URC Daily Devotions Sunday Service for 10th July 2022 – The Revd. Phil Nevard

Sunday Worship from the United Reformed Church
for Sunday 22nd March

 
The service is led by the Rev’d Phil Nevard. 
 

 
I’m Rev’d Phil Nevard and I minister in three villages around South Cambridgeshire.  I’m also responsible for assembling a dazzling team of preachers to produce the weekly podcast and video resource “Talking Absolute Worship” – which you should definitely type into Google and check it out!  (https://www.facebook.com/TalkingAbsoluteWorship)
 
Today we are focusing on the well-known parable of the Good Samaritan.  We’re going to place it alongside some words from Deuteronomy and hope that together they will help us think about a question…  What God requires of us, is it achievable, is it doable, or is God setting us an impossible task at which we are always going to fail?  I pray that we will emerge neither cripplingly despondent, nor arrogantly sure of ourselves, but with a clearer understanding and a sure knowledge of the closeness of God.  So, we gather to worship.
 
Call To Worship  (based on Deut. 30:11-14 and Luke 10:27)
 
God’s Word is not too hard for us, nor is it too far away;
It is very near, in our mouths and in our hearts.
It does not lie in the far reaches of heaven;
It is very near, in our mouths and in our hearts.
It does not dwell beyond the sea;
It is very near, in our mouths and in our hearts.
Come, let us worship the Lord our God,
With heart, soul, strength, and mind.
 
Hymn: Take This moment, Sign and Space
John Bell & Graham Moule © 1989 Wild Goose Resource Group, The Iona Community sung performed by Ruth and Joy Everingham used with their kind permission

 

Take this moment, sign & space;
take my friends around;
here among us make the place
where Your love is found.
 
Take the time to call my name,
take the time to mend
who I am and what I’ve been,
and I’ve failed to tend.
 
Take the tiredness of my days,
take my past regret,
letting Your forgiveness touch
all I can’t forget.
 
Take the little child in me,
scared of growing old;
help me here to find my worth
made in Christ’s own mould.
 
Take my talents, take my skills,
take what’s yet to be;
let my life be Yours, and yet,
let it still be me.

 

 
Prayers of Approach
 
Creator God, we take this day, as a special day, to celebrate
the goodness of the world you have made, the world
you sustain.  The world teems with life and is
filled with beauty, celebrating its creator.  You
have breathed your life into each one of us, made
us in your image, called us to be your children.
We rejoice, and we are glad.
 
Saviour God, we take this day, as a special day, to celebrate
Jesus’ rising from the dead.  With joy in our hearts
we can proclaim that he is risen!  He shared our life
and suffered our death so that we might share his 
life and his rising – conquering death.  Because
he lives, we too shall live!  
We rejoice, and we are glad.
 
God-with-us, we take this day, as a special day, to celebrate
the coming of your Spirit, for you are not a God above
and beyond us, but with us and in us.  Your Spirit
within us, we have a measure of your love, of your
joy, of your peace, of your power to live as your
children in the world.  
We rejoice, and we are glad.
 
God of every day, we take this day as a special day, forgive us when we
take it as the only day to rejoice and be glad in all
you have given, for Monday and Thursday, Tuesday and
Friday, Wednesday and Saturday are your days too.  
Help us to live as your children all the days of our lives.  Amen.
 
 
Prayer of Confession
 
When we offer God our confession, we join the beautiful work of reconciliation, which begins with our reconciling with God. Trusting in our Partner in grace, let us make our confession, first in silent prayer.
 
(Silent confession)
 
Gracious and loving God, open our hearts so that we are able to admit to you the fullness of our lives – that which is beautiful and good, and that which is hurtful and hateful.
 
We confess that we do not follow Jesus in all that we do.
We love with condition.
We judge and condemn.
We cast the first stone;
We keep the logs in our own eyes;
We do not turn to You as the source of our healing.
 
Forgive us, we pray.  Forgive our sin and empower us to be imitators of Christ in love and service. Amen.
 
Assurance of Forgiveness
 
Friends in Christ, know this: 
the mercy of God is from everlasting to everlasting, 
and I remind you of this surpassing grace,
in Jesus Christ, we are forgiven.
 
Alleluia! Amen.
  
A Prayer for Illumination
 
Loving God, Spirit of Wisdom and Truth,
Break through our drowsiness,
Break through our stubborn-ness,
Break through our prejudice,
Break through our comfort-level,
Break open your Word
That our lives might be turned towards your Glory.   Amen.
 
