URC Daily Devotion Sunday Worship 16th October 2022

Sunday Worship from the United Reformed Church
for Sunday 16th October 2022


Today’s service is led by The Revd Jonnie Hill

Call to Worship 
God, like Jacob, we wrestle. 
Like Jacob, we confess who we are.
Like Jacob, we do not let you go.
Like Jacob, we seek your blessing. 
Hear and answer us, O Lord, we pray.  Amen. 

Hymn       I Am A New Creation
Dave Bilbrough  © Thankyou Music Performed on BBC’s Songs of Praise by Lou Fellingham (Backing Vocals), Stuart Townend (Keys), Les Moir (Bass), Terl Bryant (Drums) and Nick Haigh (Mandolin)

I am a new creation,
no more in condemnation,
here in the grace of God I stand.
My heart is overflowing,
my love just keeps on growing,
here in the Grace of God I stand.
And I will praise You, Lord,
yes I will praise You, Lord,
& I will sing of all that You have done.
A joy that knows no limit,
a lightness in my spirit,
here in the grace of God I stand.
Prayers of Approach, Confession and Forgiveness
God of many names, those revealed in scripture – Mother, Father, Christ, Spirit,  and those known personally to us. 
God, we proclaim your holy names, longing to know you more fully,
yet aware that any name we invoke can never capture your true likeness. 
Holy Mystery, loving Saviour, creative Source, in you we discover our own true name – beloved child, one in whom you are well pleased. 
Open our hearts, that as we come to meet you in worship, we might be reminded of your words of grace – those pronounced over us at baptism. 
As we encounter your divine presence now, may our souls be saturated in your love, may we be strengthened in faith and empowered for loving service.  We pray, in all your holy names – one God in perfect unity,  Amen. 
God of grace and mercy, very often, confession does not come easily.
We would rather not admit our mistakes, prefer not to air our dirty laundry, whether in private or in public.
But somehow, deep down, we recognise, confession as that necessary first step, an admission of how things truly are, which offers freedom 
and the possibility of all we might become. 
Help us now, in a moment of silence,  to be honest about ourselves, 
to admit how things truly are, we come seeking healing and wholeness. 
God, forgive us, we pray, and help us to forgive ourselves.
God of grace and new mercies, remind us once again, that in Christ, we are forgiven. We are freed from all that is passed, and offered the fullness of new life.  Thanks be to God, Amen. 
Prayer for Illumination
Spirit of life, bearer of truth, dwell now in our hearts and open our minds, 
that as we hear scripture read, and the word preached, Sophia, divine wisdom personified might be heard and received.  Amen. 
Genesis 32:22-31

The same night he got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. 
Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 
Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” 
But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” 
So he said to him, “What is your name?” 
And he said, “Jacob.” 
Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.” 
Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” 
But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” 
And there he blessed him. 
So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.” 
The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.
Hymn       Come, O Thou Traveller Unknown
                  Charles Wesley sung by Maddy Prior and the Carnival Band

Come, O Thou Traveller unknown,
whom still I hold, 
but cannot see:
my company before is gone
and I am left alone with Thee:
with Thee all night I mean to stay,
and wrestle till the break of day.
2: I need not tell Thee who I am
my misery and sin declare.
Thyself hast called me 
by my name
look on Thy hands, 
and read it there.
But who, I ask Thee, who art Thou?
Tell me Thy name, and tell me now.
3: In vain Thou strugglest 
to get free,
I never will unloose my hold!
Art Thou the man that died for me?
The secret of Thy love unfold.
Wrestling, I will not let Thee go,
till I Thy name, Thy nature know.  
4:  ’Tis love! ‘Tis love! 
Thou hast died for me!
I hear Thy whisper in my heart;
the morning breaks, 
the shadows flee;
pure, universal love Thou art:
To me, to all, Thy bowels move;*
Thy nature and Thy name is Love.


