URC Daily Devotion Sunday Worship 23rd October 2022

Sunday Worship from the United Reformed Church
for Sunday 23rd October 2022

Today’s service is led by The Revd Jenny Mills

A Call to Worship
Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion;
O God of our salvation;
you are the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas.
You visit the earth and water it, you greatly enrich it;
The pastures of the wilderness overflow,
the hills gird themselves with joy,
the meadows clothe themselves with flocks,
the valleys deck themselves with grain,
they shout and sing together for joy.
We delight in you, your world and all of creation 
as we come together for worship. 
May we find joy, hope, peace and love 
in our time with you and with each other. 
Whoever we are, however we feel, whatever is happening in our lives. 
Come, let us worship the Lord our God in word and music and silence. 
Hymn       The Day of the Lord Shall Come
John Bell and Graham Maule (1987) copyright © 1987 WGRG, Iona Community Sung by the Revd Adam Earle.


The Day of the Lord shall come
as prophets have told,
when Christ shall make 
all things new, no matter how old;
and some at the stars may gaze,
and some at God’s word,
in vain to predict the time,
the Day of the Lord.
The desert shall spring to life,
the hills shall rejoice;
the lame of the earth shall leap,
the dumb shall find voice;
the lamb with the lion shall lie,
and the last shall be first;
and nations for war no more
shall study or thirst.

2: The Day of the Lord shall come
and judgement be known,
as nations, like sheep and goats,
come close to the throne.
Then Christ shall himself reveal
asking all to draw near,
and see in his face
all faces once ignored here.
The desert shall spring to life,
the hills shall rejoice;
the lame of the earth shall leap,
the dumb shall find voice;
the lamb with the lion shall lie,
and the last shall be first;
and nations for war no more
shall study or thirst.
3: The Day of the Lord shall come,
a thief in the night.
A curse to those in the wrong,
who think themselves right.
A pleasure for those in pain
or with death at the door.
A true apparition
for the prisoners and poor.
4: The Day of the Lord shall come,
but now is the time
to subvert earth’s wisdom
with Christ’s folly sublime,
by loving the loveless,
turning the tide and the cheek,
by walking beneath the cross
in step with the weak.


Prayers of Approach, Confession and Forgiveness
Loving God, You have created all that is.
You love all that you have created. You look and see that it is good. 
We are a small part of your creation. You love all of us.
Even when we do not live as you desire. 
You are almighty, Lord.  You are wonderful.
You are beyond our understanding and our true comprehension.
Bigger than we can imagine and yet more caring than we deserve. 
You know us all, as we are, and still, even when we struggle to love ourselves, you let us know we are precious to you.
You chose your people to grow –  leading them through journeying and exile and betrayal and redemption. And when they still failed to live as you had taught them through the prophets, you gave your Son to show the way to real life. 
And when he had to die to show the world the breadth and depth of your love, still you gave your people more through your Holy Spirit: guide and strength and sustainer. 
Today you keep calling your people to live as you desire. To seek righteousness and justice, to live lives caring for each other and sharing all we have. 
Yet still today we fail, as so many have before and you do not turn away –
you are always allowing us the chance to repent and be forgiven. 
We know we have not lived as you want us to – we have failed in thoughts, words and deeds, through what we have done and what we have left undone.  We have told others how to behave when scarcely thinking about our own behaviour. We have considered ourselves the permanent top priority and hardly given a thought for those who should be there. We have judged ourselves in need help when we have failed to look and see that others may need help, too.  For all the times we have chosen the path that has separated us from you, we ask for forgiveness and the chance to start again.  
Let us be open to the prompting of your Holy Spirit and to open our hearts to change, to reconsider, to listen more closely and live more faithfully. 
Jesus said: ‘come to me all you who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’ 
We come.
Help us to let go of the burden of self-righteousness and to let you in and allow you to speak to our souls and know ourselves forgiven, loved and free.  Amen.
Prayer for Illumination 
Loving God, as we encounter your word in Scripture may we find challenge and comfort. Through the texts and through our musings and reflections, may we come closer to you and learn more about your love in the world. Open our eyes and hearts to your presence. Amen. 
Reading Introduction 
Our first reading from the book of Joel is one that contains a section we are all familiar with. The prophet Joel looks forward and envisages a time when the present hardships will be reversed. He writes in response to a dreadful plague of locusts that had blighted the land. And yet he writes that God, who honours the Covenant promise, will ultimately save the people. God will shower the people with blessings, and they can look forward to a time of abundance. In this reading you can hear the hope and the possibility of better times. The people will know this change of fortune comes from God and will celebrate and give thanks for God’s faithfulness. Out of this time of blessing will come opportunity and new thinking. There will be signs of this new beginning for all to see. But there is a price- the better times will only come if humankind (the people of Judah in this reading) live in harmony with the whole of creation and honour their part of the Covenant, respecting God’s will and way. 
Let us listen for the Word of God in Scripture. 
Joel 2:23-32
O children of Zion, be glad and rejoice in the Lord your God;
for he has given the early rain for your vindication,
    he has poured down for you abundant rain,
    the early and the later rain, as before.
The threshing-floors shall be full of grain,
    the vats shall overflow with wine and oil.
I will repay you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten,
the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter,
    my great army, which I sent against you.
You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
    and praise the name of the Lord your God,
    who has dealt wondrously with you. 
And my people shall never again be put to shame.
You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel,
    and that I, the Lord, am your God and there is no other.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.
Then afterwards I will pour out my spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
    your old men shall dream dreams,
    and your young men shall see visions.
Even on the male and female slaves,
    in those days, I will pour out my spirit.
I will show portents in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke.  The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. 32 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved; for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls.
In this is the Word of the Lord.  Thanks be to God. 
Hymn       Abundant Life
Ruth Duck, © 1992, GIA Publications. Sung by members of Christ Church Dartmouth, Nova Scotia and used with their kind permission.

