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URC Daily Devotion Sunday Worship – 8th November 2020

Introduction
This is the day that the Lord has made,
Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
 
Good morning and welcome to the Daily Devotions Sunday Worship.  My name is Susan Henderson and I am the minister of the Inverclyde Churches of Greenock East, Greenock West and Port Glasgow United Reformed Churches, from the National Synod of Scotland.  This morning in our service we give honour and remember those who gave their lives in the two World Wars and subsequent conflicts, we remember those who remained at home, trying as hard as possible to keep some sense of normality at a time when nothing was normal.
 
Let us still ourselves before God as we begin our service.

Call to Worship

What does the Lord require of you?
On this day of all days
as we remember men and women
who gave their everything for us,
we gather here to honour their memory
and give thanks.
 
What does the Lord require of you?
On this day of all days
we come seeking peace for all
in a world that cries out for it.
We come seeking to love the unloved
and to live humbly with our Lord.
 
What does the Lord require of you?
On this day of all days
we come to him in worship and praise.
Let us worship the God of love and peace.

Hymn       All my hope on God is founded
                  ROBERT BRIDGES (1844-1930)

1 All my hope on God is founded;
he doth still my trust renew.
Me through change and chance he guideth,
only good and only true.
God unknown, he alone
calls my heart to be his own.

2 Pride of man and earthly glory,
sword and crown betray his trust;
what with care and toil he buildeth,
tower and temple, fall to dust.
But God’s power, hour by hour
is my temple and my tower.

3 Still from earth to God eternal
sacrifice of praise be done,
high above all praises praising
for the gift of Christ his Son.
Christ doth call one and all;
ye who follow shall not fall.

Opening Prayer

Eternal God,
you are the shepherd of our soul,
the giver of life everlasting.
 
On this day
when we commemorate and commend to you
those who lived and died
in the service of others,
we are glad to remember
that your purposes for us are good,
that you gave us Jesus Christ
for the life of the world,
and that you lead us by his Holy Spirit
into the paths of righteousness and peace.
 
Merciful and faithful God,
your purpose is to fold both the earth and heaven
in a single peace.
 
With sorry we confess
that in our hearts we keep alive
the passions and pride
that lead to hatred and to war.
we are not worthy of you love,
nor or the sacrifices made by others on our behalf.
 
Lord, have mercy.
       Christ have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
 
Almighty God.
pardon and deliver us from all our sins,
confirm and strengthen us in all goodness,
and keep us in life eternal’
through Jesus Christ our Lord.                                   Amen.
 
God of unbounded grace,
you declare your reconciling love and power
in the death and resurrection
of our Saviour Jesus Christ.
Teach us , who live only in your forgiveness,
to forgive one another.
Heal our divisions,
cast out our fears,
renew our faith in your unchanging purpose
of goodwill and peace on earth;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns
with you and the Holy Spirit,
on God, now and for ever.               Amen.
 
Call to Remembrance
 
Let us remember the kindness of God,
and his favour to us in our time of need.
 
Let us remember the courage,
devotion to duty,
and the self-sacrifice
of the men and women in our armed forces;
the toil, endurance, and suffering
of those who were not in uniform;
the support of those who sent us help for afar,
or came and stood by our side.
 
Let us remember those
who were wounded in the fight;
those who perished in air-raids at home;
those who fell in battle,
and are buried at sea
or in some corner of a foreign field;
and especially those
whom we have known and loved,
whose place is for ever in our hearts.
 
Let us remember those who were our enemies,
whose homes and hearts are as bereft as ours,
whose dead lie also
in a living tomb of everlasting remembrance.
 
Let us remember those who came back’
those whose lives still bear the scars of war;
those who lost sight or limbs or reason’
those who lost faith in God
and hope for humanity.
Let us remember the continuing grace of God,
whose love holds all souls in life,
and to whom none is dead
but all are alive for ever.
 
The Tryst
 
‘They shall grow not old,
as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them,
nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun
and in the morning,
We will remember them.’
 