Readings
 
Deuteronomy 30:9-14
 
…and the Lord your God will make you abundantly prosperous in all your undertakings, in the fruit of your body, in the fruit of your livestock, and in the fruit of your soil. For the Lord will again take delight in prospering you, just as he delighted in prospering your ancestors, when you obey the Lord your God by observing his commandments and decrees that are written in this book of the law, because you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away.  It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up to heaven for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?’  Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?’  No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.
                  
St Luke 10:25-37
 
Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he said, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What do you read there?’  He answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.’  And he said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.’ But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbour?’  Jesus replied, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead.  Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.  So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.  But a Samaritan while travelling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity.  He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.  The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, “Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.”  Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’  He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’
 

Hymn  For All The Saints Who’ve Shown Your Love
John Bell © GIA Publications, performed by the Cathedral Singers, with Pamela Warrick-Smith and John Bell as guest conductor.

 

For all the saints 
who’ve shown your love
in how they live 
and where they move,
for mindful women, 
caring men,
accept our gratitude again.
 
For all the saints 
who loved your name,
whose faith increased 
the Saviour’s fame,
who sang your songs 
and share your word,
accept our gratitude, good Lord.

 

For all the saints 
who named your will,
and showed the kingdom 
coming still
through selfless protest, 
prayer, and praise,
accept the gratitude we raise.
 
Bless all whose will 
or name or love
reflects the grace 
of heaven above.
Though unacclaimed 
by earthly powers,
your life through theirs 
has hallowed ours.

 

 
Sermon
 
Behind me is the Cambridge DNA path – a two mile commuter cycle path from the Shelford villages to Addenbrooks hospital.  In case you are wondering, along its length are 10,257 colourful stripes which represent the four nucleotides of the BRCA2 gene. BRCA2 (Breast Cancer Type 2 susceptibility protein) was discovered at the Sanger Institute by Prof. Michael Stratton and Dr Richard Wooster in 1995.  There are also DNA helix sculptures along the route for you to spot.  So now you know!
 
Along this route, there have been rumours of muggings, specifically bicycle-jacking.  A few weeks ago it was reported that a line had been strung over the path after dusk to unseat unsuspecting cyclists.  It’s probably not as dangerous as the notorious Jerusalem to Jericho road once was.
 
In the very last speech he made before being killed, Dr Martin Luther King described the Jerusalem to Jericho road as follows:
 
“I remember when Mrs. King and I were first in Jerusalem. We rented a car and drove from Jerusalem down to Jericho. And as soon as we got on that road, I said to my wife, “I can see why Jesus used this as the setting for his parable.” It’s a winding, meandering road. It’s really conducive for ambushing. You start out in Jerusalem, which is about 1200 feet above sea level. And by the time you get down to Jericho, fifteen or twenty minutes later, you’re about 2200 feet below sea level. That’s a dangerous road.”
 
It’s a familiar metaphor – the road, the path, the journey.
 
Here’s a question.  Is the road, the pathway, the journey God calls us to achievable?  Is it doable?  Is it simple enough that anyone could do it?  Or is it really, really hard, perhaps so hard that nobody could ever hope to achieve it?
 
Our reading from Deuteronomy has some fantastically reassuring poetry:
 
Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away. It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will go up to heaven for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?”
 
Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?”
 
No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.
 
The writer reassures us that what God requires of us IS within our reach, living a Godly life IS achievable – it’s not something we have to reach impossibly high to catch hold of, or journey impossibly far to find – it is as close as my lips and my heart.
 
It’s not too hard for you.  But does that mean it’s simple?
 
Simplicity is a devilishly complex idea!
 
And in this encounter between a scholar and Jesus, we have it laid out for us. What must I do to inherit eternal life?  What does God require of me? Jesus throws the question back at him – what do YOU think?
 
The scholar reaches for familiar words from Deuteronomy and Leviticus and mashes them together: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.”
 
“Bingo,” says Jesus – “Spot on – my work here is done – go and do just that…”  (Simple??)
The scholar doesn’t think it is simple, surely it’s more complicated?
 
“But – who is my neighbour?” he asks.
 
And Jesus tells the story we all know.
 
I wonder, as Jesus tells that parable, whether you ever find yourself imagining you are in the shoes of any of the characters he describes?
 
