humility is a significant part of evangelism.

For many people that we seek to share faith with there can be an intellectual barrier in what can be seen as credible. There can also be an experiential barrier, where the Church has genuinely let people down, abused them in some way, or just not connected with them.

The writer C.S. Lewis has had a big impact on my life and helped me to see how fiction, narrative, and imagination can also play a significant part in how people can come to faith. Lewis wrote “I thought I saw how stories of this kind could steal past a certain inhibition which had paralyzed much of my own religion in childhood. Why did one find it so hard to feel as one was told one ought to feel about God or the sufferings of Christ? I thought the chief reason was that one was told one ought to. An obligation to feel can freeze feelings…. But supposing that by casting all these things into an imaginary world, stripping them of their stained-glass and Sunday School associations, one could make them for the first time appear in their real potency? Could one not thus steal past those watchful dragons? I thought one could.”

Perhaps today you can take a moment to think of a book, song, musical, painting, film, play, or poem that connects with what it means to be human and what it might mean to see and encounter God at work in Christ. I’d like to suggest that as we increasingly have our imaginations baptized this will overflow into our conversations with others.


Creator and creative God, 
God of our experience, imagination and beyond, 
help us find natural ways to steal past watchful dragons. 
I thank you that your encounter with the world
is so rich with imagery, metaphor, wonder, mystery, and beauty. 
Help me to resonate with this in my conversations 
and point to you as you are 
and not as we have found ourselves confining you. 
I hear and receive the words ‘Courage dear heart’

URC Daily Devotion Wednesday 17th April

Reading 1 Peter 3:13-16 

Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good?  But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defence to anyone who demands from you an account of the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame. 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.


Which subjects are you most comfortable speaking about? Your sports team, politics, family, or TV, current affairs or your specialist subject which you may suspect might bore other people?  Maybe you find it easy to talk about faith?  Most of us don’t. There is a middle ground when we get the opportunity to talk about church, its activities or festivals.  These can be great conversations, but I find that sometimes they get stuck and don’t always go deeper.

I was so pleased to hear about the focus our URC Mersey Synod is giving to ‘Talking Faith’ and encouraging people to verbally express the difference faith makes to our lives and to those around us (https://www.urcmerseysynod.org.uk/talking-faith)

Sometimes we can’t say it all,  get it all correct, or answer every question but  it can be enough to signpost or provoke curiosity.  Let me, share a piece that I recently wrote inspired by the mystery, curiosity, and journey involved in a life of following Jesus: 

In John 10 verse 9 Jesus said ‘I am the door’

Maybe the old ones are the best, let’s see..
When is a door not a door?
They used to say, probably though people not today
When is a door not a door?
When it’s ajar,
Brackets pause here for childish chuckle or grown-up groan.
Is it open wide to see inside like the red sea divide?
Or the wood firmly in the hole as in the hallowed Holman Hunt?
but….. and it’s a big buttery bang of a but …
Less could be more in this open shut story
Cos cracks cause constant curiosity
Sounds like Toyah’s it’s a mystery
Sneak a peak, prod and creak – gap grows greater
Not all at once but like an incubator
In this drama the opening act is the act of opening, the act of beholding, belonging and beyonding
So consider this after words have been spoken
Is a door a door if it’s already open?



God in whom we encounter the Living Word,
I know you are present in my conversations, 
in the seemingly important and the trivial. 
Help me to be curious about you, 
other people and the world 
and to express that in simple words 
that germinate in the lives of people around me. 
Help me to listen as well as speak 
and may your good news 
flavour who I am and what I say.

Resources for Good Shepherd Sunday

Resources for Worship 

Dear Friends,

Worship is at the heart of our life as God’s people.  Whatever else we do, worship is at the core as it is through meeting God – in the hymns and the music, the movement and the silence, the Word and the words, in friend and stranger as well as in the bread and wine – that we are fed and sustained.  This encounter with God lifts our spirits and gives our lives direction, our prayers focus and our faith a grounding in the everyday realities of life.  

My role was created to help churches find resources to aid their worship.  Our Worship Notes this week were written by the Revd Adam Payne who focuses on Good Shepherd Sunday.  