The Last Post
 
The Silence
 
Reveille
 
Let us pray.
 
Ever-living God
We remember those whom you have gathered
form the storms of war into the peace of your presence;
may that same peace calm our fears,
bring justice to all peoples
and establish harmony among the nations,
through Jesus Chris our Lord.                                     Amen.

Hymn       Lord, Make us servants of your peace
                  James Quinn

1 Lord, make us servants of your peace:
Where there is hate, may we sow love;
Where there is hurt, may we forgive;
Where there is strife, may we make one.

2 Where all is doubt, may we sow faith;
Where all is gloom, may we sow hope;
Where all is night, may we sow light;
Where all is tears, may we sow joy.
 
Dying, we live, and are reborn
Through death’s dark night to endless day;
Lord, make us servants of your peace,
To wake at last in heaven’s light.
 
3 Jesus, our Lord, may we not seek
To be consoled, but to console,
Nor look to understanding hearts,
But look for hearts to understand.
 
4 May we not look for love’s return,
But seek to love unselfishly,
For in our giving we receive,
And in forgiving are forgiven.
 
Prayer of Illumination

Let us pray.
As we hear the words from Scripture,
we ask that you, O God,
allow the words to speak to our hearts,
allow them to stir us into action,
to be the servants that you wish us to be.
Amen.
 
Readings
 
Psalm 46 taken from Psalms Redux, Poems and Prayers, by Carla A. Grosch-Miller

Sheltering God,
I hide myself in You.
Head swathed and bowed,
I listen for the still, small voice.
 
Strengthening God,
in times of tumult and terror,
as the earth moves
ant the horizon shifts,
You call me back,
to shelter and to strengthen.
 
Your song is in the sighing of trees.
Your light is in flicker and spark,
knowing and unknowing.

Your power is in the greening,
and in its passing.
 
Those with ears to hear, listen.
Those with eyes to see, look.
 
War and peace,
trembling and tenderness,
all that we create
and all that we destroy
hold a holiness
we do not understand.
 
Illumine our being,
that our doing
might manifest You.

Matthew 5:38-48

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’  But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also;  and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well;  and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.  For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?  Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Music for reflection (Lord you have come to the seashore)

Sermon

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts
be acceptable to you,  O Lord, our  rock and our redeemer.”
 
Our readings this morning pick up on 3 ideas.  In our Psalm it is about being still with God and listening.  Really listening, not just to God but with others around us.  Our Gospel reading asks us to think about retaliation and loving our enemy.
 
Psalm 46 is one of my favourite Psalms, with phrases such as, ‘ a very present help in trouble, ‘he makes wars cease’, ‘is with us’, ‘is our refuge’.  All are images that come to mind of being cared for, of being loved, of never being forsaken.
When all around us might be changing, might be frightening, God is there as our refuge, our shelter, if we are still and listen for God.  And if I skip quickly over the words in verse 8 – I’ll let you look that up – if I don’t think about them in much detail or think about what they might mean, then this Psalm gives great hope when all around seems lost.  In a time of turmoil as we have and may be still experiencing with Covid-19 God is our refuge, our shelter and in Him we can sit out the turmoil.  The Psalmist gives us the promise that we can find God in the midst of such an event.
 
In the translation by Carla Grosch-Miller that we heard, I am especially drawn to the words, ‘Those with ears to hear, listen.  Those with eyes to see, look’.
Being in the presence of God requires us to listen, to be still with God and allow our hearts to be present with God.  Listening can be hard, it requires us to be truly present with someone.  David Montgomery form the Department of Earth and Space Sciences in the USA asks this, “Are you really listening… or are you just waiting for your turn to talk?”
I’m sure that if we really think about it most of our conversations are like this.  Waiting for our turn to put across what we think, our understanding of a situation, or just moving the conversation on from what is being said.  And for most conversations this is the natural way, there is nothing wrong with doing this.  But just sometimes we need to invest our time in really listening to what is being said, to really see the situation before us.  Being still, listening and reflecting might make us see someone or some situation in a different light, it might allow us to understand a persons actions better, it might allow us to think through our own thoughts before we retaliate with words or actions.
 