We cannot own the sunlit sky, 
the moon, 
the wild-flowers growing, 
For we are part of all that is 
within life’s river flowing. 
2: With open hands 
receive and share 
the gifts of God’s creation, 
that all may have abundant life 
in every earthly nation. 

3: When bodies shiver in the night 
and weary, wait for morning, 
When children have 
no bread but tears, 
and war horns sound their warning. 
4: God calls humanity to wake, 
to join in common labour, 
that all may have abundant life, 
in oneness with their neighbour. 
5: God calls humanity to join 
as partners in creating 
a future free from want or fear,
life’s goodness celebrating. 
6: That new world 
beckons from afar, 
invites our shared endeavour,
that all might have abundant life 
and peace endure forever.  


Reading Introduction 
This parable only occurs in the Gospel according to Luke. It is a scene set in the temple. It is a story that seems so simple on the surface. The Pharisee would have been considered respectable, righteous, pious and honourable and the tax-collector a sinner as he would have worked for the Roman authorities. The Pharisee was satisfied that he was doing everything God wanted of him, following all the laws and living well. The tax collector was aware of his own failings and confessed them before God. This reading makes us very uncomfortable. We need to be careful not to exclaim- thank goodness I am not like the Pharisee! Let us listen again for the Word of God in Scripture. 
Luke 18:9-14
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt:  
‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax-collector.  
The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax-collector.  I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.”   
But the tax-collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”  
I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.’
In this is the Word of the Lord.  Thanks be to God.
Thank God I am not like the Pharisee! Such an easy stance to take- and yet, it is a real risk we can take this stance and lose sight of what this is actually trying to teach us. Because I would say that many of us are more like the Pharisee than we would like to admit! It is often easier to criticise and judge others than to truly look at our own behaviour, attitudes and responses.
Both texts are about living in a way that God calls us. 
Both texts are about people. About scarcity. About struggle. About following the ‘right’ ways. 
And yet there is a real risk we are like the Pharisee, we become so full of ourselves that we lose sight of the plight and struggle of others. We forget that some people do not have a choice about what work they do. The tax collector: someone needed to do that job. What if he had a family and this was the only role he could get? If he had a number of children or an ill parent? What if working for the Romans was the only pathway open to him? What if he had no choice? Someone had to do that job! We can forget to look beyond our preconceptions. 
There is so much around us that is tough, that is hard. We have found ourselves, as a world, struggling with the effects of Covid- both physically with illness, stretched health services and people suffering with long Covid, but also mentally as our children have missed out on so much and have been unable to learn some important life skills due to lockdowns and isolation and loneliness have flourished and life for many is challenging in so many and varied ways. 
When things get tough, we have a tendency to entrench further, to metaphorically pull up the drawbridge and isolate ourselves, look inwards, concern ourselves with our own worries and pressures and fail to look beyond us. 
And what does that do? 
Creates a society that is individualistic. 
Creates a society that ignores the problems around them. 
Creates a society that blames the ‘other’ for the problems they face. 
Creates a society that disconnects the natural world from humanity. 
And these are all things that distance us from the love of God. 
When humankind lives faith – fully, following Jesus, listening for the whisper of the Spirit, in tune with the whole of creation – then the world can thrive and there is abundance and blessing. 
When we look out for each other and care for our neighbour, when we share what we have and make sure justice prevails, when we ensure that systems and processes protect the weakest and poorest in society, when we look at those who are different to us with interest and compassion instead of suspicion and fear, when we respect each other and the world around us whoever we are, then God is glorified and God’s will is done on earth as in heaven. 
And our sons and daughters can prophesy, and our old men shall dream dreams and our young men will see visions and those who are enslaved are heard and seen and named. 
If this occurs, then we naturally begin to live in harmony. We suspend our judgements on one another, and we begin to understand the needs, struggles and particular circumstances of those who are different from us. We find that we reconnect with the world around us and begin to care for the state of it. We become aware of the need to treasure the earth as well as each other. What a wondrous image, what an aspiration to aim for. 
Where can we start? Well, one place is confession. Understanding we fall short, not in a hand wringing way, Uriah Heep kind of way, but in a way that is honest and vulnerable and authentic.