The Revd Camilla Veitch continues this theme in the weekly intercessions which can be found just above the Worship Notes on the webpage above.  

With every good wish


The Revd Andy Braunston
Minister for Digital Worship

URC Daily Devotion 15 April 2024

Matthew 16:24-26 

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?


It was in the summer of 1980 at sixteen years of age that I found myself sitting in a big top tent on a playing field in Bournemouth listening to a band and a preacher. I went on my own having read a publicity leaflet (no internet then of course), feeling strangely drawn is the only way I can describe it over forty years later.

I listened intently to the words of their song “when you come to the place of absolute surrender….” and I was in that place at that moment when the preacher issued a simple invitation to follow Jesus. And so, as I took that step of faith, I was powerfully conscious of the love and grace of God, present and active and the journey of discipleship for me began. For me this encounter with the living God was also accompanied by healing of a significant medical condition that I had been suffering from.

I am so very thankful for God’s mercy, acceptance and new life that has been at work in my life ever since even when I mess up, go off course, doubt, and fear. I am also so thankful that there were some people willing and able to share the good news of Jesus Christ with me.

At the beginning of this two-week Daily Devotions series, we begin with my very brief testimony because I feel that it is a reminder that we are not thinking about making a lifestyle choice to belong to some kind of religious club or philosophy. God who is made known perfectly in Jesus Christ is a God who calls and goes on calling people and this is of utmost importance.

Perhaps today we might be encouraged to call to mind God’s call upon our lives and the way God has encountered us and drawn us into being Christ-followers, whether that be over time or, like me, suddenly and somewhat unexpectedly.

Living and Loving God,
I praise you today for You have the words of eternal life. 
Help me to ponder ever more regularly and deeply 
your love and grace in Jesus Christ 
that has changed the world and encountered me.
I want to call these things to mind today 
and find the words to describe and declare them. 
When memories fade and passion cools 
please do a new thing, I pray.




Dear Friends,

I know from my email inbox that many of you have been profoundly moved by the reflections on artists’ depictions of Jesus over the last 10 days or so.  I’m grateful to the writers, the artists who let us use their material and the licensing agency who charged a small fee to show some of the others.  I hope that we can come back to art again in the Devotions next year.

For the next two weeks we are going to be looking at evangelism in our daily readings and reflections.  As a denomination we can get passionate about social justice, international development,  and speaking out to those in power but rather terrified when it comes to sharing our faith.  Our reticence is partly because we’re unsure of what to say without being offensive, partly because our culture relegates faith to the private sphere – even as matters of faith become big talking points in society – and partly because we’re not really sure what to say.  Over the next two weeks Eddie Boon, a URC minister serving as the Discipleship Enabler in Thames North Synod, will help us explore how we might make more sense of evangelism in our own lives. 

With every good wish


The Rev’d Andy Braunston
Minister for Digital Worship

Daily Devotion for Saturday 13th April 2024


Father John B. Giuliani was born Greenwich, Connecticut in 1932, to Italian immigrants to America.  After studying art for three years he studied for the Catholic priesthood and was ordained in 1960.  After some years teaching Fr Giuliani was given permission to establish a small monastic community of brothers who lived and worshipped together and ministered to a growing number of lay people who were attracted to a more contemplative style of worship and the call to missionary works of social justice.  Returning to the gift of his youth, in 1990 Fr Giuliani began painting icons of Jesus, Mary, Joseph and the saints in a new and innovative way. The starting point was no longer across the ocean in Europe, but in the Americas. His icons are contextualized in the rich and varied cultural traditions of Native Americans throughout North, Central and South America.   As the USA prepared to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Christopher Columbus stories of the violence and oppression suffered by the indigenous peoples of the Americas at the hands of the colonialists deeply affected Giuliani and profoundly changed his work. As an artist, priest, and person of Italian descent, he wanted to make his own personal reparation for the atrocities of the past. He began creating paintings of religious themes celebrating the lives and cultures of the indigenous peoples around him, resulting in a startling series of images.  In today’s painting know Christ by his halo and by the marks in his hands. But he is not dressed nor does he look as we expect.   https://jbgicon.com/


Gazing on this portrait, both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time, makes me ponder on God’s wonderful gift to us of creativity.

