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URC Daily Devotions Sunday Service 7th August – Rev Dr Marion Tugwood 🙏

Sunday Worship from the United Reformed Church
for Sunday 7th August 2022

 
Today’s service comes from the Rev Marion Tugwood, a minister in the Greater Manchester South and Cheshire Missional Partnership in the North Western Synod
 
Call to Worship

The God of eternity calls us: Come, let us worship!

Willing to hear God’s voice, eager to serve God’s ways, the Jesus of the Gospels call us: Come, let us worship!

Willing to listen to stories, eager to walk in the way of Christ, the Spirit of holy adventure calls us: Come, let us worship!

Willing to go where the Spirit leads, eager to be challenged anew: Come, let us worship!

Hymn Praise My Soul the King of Heaven
Henry F Lyte 1834 The choir and congregation of Westminster Abbey

Praise, my soul,
the King of Heaven;
to His feet thy tribute bring! Ransomed, healed,
restored, forgiven,
who like me His praise should sing? Praise Him! praise Him!
Praise the everlasting King!
 

Praise Him
for His grace and favour
to our fathers in distress!
Praise Him still the same for ever, slow to chide, and swift to bless! Praise Him! praise Him!
Glorious in His faithfulness.

Fatherlike
He tends and spares us;
well our feeble frame He knows. In His hands He gently bears us, rescues us from all our foes. Praise Him! praise Him!
Widely as His mercy flows!
 

Angels, help us
to adore Him;
ye behold Him face to face:
sun and moon,
bow down before Him, dwellers all in time and space. Alleluia! Alleluia!
Praise with us the God of grace!
 

Prayers of Approach, Confession and Forgiveness

Awesome God,
when we consider your creating power, we stand amazed. You spoke, and worlds came into being:

the star-spangled universe, the beautiful green-blue earth,

the expanse of the heavens,

stretching beyond our imagination

the abundance of nature on land and in seas, from the tiniest insect to the great beasts that dwell in forest and savanna,
from minnows to the great whales

that frolic in the seas,
every one the work of your hands.

Awesome God
when we consider that out of dust
you created human beings, we stand amazed.
Flesh and bone, muscle and sinew, life and breath,
all working in harmony;
each unique and precious, the same yet different, gloriously diverse.

Awesome God,
we barely dare to stand before you –
you who are both mystery and yet present with us. And yet you call us to you.

You open your arms to greet us.
In Jesus you share our lives;
our sorrows and joys,
our disappointments and anxieties, our hopes and dreams.

Awesome God,

we respond to your call and come to worship you.

And even as we sing your praise and reflect on your goodness

we are aware of our own shortcomings and failures.
Though we seek to follow Jesus, we often give up when the path is hard, We follow our own desires instead of listening to your voice.
We harden our hearts to the needs of others and put ourselves first.

We bring to you what we would have you change in us.
 

Silence is kept
 

Awesome God,
love is your nature and forgiveness freely given.
Renew and restore us to live your ways and be your people Amen.

With thanksgiving we accept your mercy and grace, newness of life and endless fresh beginnings.

Gracious God let us trust in your words of healing and life. For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is Your love for those who fear You;
as far as the east is from the west,

so far have You removed our transgressions from us.

Amen
 

Prayer for Illumination

O God,
open our ears to Your Word; open our hearts to Your Love;

open our minds to Your wisdom.
As we hear the Scriptures,
let us know You speaking to us.
Let us see Jesus showing Your way.
Let Your Spirit move us to action in the world. Open our ears, our hearts, our minds.

Amen

Reading

Isaiah 1:1, 10-20

The vision of Isaiah son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of

Judah. Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom! Listen to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah! What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt- offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of

bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. When you come to appear before me, who asked this from your hand? Trample my courts no more; bringing offerings is futile; incense is an abomination to me.

New moon and sabbath and calling of convocation— I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity. Your new moons and your appointed festivals my soul hates; they have become a burden to me, I am weary of bearing them. When you stretch out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands

are full of blood. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow. Come now, let us argue it out, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

Hymn As the Deer Pants for the Water
Martin Nystrom 1984 Universal Music BBC Songs of Praise
 

As the deer pants for the water so my soul longs after You.
You alone are my heart’s desire and I long to worship You.

You alone
are my strength, my shield.
To You alone may my spirit yield.
You alone are my heart’s desire 
and I long to worship You.

I want You more than gold and silver – only You can satisfy.
You alone are the real joy giver and the apple of my eye.
 

You’re my friend and You are my brother even though You are a King.
I love You more than any other so much more than anything.

Reading

St Luke 12:32-40

Jesus said: ‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also ‘Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for

him as soon as he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves. ‘But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.’