* in previous ages the bowels, not the heart, were seen as the seat of human emotions.  The line here implies that God’s love extends to us all.
5: The Sun of righteousness on me
hath rose with healing in His wings.
Withered my nature’s strength;
from Thee my soul its life and succour bring.
My help is all laid up above;
Thy nature and Thy name is love.
Luke 18:1-8
Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’ For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.'” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words – or in Ireland as we used to say – names will never hurt me. I’m sure that’s a saying from childhood that you’ll be familiar with.  You may even have been told it by a well-meaning parent, teacher or other loved one.  I know it was something said to me after I ran crying to my mum telling her ‘they’re calling me names’. I parroted the saying to the mean kids and bullies, but you know what – I never really believed it.  Because the truth was and is, being called names does hurt. Names are not just words or the means of addressing us, they have the power to build up and they have the power to tear down. 
The lectionary pairs this story of Jacob’s persistent wrestling on the banks of the Jabbok with Jesus’ parable of the persistent widow.  I can see why – both speak of a type of persistent wrestling – but for me, there’s something more interesting in this story though perhaps not immediately obvious in the account of Jacob’s wrestling.  And if you’ve not already guessed, it’s to do with the power of names. 
Names in biblical times were considered to have even more power than we might normally afford them in the present day. In the literature of the ancient near East, names were not just about identifying the individual, but rather they were a signifier of the person’s character and in some instances even their destiny.  The meaning of the name Jacob isn’t particularly complimentary – usurper, supplanter, one who overreaches. It comes from the Hebrew word for heel and can also be translated as heel-grabber – which as the second-born of twin sons is quite an evocative image.  More plainly, we could also understand Jacob’s name to mean cheat or swindler – like I said – not very complimentary, but accurate perhaps.
A reminder of the background – Jacob’s twin brother Esau was the bigger and stronger of the two, and favoured by his father Isaac. The second son and smaller in stature, Jacob was favoured by his mother Rebekah and learned to rely on his wits. Two big deceptions characterise Jacob’s early life. The first is when he takes advantage of his brother’s desperate hunger (and foolishness I might add) to demand an exchange – Esau’s birth right for a pot of stew.  The second is much more cunning. Playing on his father’s impaired sight and with his mother’s help, Jacob impersonates Esau and tricks his father Isaac into giving Jacob the blessing intended for his first-born brother.  Jacob really seems to have lived up to his name – usurper, supplanter, cheat. 
And in truth, things don’t get much better when Jacob then flees the family home to live with his mother’s brother Laban.  In his uncle Laban, it seems Jacob had met his match and each schemed against the other – Jacob first being tricked into marrying Rachel instead of Leah, and then after years of one-upmanship, Jacob flees once again but with Laban’s two daughters and much of his stock of animals in tow.  Jacob is heading back to the family home, and he sends messengers ahead of him to his brother Esau. Discovering that Esau was enroute to Jacob with an army of 400 men, Jacob’s fear gets the better of him and he starts scheming again. He divides up his livestock and sends a large troop of animals to Esau as an appeasement.  And this is where we join the story in our reading.
Jacob has sent his family and all their belongings to the other side of the river Jabbok and then he waits. Night comes and Jacob, left alone, wrestles until daybreak.  But what or who is it Jacob wrestles with? At first, we’re told it’s a man.  But just for a moment, imagine putting yourself in Jacob’s shoes.  Imagine the fear of what might be coming in this day of reckoning with his brother Esau.  Imagine wondering whether your scheming ways were finally about to catch up with you.  Imagine doubting whether all the scheming had all been worth it.
Perhaps Jacob felt like it was his demons that had come to haunt him.  Perhaps he saw the skeletons in his closet come alive and do battle with him there on the banks of the Jabbok.  Initially, the identity of Jacob’s opponent remains somewhat opaque, was it his own conscience, was it a man, was it an angel, or was it God?  Whoever or whatever it was that night on the banks of the Jabbok, Jacob clung on, determined his opponent would not prevail.  Realising this, Jacob’s opponent struck him knocking his hip out of joint and demanded release. But Jacob would not let go without being blessed.
And the response to Jacob’s demand for a blessing?  A question: ‘What is your name?’ 
‘Jacob’, he responds – and there it is all his living by his wits, all his calculating and swindling and scheming… summed up in the admission of his name.   We later discover that Jacob’s opponent is God. Of course God already knew Jacob’s name, but in being asked and stating it, Jacob offers a confession of sorts.  An acknowledgment of who and what he has been. 
And God’s response? Well, it wasn’t condemnation or punishment much as he might have felt he deserved it, but rather blessing and a new name. From now on Jacob will be called Israel.  Jacob is in good company. Many of the great figures of faith were given new names at points of significant transformation in their stories. Abram became Abraham, Sarai became Sarah, Simon became Peter and Saul became Paul. 
What about our own names?  If I were to ask your name, you might tell me your first name, perhaps even along with your surname… you may even have changed your name at a point of transformation in your own life.  In our times, names don’t hold quite the same significance as they did in biblical times, but they still hold power. 
But I could ask a different question – what names have you been called?  Which of those names have stuck and have shaped who you’ve become?  And what other names have you taken on yourself?  Some may be positive or simply neutral – for me, I am brother, son, husband, uncle, and most recently minister.  But perhaps there are other less positive or undeserved names which have followed us around in our lives too… stupid, boring, sad, worthless. Names have power, even today.
When we consider Jacob’s confession, I don’t think it was confession in the sense of how we might confess sin, although that may have been a part of it, but rather an acknowledgement of who he is, and the truth of what has been.   And in this, I think there is an opportunity for us all – to confess all that is – to acknowledge ourselves and who we are, what we have done and what has been done to us before God.  Being honest with ourselves or with God isn’t always easy. Just ask Jacob who wrestled all night before his confession. 
But to know ourselves in such a way is to have the power to be transformed – for when we confess what we truly are, including all the names given to us and taken on by ourselves, we have already embarked on the first step of change. 
And God’s response to us? Well certainly not condemnation or punishment, but rather like Jacob – blessing and love. And like Jacob with the possibility of transformation, we too are offered a new name. In baptism – we have been Christ-ened – we are named as Christ the beloved, and we are offered transformation of God’s love and  to be more like Christ. 
The transformational power of God’s love is a profound and deeply fundamental part of our faith. But if the knowledge of God’s love is ever to be more than just another intellectual belief, if we are to truly experience it, then it has to actually make a difference to our lives. 
It must be experienced deep within us. 
The power of a new name for Jacob and for us is this – whatever truth there is in the name or names we’ve bene called, there is a higher truth, and that truth is expressed in the name God calls each of us – the beloved, in whom God is well pleased. 
The identity we receive in Christ is beyond all the names that can be ascribed to us. But those names still damage and diminish. We need only see that Jacob, though blessed, and set on the path to transformation was not unafflicted by his facing up to his past.
I’m reminded of some words attributed to Archbishop Justin Welby, when in 2016 he made the shock discovery that the man who he had believed to be his dad was not in fact his biological father.  Perhaps we should remind ourselves that not so long ago, children of questionable paternity or whose parents weren’t married were called terrible names.  Archbishop Welby said this:
“I know that I find who I am in Jesus Christ, not in genetics, and my identity in him never changes”. 
Thanks be to God for this highest of unchanging truths – in Christ we are named the beloved of God.  Amen. 
Hymn       You Are Called To Tell The Story
Ruth Duck © 1992, GIA Publications, Inc.  BBC Songs of Praise