Maybe you imagine yourself in the shoes of the Priest or the Levite?  I suspect it’s unlikely many of you would – we don’t often cast ourselves as the baddies – but maybe you did!  If you did, then maybe the story makes you question your own excuses – do they really stand up to examination?  I can’t get involved, I’m too busy, I’m too old, I’m too young, I’m too inexperienced, I’m too frail, I’m too scared, I’m too lazy, I’m too important, I’m too insignificant…  make your own list!  Am I too ANYTHING to get involved in God’s Mission? Ever?
 
Or, more likely, you imagine yourself in the shoes of the Samaritan – we like to cast ourselves as the hero!  If you did, then maybe the story makes you wonder just how much like the Samaritan you ARE.  Do you have to be the Samaritan ALL the time, or was it enough to have got involved on that one occasion 14 years ago – the story you are still dining out on in Christian circles of conversation?  Can I be an occasional Samaritan? Just at those times when I temporarily forget I am too busy, too old, too young, too inexperienced, too frail, too scared, too lazy, too important, too insignificant…
 
There was a third character, leaving aside the robbers – draw your own conclusions if you identified with them. Though, if you did, maybe it helps you to wonder how you have benefitted from the robbery of others’ livelihoods – white privilege, male privilege, cis privilege, wealth privilege, educational privilege….  Make your own list.
 
The other character – that man over there lying beaten, bloodied, half dead.
 
Did you imagine you could be him?  A gold star if you did!  Because I wonder…  Jesus’ crowds were mostly the poor and the marginalised: the nobodies.  I’d be surprised if many of them identified with the priest or the Levite, certainly not when the story began.  I also very much doubt they identified with the Samaritan – cos, well, you’ve heard about the enmity enough times to know they wouldn’t.  So who was left – not the robbers, nobody wants to be the baddy – only the beaten, battered broken man remains.
 
What does the story sound like if you’re him?
 
It makes us the vulnerable ones in need of help, rather than the heroic ones dishing out salvation.  Only last week we were exploring the story of Jesus sending out the Seventy Two.  He disarms them before they go. They are to carry none of the things they think they might need – they are to arrive in towns and villages with no means of supporting themselves, they are to be the ones who rely on the help of strangers.
 
Usually, we think our Mission task is to go out and take resources to the needy.  Jesus seems to have a different view.  Their Mission task was to go out with nothing and seek help from the stranger.  And in the pronouncement of peace and the nearness of the kingdom of God, God’s work is done. The disciples come home rejoicing at the amazing things they have seen.
 
So, does this help us with our question?  Is the road, the pathway, the journey God calls us to achievable?  Is it doable?  Is it simple enough that anyone can do it?  Or is it really, really hard, perhaps so hard that nobody could ever hope to achieve it?
 
Maybe the “simplicity” of faith or what God requires of us is not about always knowing what to do or how to act; but knowing that we are all broken and in need of help, and that however unlikely it may seem, God is the source of our salvation.  The world remains complex and we will always be confused about details. But God reaching out to our broken-ness is constant, sure and simply true; and in our encounters with others as broken, needy people, God’s Mission is fruitful.
 
Thanks be to God. 
 
Amen. 
 
 
Hymn: When I Needed A Neighbour Were You There?
Sydney Carter © 1965 Stainer & Bell, 23 Gruneisen Road, London N3 1DZ, England BBC Songs of Praise

 

When I needed a neighbour,
Were you there, were you there?
When I needed a neighbour, were you there?
 
And the creed and the colour
And the name won’t matter,
Were you there?
 
I was hungry and thirsty,
Were you there, were you there?
I was hungry and thirsty, 
were you there?
 
When I needed a shelter
Were you there, were you there?
When I needed a shelter were you there?

 

Wherever you travel,
I’ll be there, I’ll be there.
Wherever you travel, I’ll be there.
 
An Affirmation of Faith
 
We believe in God.
The God of all creeds, with all their truths.
But, above all, in the God
that rises from the dead
to become part of life.
 
We believe in the God that accompanies us along
every step of our path on this earth,
many times walking behind us, 
watching me and suffering with our mistakes,
other times walking beside us, talking to us and teaching us,
and other times walking ahead of us, guiding and marking our pace.
 