I have been struck, when I preach, that people are happy when they can say, “I see why that reading or this discussion is relevant to my life”. This icon offers a way of doing that too. Clearly the man pictured exudes compassion, his hands outstretched towards us, even if he doesn’t look as we expect. Of course, we don’t really know what Jesus looked like – but we do know he is interested in us, whoever and wherever we are.

I was interested to read that in Fr Giuliani’s case, this creativity sprang from a contemplative style of worship as this is a way I express my own faith. At a recent retreat I was involved in, we spoke with a nun who is also an icon painter. One of her icons depicted the disciples after the crucifixion in an upper room with Mary at the head of the table. According to the laws of iconography this space is traditionally left empty or occupied by Christ’s mother. This sister had chosen to put her there, imagining her as the mother figure galvanising the downcast disciples into action and urging them to take on the Commission that Jesus had left them. It seemed to me a female artist had restored the female voice in the story of God’s people. In the icon, we are praying with today, Fr. Giuliani depicts Jesus amidst those who suffered oppression, also making this beautiful icon an act of reparation and restoration of a people’s story.
Perhaps that is the reason for our creativity, to take what we know and add our own piece of the story. Perhaps then our creative witness will show why scripture is both ancient wisdom and living word because it helps to answer the question,  why is this relevant to me, where am I in this story?

God of all Creation, you saw what you made and saw it was very good
We thank you that you created us in your image
And that you imbued us with the gift of creativity
Help us to use it to praise you
And to act in witness to you
That all may know your wonder and your love for them
We ask this in Jesus name

Daily Devotion for Friday 12 April 2024


This is the work of Filipino artist Emmanuel Garibay, an artist who has received wide recognition in his native country for his challenging and moving realist images of Filipino society. He is a person of great warmth with a steely eye for injustice and pompous self righteousness. In a country that is mainly Christian, he scrutinises the conventions and comfortable icons of his culture to shake out the new possibilities of hope and renewal.  This is an image of a Jesus who overturns tables, challenges power and disrupts.

Reading  St John 2: 13 – 24

The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money-changers seated at their tables.  Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables.  He told those who were selling the doves, ‘Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a market-place!’  His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’  The Jews then said to him, ‘What sign can you show us for doing this?’  Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’  The Jews then said, ‘This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?’  But he was speaking of the temple of his body.  After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. When he was in Jerusalem during the Passover festival, many believed in his name because they saw the signs that he was doing.  But Jesus on his part would not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people  and needed no one to testify about anyone; for he himself knew what was in everyone.


Bathala is the ancient Tagalog name for God, creator of the world, ruler of the universe. His old, leathered head with heavy lidded eyes bends over his son whom he encircles protectively with his arms, drawing him upwards.  As he does, the strong, sinewy arms morph into those of Christ whose hands are gashed and torn by the holes of nails. The Son of God stares ahead, unblinkingly. This is no ordinary human vision, but the stare of a seer, a prophet, endowed with supernatural insight.
It is a moment of new creation.  He is raised from the earth, whose guardian spirit, veiled in her beauty, considers us serenely.  Mariang, they call her locally, the mountain goddess, but the 16th century Jesuit missionaries from Spain conflated her with Mary, the mother of Jesus.  Crowned by her mountain mist, the rising Christ is radiant in white clothing. The tears and gashes in the cloth suggest the tearing of his garments on Golgotha, and there are hints too, as he is vested dynamically by the wind, of the torn veil of the temple.  Our eyes are drawn to the buildings in the top background, temple-like, church-like, civic-like, collapsing as if in an earthquake.
The instruments of the Passion are set aside.  His left hand discards conventional symbols of ecclesiastical authority, an icon of the crucifixion, a bursa with its static image of the Holy Spirit and perhaps a crosier.   Our eyes are drawn instead to the hammer, red and vivid, In its claw, a nail from the cross.  A builder’s tool. In this moment of resurrection, Christ signals God’s intention through him, to rebuild the world.
As it draws upon Filipino culture to bolster our understanding of the resurrection, this striking painting brings to life the central truths of John’s gospel. Jesus is the place where God and humanity are joined in one. In him, the creative purposes of God for the world find fulfilment.
Ever living and ever-loving God,
whose miracles of creation,
are revealed in Jesus,
we thank you for the work of artists in different cultures,
whose gifts of imagination enrich our understanding
of you and of your purposes.
Through him we pray.  Amen