You are called 
to tell the story,
passing words of life along,
then to blend your voice 
with others
as you sing the sacred song.
Christ be known in all our singing,
filling all with songs of love.

2. You are called 
to teach the rhythm
of the dance that never ends,
then to move within the circle,
hand in hand 
with strangers, friends.
Christ be known in all our dancing,
touching all with hands of love.
3:  You called 
to set the table,
Blessing bread as Jesus blessed,
then to come 
with thirst and hunger,
needing care like all the rest.
Christ be known in all our sharing,
feeding all with signs of love.
4. May the One 
whose love is broader
than the measure of all space
give us words to sing the story,
move among us in this place.
Christ be known 
in all our living,
filling all with gifts of love.


Affirmation of Faith
We believe in God the Creator,
who is always creative
and invites us to affirm and explore who we are,
with all our differences;
and who is the source of our faith.
We believe in God the Saviour
revealed in the world as Jesus the Christ
who died and is risen,
the one Lord of the Church.
We believe in God the Reconciler,
the Holy Spirit,
who is always with us bearing witness with our spirits
that we are the children of God.
We believe that our smallness
can never diminish God’s vastness;
that our frailties can never overcome
God’s will for wholeness;
that our sin can never crush God’s power for new life
even in the face of death.
We believe, and in this belief, we need one another,
as a choir needs every voice and every part
for the harmony to be complete.
We believe – that in the Holy Spirit,
in Jesus Christ and in the love of God –
we are one!
We believe – and may our lives reflect our belief.
Prayers of Intercessions
Eternal God, 
whose love is made known in the richness of relationship
we bring to you our prayers of concern 
for our world, for ourselves and for one another. 
Short silence
We bring to you those fearing the onset of winter,
we cry out – no one should have to choose between heat and food.
Short silence 
We pray for an economy that is fairer to all
one which leaves no one behind. 
Short silence
We remember our earth, so damaged by human action
praying that we might wake up to our short-sightedness. 
Short silence
We pray for bodies, minds and spirits that are ill, for peace, hope and healing – and where needed acceptance. 
Short silence
We pray for the church, human, frail and imperfect, yet so full of promise and potential, may we never forget our calling. 
Short silence
We offer our prayers in the name of Jesus, who taught his disciples to pray…
Our Father…
We are but custodians of this earth and all its resources. God grants enough for all people, and yet fears of scarcity and greed mean few have much and many have little. Let us be like God in our generosity, let us not give from fear of lack, but from the truth of God’s abundance. 
God of all people, you give us what we need
use the gifts we offer, of money and of our lives
to bring the good news of your abundance
that your kingdom might come on earth as in heaven. Amen.
Hymn       I The Lord of Sea and Sky
© 1981, Daniel L Schutte SJ, New Dawn Music BBC Songs of Praise

I, the Lord of sea and sky,
I have heard my people cry.
All who dwell in dark and sin
my hand will save.
I, who made the stars of night,
I will make their darkness bright.
Who will bear my light to them?
Whom shall I send?
2: I, the Lord of snow and rain,
I have borne my people’s pain.
I have wept for love of them.
They turn away.
I will break their hearts of stone,
give them hearts for love alone.
I will speak my words to them.
Whom shall I send?

Here I am, Lord.  Is it I, Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go, Lord, if you lead me.
I will hold your people in my heart.
May the blessing of God
Creator, Christ, and Spirit 
– the one who knows you by name
be with you, and strengthen you today 
and all the days of your life. Amen. 
Call to Worship attributed to the Revd Dr Barb Hedges-Goettl
Affirmation of Faith by Ian Tozer (1997 Uniting Church in Australia)
All other liturgical material by Jonnie Hill.
Thanks to David Shimmin, Sarah Wilmott, Anne Hewling, Morag Donaldson, Graham Handscomb, Marion Thomas, Alison Jiggins, Karen Smith and Anne-Marie Nye for recording the spoken parts of 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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