We believe in the God of flesh and blood, Jesus Christ,
the God who lived in our skin and tried on our shoes,
the God who walked in our ways, and knows of lights and shadows.
The God who ate and starved,
who had a home and suffered loneliness,
who was praised and condemned, kissed and spat on, loved and hated.
The God who went to parties and funerals,
the God who laughed and cried.
 
We believe in the God who is attentive today, who looks at the world
and sees the hatred that segregates, divides,
sets people aside, hurts and kills,
who sees the bullets piercing the flesh,
and the blood of innocent people flowing on the earth,
who sees the hand that dips into another’s pocket,
stealing what somebody needs to eat,
who sees the judge that favours the highest bidder,
the truth and justice of hypocrites,
who sees the dirty rivers and the dead fish,
the toxic substances destroying the earth
and piercing the sky
who sees the future mortgaged and
humanity’s debt growing.
 
We believe in God who sees all this … and keeps on crying.
 
But we also believe in God
who sees a mother giving birth – a life born from pain,
who sees two children playing – a seed growing,
who sees a flower blooming out of the debris – a new beginning,
who sees three crazy women clamouring for justice – 
an illusion that doesn’t die
who sees the sun rising every morning – a time of opportunities.
 
We believe in God who sees all this … and laughs, because, in spite of it all, there is hope.
 
Prayers of Intercession
 
A pebble falls into the middle of a pond.  It makes a splash or a plop, it breaks the surface, you can’t help but notice.
 
This coming week lies before us, each of us sits at the centre of our own little world – the place where the pebble lands and makes most impact on our feelings and emotions, stirs our anxieties and our fears, inspires our hopes and our dreams…
 
Think for a moment of your immediate world – the things that you are worried about this coming week in your own life – the things that directly affect you. Never mind anyone else for now – God is interested in you – God wants to come close to you in your hopes, your dreams, your fears, your anxieties….  Say something to God about how you feel about this coming week, and listen for God’s words of comfort and reassurance, hear God’s promise to walk alongside you and continue holding you in the palm of his hand…
 
The ripples begin to spread, creating circles, maybe the ducks are startled!  The splash has disappeared – set your own life aside for a moment – your mind can now focus wider – the people and situations around you – your family, your friends, your work colleagues, your village, your club, your church….  God is interested in all of them – God is present in all of them – God wants to come close to their lives…  say something to God about how you feel about this coming week and all those people and situations that surround you, and listen for God’s words of comfort and reassurance…  listen also for God’s words of prompting challenge that we might find new ways of being fruitful disciples in the heart of those people and situations…
 
The ripples are getting harder to see – but you can see their impact on the shores of the pond – the water rises and falls.  We know we are part of an unimaginably huge world – some of it we choose to get involved in – we have our passionate campaigns, some of it we choose to ignore – it seems to big, too complicated – too distant for us to effectively care for it all.  God is intimately interested in all of it – God wants to come close to every living breathing tiniest part of it…  say something to God about what you feel about the wider world that you are aware of through the news and through an ever more complex web of media that seems to bring it closer and closer to our doors…  listen for God’s words of comfort and reassurance, hear God’s promise that she will redeem every part of creation… listen also for God’s gentle, persistent, prompting challenge to stretch ourselves and find ways to join in God’s care for the whole of creation.
 
Now the pond is still.  Take a moment to drink in the peace of God that is beyond all human understanding…    now mentally gird up your loins, put on your sandals, roll up your sleeves, pick up your stick – ready yourself to go out and face this week – for having talked it through with God, it is already changed.    

Amen.
 
Offertory 
 
Our offering is collected in many and various ways these days, but our gifts are no less precious to God.  Let us pray.
 
Loving God, you give to us beyond human measure;
You give to us without pausing to count the cost.
Accept these our gifts of money
And with them the gift of our lives
To be lived in your service
Today and every day.   Amen
 
Hymn Jesu, Jesu, Fill Us With Your Love
Tom Colvin, © 1969, 1997 Hope Publishing Company  Performed at the Trinity Lutheran Church, Ventura, used with their kind permisasion
 
Jesu, Jesu,
fill us with your love,
show us how to serve
the neighbours we have from you.

 

Kneels at the feet of his friends,
silently washes their feet,
Master who acts as a slave to them.
 
These are the ones we should serve
these are the ones we should love,
all these are neighbours to us & you.