Daily Devotion for Thursday 11th April 2024


image used with the artist’s kind permission


Alma Lee lives in rural Wisconsin and notes that she  sits down to work and never knows what is going to come out.  She des not usually do preliminary drawings or plan or pray, but merely open herself to the flow of Christ and sees what happens.  Christ and the Thief is a Cubist view of salvation.  In Cubist works of art, the subjects are analysed, broken up, and reassembled in an abstract form—instead of depicting objects from a single perspective, the artist depicts the subject from multiple perspectives to represent the subject in a greater context.

Reading: St Luke 23: 32 – 42

Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.  Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’ And they cast lots to divide his clothing.  And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!’  The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, ‘If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!’  There was also an inscription over him, ‘This is the King of the Jews.’  One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, ‘Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’  But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?  And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.’  Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’  He replied, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’


I thought I saw the two criminals eying each other across the space with Jesus in between them. Their faces in profile make up his full face looking forward.

The chess board in the background suggests a game of strategy. Is this where it has ended up – the testing of the authorities, the snatched opportunities, the considered challenges to the status quo? Maybe for the two offenders, as one of them admits that they are being punished according to the law for unlawful deeds. We are not told what their crimes were. The Romans were not the first to use this form of capital punishment, employed against political or religious agitators, pirates, slaves or those who had no civil rights. Perhaps there is some hint of dashed hopes in the derision of the first criminal – had he believed that Jesus might be the Messiah?

From the argument between the two sides Alma Lee creates a compelling image of sadness and compassion as Jesus looks at us and beyond us. By what systems has he been condemned? And yet he can comfort the one who expresses belief in him with the promise of a place in Paradise, the restoration of Eden from where humanity had been expelled through their own actions.

The two criminals, left and right, debate law and order, the correct or incorrect application of justice. Jesus seeks forgiveness for those who put him to death. Where are you and I in this picture? Grieving bystanders looking on, co-condemned using our last breath to berate or argue, or repenting our actions and seeking to be close to God?

And then I read again the title the artist gave to her work, and I realise that this is Jesus looking into the eyes of the fallible human who asks to be remembered by him.


Jesus, do you know me?
Will you remember me, from your kingdom?
Grant that the strategies I adopt in this life
emerge from love and forgiveness
that I may dare to look you in the eye.


Daily Devotion for Wednesday 10th April 2024


Sliman Mansour is an artist in Palestine. His style, which has come to symbolise Palestinian national identity, has inspired generations of Palestinian and international artists. Using symbols derived from Palestinian life, culture, history, and tradition, Mansour illustrates Palestinians’ resolve and connection with their land. With women wearing traditional embroidered dresses, he represents Palestinian land and protest. With images of Jerusalem and the glistening Dome of the Rock, he represents the Palestinian homeland and the dream of return. Mansour’s art deftly reflects the hopes and realities of a people living under occupation for the better part of a century.

Reading  St Mathew 2: 13 – 23

Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’ Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I have called my son.’

When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men.  Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:

‘A voice was heard in Ramah,
    wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
    she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.’

When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.’ Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee.  There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, ‘He will be called a Nazorean.’


The Holy Family, facing danger and death, found sanctuary in Egypt.  Today Palestinians wait to see if the Israeli Defence Forces will continue relentless military action and move them from Rafah – where they were sent for safety.  The border is sealed but there is speculation the Egyptians are building a pen in the desert to “house” displaced Palestinians.   

Safety is tantalisingly close yet impossible to reach.  The  Palestinian mother and child try, in vain, to get to Egypt; in this picture we also see the plight of displaced, bombed, and starved Palestinians.  The woman and child are fed by the UN – now condemned and hampered in its mission by Israel which maintains it has been used by Hamas.  