In our Gospel reading Jesus is in full flow in his ‘sermon’.  He is challenging everything that the Jewish people had been taught, had lived their daily lives by.
Jesus is not asking his hearers to abandon everything they know, but just to look at it in a different light.  One of the oldest laws in the land is that of Lex Talionis, the law of retribution, whereby a punishment resembles the offence committed in kind and degree.  Jesus quotes from the Old Testament, “You have heard that is was said, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”  It was the law which gave a private individual the right to extract vengeance, but it was a law that limited that vengeance.  Only those who committed the injury could be punished and that their punishment would not be more that the injury they inflicted or the damage they did.
It was a law that deliberately limited vengeance, a law of mercy, the punishment would fit the crime.  A saying that comes to mind that I remember learning in history classes at school is, “You might as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb”, in other words, because the punishment for a bad actions and an even worse one will be the same, our have no reason not to do the worse one!
Lex Talionis – the law of tit for tat, eliminated this, it was and still is a guide for a judge in the assessment of the penalty which any violent or unjust deed must receive.  It limits vengeance.
But Jesus challenges us not to be vengeful, not to seek retaliation, but to show love for our enemy, and to pray for those who persecute you.
Sometimes standing up for injustices, saying not to others’ actions, calling out situations, is difficult to do and hard to live with when others around you insult you or are vengeful towards you because of this.  challenging the norm is not popular.  It is said that when William Wilberforce began campaigning to free the slaves of the British Empire, ‘Some people deliberately spread slanderous rumours that he was a cruel husband and a wife-beater’.  Jesus ask us to pray for those who persecute us.
If someone hates us, or indeed, we hate someone, we need to pray for them every day.  Yes, every day, because hating someone takes up so much energy and leaves no room for love in our hearts.  If we pray for someone daily we will find it harder to hate that person when we are regularly takin the time to pray for them.  Martin Luther King Jr. said this, “We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive.  He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love.  There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us.  When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.”
We must also be very aware of the language we use to describe people who don’t look the same, think the same, or act the same as we do.  When we use ‘them’ and ‘us’ in a negative way it becomes a language that causes division.  When we use this language, we are de-humanising the other person… those people… the enemy, and we create battle lines.
It becomes what Jesus tells us not to do, retribution and revenge rather than reconciliation and understanding.  We fail to listen to someone completely.  Retribution and revenge shows no compassion, it doesn’t try to heal the brokenness, it shows no hope of a reconciling relationship.  We need to stop being fair towards one another and start loving one another, because if we are fair with people then we can be unfair, and it becomes a never-ending circle.
Our Gospel passage ends with these words, ‘Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect’.
One definition of perfect is, ‘completely free from faults’.
I don’t know about you, but I know that I am not perfect in that sense.  I try, but sometimes my actions are not mirrored in my thought.  Whereas you can see my outward actions, it is God who sees my inner thoughts.
The Greek word used in this verse is téleios, and it has different meanings.  It can mean complete or mature.  So, with this definition it is much easier to be mature and still have flaws, than it is to be without error or without flaws.  A six-year old can be mature for their age, and still have a lot of growing to do, just like a person can be ‘holy’ and have a lot to learn about spiritual maturity.  Jesus is asking, no telling us to aspire to completeness, to full maturing in our thinking and actions like God is.
 
So, in this week of Remembrance, who will we be still for and listen to, who will we show a reconciling relationship to, who will we pray for, who will we love?
 
Amen

Hymn       Christ be our light
                  Bernadette Farrell

1 Longing for light, we wait in darkness. 
Longing for truth, we turn to you. 
Make us your own, your holy people, 
light for the world to see. 
 
Christ, be our light!
Shine in our hearts.
Shine through the darkness.
Christ, be our light!
Shine in your church gathered today.

2 Longing for shelter, many are homeless.
Longing for warmth, many are cold.
Make us your building, sheltering others,
walls made of living stone.