Communion Liturgy
 
The Holy One be with you 
and also with you
Open your hearts to the One who is Love
We open our hearts to you, O God
Let us give thanks to God, who gathers us together
To the One who welcomes us to the table, we give thanks and praise
 
God, your invitation to come and feast in your presence is but a taste of the love you extend to us every day. By your very nature, you are always seeking us out – searching for ways to connect us and connect with us. You meet us in the most ordinary of places and you make them sacred. By your grace, we come to recognize the holiness that dwells in the world around us, in our neighbours, in our own internal depths.
 
Therefore we join our voices with your people on earth and all the company of the heavens, singing praise to you,
 
Holy, Holy, Holy One
God of justice and love
Heaven and earth are full of your wonder
Hosanna, among us
 
Blessed are you and blessed is your eternal table. You welcome all who thirst for justice and hunger to grow in love. You ask us to extend this same welcome to all our neighbours, but God, since our beginning, we have struggled.
 
And so in your love for us, you took on flesh in Jesus. Through his life, you pointed to your presence on the margins. You revealed the sacredness in all life. You showed us how to live together, even among forces of destruction.
 
Believing it could transform the world, Jesus proclaimed the Good News. He called for the captives to be set free. He spoke of the lowly being lifted up. He talked of redistributing wealth and eradicating the causes of poverty. His commitment to practising love knew no bounds – not even the bounds of death.
 
On the night of his arrest, Jesus shared a meal with his companions.
 
He took bread, blessed it, broke it, gave it to his disciples and said:
 
“This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
 
After the meal, he took the cup, blessed it, and shared it saying:
“This cup that is poured out is the new covenant.”
 
In remembrance of all you have done to save us,
we proclaim the mystery of our faith:
 
Christ was birthed among us.
Christ was killed among us.
Christ rises again among us. 
 
Pour out your Spirit on these gifts, O God. Make these ordinary elements into the Sacred gift of your presence with us once again. May they awaken us anew to your everlasting invitation into a life of resurrection. Aliven us in our pursuit of a world where all needs are met, power is balanced, and the worth of every creature and creation is celebrated.
 
In collective longing for a taste of your Kingdom on earth,
we join together in echoing the prayer of Jesus:
 
Our Creator, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name
Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
And forgive us our trespasses 
as we forgive those who trespassed against us.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the Kingdom, the power, and the glory for ever. Amen.
 
Prayer after receiving:
 
God, by the bread of heaven and the cup of life, you make us one body. Bind us together by your spirit that we might live into your hopes for us, a community centred in Christ and rich in compassion, commitment, courage, and care. May it be so.  Amen.
 
Hymn Christ Be My Leader By Night as By Day
 Timothy Dudley Smith © 1964 Hope Publishing Company performed by Topher Keene

 

Christ be my leader 
by night as by day;
safe through the darkness 
for He is the way.
Gladly I follow, 
my future His care,
darkness is daylight 
when Jesus is there.
 
Christ be my teacher 
in age as in youth,
drifting or doubting, 
for he is the truth.
Grant me to trust him; 
though shifting as sand,
doubt cannot daunt me; 
in Jesus I stand.



Christ be my Saviour in calm as in strife;
death cannot hold me,  for he is the life.
Nor darkness nor doubting nor sin and its stain
can touch my salvation:  with Jesus I reign.
 
Blessing
 
Send us out into your world, loving God,
To love and to serve.
 
And the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit
Rest and remain with each one of you
This day, this week, and even for evermore.  Amen
 
 
Copyright
 
Prayers of Confession & Absolution written by Beth Merrill Neel on her blog, ‘Hold Fast to What Is Good’.  Used with permission.
 
Affirmation of Faith:  — written by Gerardo Oberman, Argentina.  From Prayers for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2004,   posted on the World Council of Churches website.  
 
Communion Liturgy: from the free library of resources at “enfleshed”, https://enfleshed.com/
 
All other material written by the Rev’d Phil Nevard
 
Opening music: Ein Feste Burg (“A mighty fortress”) by Max Reger (organ of Basilica Santo Spirito, Florence, Italy – 2016)
 
 
Closing music: 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)
 
 
Thanks To
 
Marion Thomas, Anne Hewling, Graham Handscomb, Mandy Hibbert, Ray Fraser, Sarah Wilmott, Sarah McGrory & Kathleen Haynes for recording the spoken parts of the service.

 
 
Thanks to Phil for devising and recording the service.  Hymn lyrics are public domain, the music in the podcast is delivered subject to the terms of the URC’s licence.

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