Our worship contains prayers of confession so that we can examine our lives, our words, actions and lack of words and actions, as individuals and as members of society. We can consider our attitudes, those we include or exclude, those we judge and condemn, those we raise up and those we ignore. The situations we complain about but do nothing about; the issues in our communities that we criticise but fail to step up and change; the things that affect our fellow humans around the world but because they do not affect us we ignore them. As we examine ourselves, as we stop and think about what we could change, as we sit before God and really ask ‘What could I do differently?’ then we are open to being transformed, to change, to altering our views or preconceptions and challenging our prejudices. And we are less likely to rest on our laurels and think- well I do all the right things, my life shows I follow Jesus and I do my best- and I am not as bad as (insert your own words here!). We are more likely to be like the tax collector and be authentic before God- and able to find peace and forgiveness. We become more authentic versions of ourselves, and we look outwards. We see the world around us, and we find ourselves moved to respond- and this blesses those we encounter and also brings blessings for us as we are changed by what we see, do, hear and experience. 
What else? Well, authenticity brings some honest realisations: it is OK to say we are good at stuff, as long as it does not inflate our egos or become self-seeking. Criticising ourselves is not being loving, it is not helpful. Judging others and gossiping isn’t constructive. Reaching out and developing relationships with others makes us feel good and changes both them and us!
Jesus told the story to people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt. Here is the warning. God has made us to live, work, belong in community together. God- the Trinity- models the behaviour of relationship, interdependence, mutuality. When we focus on ourselves and consider ourselves better than others, we need people around us to call us out- gently and with compassion; having our behaviour highlighted honestly and being given a chance to change- this is salvation. Being open enough to hear the hard truth, being mature enough to act upon what has been said- this is salvation. Finding the strength, energy, determination and will to make changes- this is salvation. This is what Jesus calls us to and what God’s Spirit invites us to join in with. 
When more of us focus on being the God-given version of ourselves, in community, with integrity, we are far more able to join in with God’s mission as we are looking outwards. As we suspend our judgement, God is able to work in our hearts and lives and in the lives of those around us. Then we can truly dream dreams. As we are kinder, more generous and compassionate, more full of faith, God’s kingdom will grow and flourish in new, exciting and unimaginable ways. Praise be!
Hymn       A Touching Place
©1989  John Bell and Graham Moule © The Wild Goose Resource Worship Group of the Iona Community.  Unknown performers on YouTube.


Christ’s is the world 
in which we move;
Christ’s are the folk 
we’re summoned to love;
Christ’s is the voice 
which calls us to care,
and Christ is the one 
who meets us here.
To the lost Christ shows his face,
to the unloved he gives his embrace,
to those who cry in pain or disgrace
Christ makes, with his friends, a touching place.