Christ, be our light!
Shine in our hearts.
Shine through the darkness.
Christ, be our light!
Shine in your church gathered today.

3 Many the gifts, many the people,
many the hearts that yearn to belong.
Let us be servants to one another,
making your kingdom come.

Christ, be our light!
Shine in our hearts.
Shine through the darkness.
Christ, be our light!
Shine in your church gathered today.

Affirmation of Faith

(based on Luke 21)

When nation rises against nation, and kingdom against kingdom,
the end is not violence:
for there is a God of resilient, redeeming love,
   and the Brighter Purpose is at work in the shadows,
      and the darkness cannot smother it.
Lord we believe, strengthen our timid faith.

When there are earthquakes, famines and pestilences
and collisions among the stars,
the end is not chaos:
God the Creator of the heavens and the earth has not forsaken us,
   and the harmony will again break out and gather
      to hasten towards consummation.
Lord we believe, strengthen our timid faith.

When believers are arrested and abused,
dragged before kings and governors,
the end is not injustice:
the Holy Spirit is always with you in all your trials and travail,
   and words will be given to confound your adversaries
      and shake the gates of hell.
Lord we believe, strengthen our timid faith.

When parents, brothers, sisters, relatives or friends,
betray you even unto death,
the end it not alienation:
   the crucified Christ will reconcile all things seen and unseen,
      and the glorious finale is much nearer than when you first believed.
Lord we believe, strengthen our timid faith.

~ written by Bruce Prewer, and posted on Bruce Prewer’s Home Page.  http://www.bruceprewer.com/
 
Offertory

As we acknowledge your goodness and creative love,
accept these gifts we bring today,
as we dedicate ourselves to be your people on earth.
Amen.
 
Doxology:
Praise God, from who all blessings flow;
Praise him, all creatures here below;
Praise him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
 
 
Intercessions

On this Remembrance Sunday, let us bring to God our prayers for others.
Let us pray
We give thanks that in a world so complicated we cannot understand it all, people seek peace and address evil in so many different ways, each determined and brave, each making a difference for good or ill but doing their best.  So, we give thanks and pray blessing for:
Men and women who are willing to stand between enemies to make it impossible for them to hurt each other.
The staff of United Nations agencies dedicated to the rights of children, the feeding of the hungry, the protection of the earth’s ecology, the rescue of refugees, the dignity of citizens in every country.
Charities established to support those affected by conflict: the British Legion, Help for Heroes, the Erskine Hospital, the Earl Haig Fund.
Experts in mediation, working with those who suffer brokenness in family life, in business relationships, in churches and community organisations.
People of power in countries of fragility, with the chance to keep peace and the chance to bring about war on helpless populations.
Voices of hope that speak the words that bring a sense of peace, that sing the songs that inspire justice, that describe the touch that gives gentleness to the world.
People known to us who can be impatient or aggressive when they are afraid, and who need to be loved and reassured even when they think they are in charge.
People known to us who give us stillness and quietness in our souls and make peacemakers of us by magic.
People of prayer who reach and hear and see the peace of Christ every day and carry it about as a gift to the world, free and flowing.
 
Lord, hear our prayers as we join together in the prayer your Son taught his Disciples,
 
Hymn       Thine be the glory
                  Edmond Budry

Thine be the glory
Risen conquering Son
Endless is the victory
Thou o’er death hast won

Angels in bright raiment
Rolled the stone away
Kept the folded grave clothes
Where Thy body lay

Lo! Jesus meets us, risen from the tomb
Lovingly, He greets us, scatters fear and gloom
Let the church with gladness, hymns of triumph sing
For her Lord now liveth, death has lost its sting.

Thine be the glory
Risen conquering Son
Endless is the victory
Thou o’er death hast won

No more we doubt Thee, glorious Prince of life
Life is naught without Thee, aid us in our strife
Make us more than conquerors, through Thy deathless love
Bring us safe through Jordan, to Thy home above.

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