Around the world ordinary people react with horror to the treatment of the Palestinians; anger, rage and grief at Hamas’ atrocities are now held alongside desperate emotions at the plight of the Palestinians – bombed, starved, displaced and condemned by a superior force, possibly eager for more of land while many of the world’s great powers watch.  Dissent is demonised as anti-Semitic. Games are played in Parliament to spare the blushes of politicians who should know better.  Vetoes are wielded in the UN to stop even the mildest criticism.  A weak archbishop won’t meet a Palestinian pastor due to the company the pastor keeps.  Meanwhile mothers and their children are left to their plight.  

Palestinians who depict Jesus as Palestinian have been sharply criticised yet art, like theology, pushes boundaries offering new understanding.  Jesus can be authentically depicted in many ways; he identifies with Jew and Gentile, male and female, slave and free, Israeli, and Palestinian.  Yet depiction is not enough; art, like theology, must lead to action.  Jesus, told us, after all, to recognise him in the least.  In today’s world Jesus is to be found in many places but not least with the millions of Palestinian refugees seeking to find shelter and safety – as once his parents found refuge in Egypt.  


O God, help and protect the people of Palestine. 
O God, ease their pain and suffering. 
O God, bestower of Mercy, bestow your mercy on them. 
O God, open people’s hearts to give in this time of crisis.
O God, help those who are in need, wherever they may be.

from Islamic relief

Daily Devotion Tuesday 9th April 2024


image used with kind permission of Judith Tutin


Judith Tutin is an Irish-born artist living in Cornwall. She works in oil painting and cyanotype photography.  Judith’s work explores abstract and semi-abstract representations of light sources, spiritual experiences and nature’s effect on surfaces. Strongly influenced by Italian Catholic art history and 20th century colour field painting, Judith creates elemental textures, ethereal light and a sense of the eternal in her work.  Nativity is a semi-abstract depiction of the Christmas story.  The figures are barely visible but if you look you can see Jesus asleep in the manger, Mary’s hands clasped in prayer, Joseph is an abstract shape on the left, above the picture God the Father looks down with arms open wide over Jesus on the Cross.  The combination of God the Father and the Crucified Jesus is an old image sometimes called the Mercy Seat.  https://www.judithtutinart.com/

Reading John 17:1-5

After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you,  since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.  And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.  I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do.  So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.


Simply gaze in wonder and marvel through this painting. Here the resplendent glory of God’s presence comes to us through the birth of baby Jesus, with his family around him and visitors gazing on. Here is God’s presence most glorious through Jesus’ death on the cross.  Yet there is so much more, with the image of Almighty God’s loving arms coming from heaven to embrace the dying son. It is shocking, unbelievable, beyond our understanding – that God’s presence, Loveful   (I am beyond worrying about making words up), for as the hymn writer says, “I scarce can take it in,” that all the Love that is God in heaven, is now with us all the time in our lives.

That glimpse of Almighty God embracing Jesus is called Mercy Seat for a reason – for that is the name given to the cover over the Ark of the Covenant, which held the tablets of God’s Word. The people saw this as the holy of holies, earthly home of Almighty God. It was covered with shining gold. Only few of the few could enter the holy place of God’s presence. Yet now we have Jesus, from heaven he came – with that same amazing glorious love of God but now offered to all and always. Jesus loves you so much, accepting you completely, forgiving you completely, and giving himself completely that you may live in the glory of God’s love forever.

And of that mercy seat, the writer of Hebrews wrote “Above the ark were the cherubim of the Glory, overshadowing the atonement cover. But we cannot discuss these things in detail now”.Hebrews 9:5. I love that he runs out of words, or it is too urgent to discuss. Simply now is the time to gaze on Jesus, and see the glory of God’s love for you and believe.

Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” (John 11:14)


Love divine, all loves excelling, joy of heav’n to earth come down,
fix in us Thy humble dwelling; all Thy faithful mercies crown!
Jesus, Thou art all compassion, pure, unbounded love Thou art;
visit us with Thy salvation; enter every trembling heart.

Come, Almighty to deliver; let us all Thy life receive;
suddenly return and never, nevermore Thy temples leave.
Thee we would be always blessing, serve Thee as Thy hosts above;
pray, and praise Thee without ceasing, glory in Thy perfect love.

(by Charles Wesley)