2: Feel for the people 
we must avoid –
strange or bereaved 
or never employed.
Feel for the women 
and feel for the men
who fear that their living 
is all in vain.
To the lost Christ shows his face,
to the unloved he gives his embrace,
to those who cry in pain or disgrace
Christ makes, with his friends, 
a touching place.
3: Feel for the parents 
who’ve lost their child,
feel for the women 
whom men have defiled,
feel for the baby 
for whom there’s no breast,
and feel for the weary 
who find no rest.
4: Feel for the lives 
by life confused,
riddled with doubt, 
in loving abused;
feel for the lonely heart, 
conscious of sin,
which longs to be pure 
but fears to begin.

Prayers of Intercessions
The chant Through our lives and by our prayers, Your kingdom come. is interspersed through the prayers.
In a time of thanks for the blessings we have and the possibilities before us, we come before God.  As we celebrate the Jubilee of the URC and we come to recall the events of the Reformation, as we recall celebrations, joys and happiness in our lives and the lives of those we love, we give thanks and we pray.  So we sing….
Through our lives and by our prayers, Your kingdom come
For all those who lead us: those who make plans that shape our lives 
and our communities.  For all who lead governments and countries:
those in power may they lead with integrity and wisdom.  For all who support us, those who are there when we need them, give them all courage and hope. So we sing…
Through our lives and by our prayers, Your kingdom come
For all who are in need:  the sick especially those with terminal illnesses who have lost the will to keep going, the suffering, the poor and the hungry so afflicted by starvation and need that they feel they cannot carry on, 
the lost, the lonely and those in despair, those struggling with mental ill health and hurt and those who feel that their lives are not as good as those around them We pray. Give them all courage and hope. So we sing…
Through our lives and by our prayers, Your kingdom come
For all the areas in our world where there is fighting and bloodshed, conflict and war.  For the innocent people caught up in these conflicts who have been injured or lost family and friends   Lord there is so much despair in our world, and for many there seems little reason to hope. May your light shine and your presence be found. So we sing…
Through our lives and by our prayers, Your kingdom come
As now in a time of silence we bring our own concerns and prayers to God
Reach out we pray to all whose belief in the future has been destroyed, and grant new dreams where the old ones have died, rekindle purpose where confidence has been undermined, support when there seems to be nothing else left to hold onto, and hope that one day your kingdom will come and your will be done and life will get better. And so we sing….
Through our lives and by our prayers, Your kingdom come
Help us to step up and step out and seek to be the ones whose attitude is that of compassion and care and may we go through the week filling the buckets of others and seeking to ensure our buckets are never empty- by loving ourselves as well as our neighbour.  Amen.
Hymn       Jesus Calls Us O’er the Tumult
Cecil Frances Alexander (1852) Sung by the Virtual Choir of the Episcopal Church of the Advocate, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Jesus calls us o’er the tumult
of our life’s wild, restless sea;
day by day his clear voice soundeth,
saying “Christian, follow me!”
2 As of old Saint Andrew heard it
by the Galilean lake,
turned from home & toil & kindred,
leaving all for his dear sake.
3 Jesus calls us from the worship
of the vain world’s golden store,
from each idol that would keep us,
saying “Christian, love me more.”
4 In our joys and in our sorrows,
days of toil and hours of ease,
still he calls, in cares and pleasures,
“Christian, love me more than these.”

5 Jesus calls us! By Thy mercy,
Saviour, help us hear Thy call;
give our hearts to Thine obedience,
serve and love Thee best of all!
Go out into the world to love.
God out into the world knowing God goes with you. 
Go out into the world seeking to be the person God wants you to be.
Go out into the world seeking to bring justice, peace and hope. 
Go out into the world and live the abundant life God wills for all. Go out into the world to sow seeds of love. 
And the blessing of God Almighty, 
Creator, Son and Sustainer,
Be with you and those you love, 
now and always. Amen.
Call to Worship from Psalm 65 all other liturgical work by Jenny Mills.  
Opening music: Prelude in E Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach (organ of The Spire Church, Farnham – 2020)
Closing music: Komm Gott Schӧpfer Heiliger Geist (“Come God, creator Holy Ghost”) by Johann Sebastian Bach  (organ of Basilica Santa Maria Dei Assunta, Montecatini Terme, Italy – 2016)
Thanks to Sarah Wilmott, Diana Cullum-Hall, Graham Handscomb, Ruth Tompsett, Sylvia Nutt, David Shimmin and Andy Braunston for recording the spoken parts of the service. Special thanks Michael Topple for recording the chant in the intercessions.

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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