Sermon

Some years ago, my sister died. As she lived in a rented house, all her belongings had to be sorted out very quickly, my niece worked their way through her books and music, deciding what to keep and what to donate to charity. She bundled Margarett’s clothes into bags for the charity shops, along with a vast collection of handbags. I am sure that many of you have had similar experiences. The hardest part was deciding what to keep for herself; what memory did she want to carry; what precious thing reminded her of Margarett? What would bring her close to a daughter’s heart? In the end she kept a jumper that still held the smell of perfume, and a little box, what we might call a trinket box, a little box that had held the few treasures that Margarett possessed, and that she had already given away when she knew that her illness was terminal. But the box was a reminder of her, of her generosity and love, of how little she was concerned about worldly treasure. In its way it was a tiny sign of the Kingdom of God.
 

In the passage in Luke, Jesus asks us, what is it that it important? What encapsulates the Kingdom of God for you? What is it that you hold that gives witness to your faith in God? To the presence of Jesus in your life? To your understanding that the Spirit is at work in the world? Perhaps it’s a Bible given to you at baptism or on membership, perhaps something passed onto you from a person who accompanied you on your journey of faith, perhaps a picture or an icon, or a little box…
 

The treasures that are close to our hearts are the ones that we can speak of in a way that the hearer will understand just what they mean to us, how important they are, that they matter deeply. Jesus invites us to live in a way that expresses our faith, to have hearts that belong to him. If our treasure is in Jesus, then the invitation is to live in a way that is not fearful, that is open-handed and open-hearted. “Do not be afraid, little flock” he says to us, live the Kingdom in a world that doesn’t understand it, live the Kingdom in a culture that says the opposite. Be willing to accept the gifts that God has given to you, and, secure in your relationship with God you can sit lightly to earthly possessions, you can find time to care about and for the vulnerable, you can serve with joy not duty. In a society, in a time, where we are beset by fear, where just as we were coming out of a time of international fear following the pandemic, we face more fear as war stalks Europe, into this fear, the fear that makes us hold tight to possessions, that encourages us to be less generous, Jesus speaks. And Jesus encourages, invites us to be a church where people – all of us – are so rooted in the promise of God’s good pleasure, of an understanding that we are beloved daughters and sons of the living God, that we are affirmed in who we are and what we are worth, that we can see all of those possibilities and qualities in those around us and offer God’s love wherever we are – at home, at work, at school and college, in our volunteering. This is the worship that Isaiah refers to as pleasing to God – the care for others, the building of community, that active worship that accompanies our words and song.
 

And all of this is a prelude to the coming of the Kingdom. Following the words about our treasure, the invitation to share that treasure, the love and relationship that God offers to all, Jesus gives us a story, a parable, about the slaves waiting for the master to return. So, let’s think about those verses for a few moments. The slaves belong to the master. They are his. We might suggest that Jesus is here speaking to his followers – you belong to me, he is saying. And so, there is another invitation. The invitation to remain awake, to stay alert, to be ready. The right heart leading to the right action is the readiness we need. The slaves are to be “dressed for action,” at the time of Jesus, men wore long, loose, flowing garments. In order to work, they had to gird their robes about their waists to permit freedom of movement. Waiting slaves must live with their flowing clothes tied about their waists so they can spring into action for their master at a moment’s notice. They must also keep their lamps full of oil and burning, so that they can see to respond instantly should their master return in the middle of the night.
Only by living in such readiness will they be prepared to welcome him properly when he comes home and knocks at the door. If we identify with the slaves, then this is a call to live expectantly, to live the Kingdom so that we are ready to take our place in it when it comes. So far, so good.
But there is an unexpected twist in the story. The slaves are alert; waiting; ready, expecting to serve the master when he arrives with his bride. Instead, the master serves them, waits on them as equals, as honoured guests, blesses them for doing no more than they were expected to do, because they belonged to him. What a message for us! If we make Jesus our treasure, if we follow his ways as best we can, if we try to let go of our fear and trust God, God’s immeasurable love will be poured out on us.
 

So, we are invited, called, to be ready. And then, after the parable, Jesus brings us an unusual analogy for the coming of the Son of Man – the thief in the night. Unexpected. Taking the householder by surprise. So perhaps Jesus is reinforcing the parable. Be watching, be waiting because we don’t know when he will come. Or perhaps there is a deeper message for us; the thief comes to stela. What would Jesus steal from us? In the Kingdom our false priorities will be taken from us, unjust structures in society overturned, our complacency and lack of attentiveness to Kingdom values here and now will be stripped away. When the Kingdom comes things can never be the same again.
But in the meantime, in the in-between, now and not-yet time that we live in our priorities as individual followers of Jesus and as church need to be set by God’s agenda and not our own – or at least our own should be in harmony with the Kingdom agenda.
Whatever the calls and promise of the world, of political parties, of the marketplace, our ears and eyes must be open to God and God’s ways. And then, when the thief breaks in, there will be nothing to steal, but a banquet to be shared.
 

Do not be afraid.
Live the Kingdom.
Wait in the darkness, with lit lamps.
Follow Jesus, until the Kingdom comes, and God’s will is truly done on earth as in heaven.
 

Hymn Take My Life
Frances R. Havergal (1874) from the Chet Valley Churches

Take my life and let it be
consecrated, Lord, to thee.
Take my moments and my days;
let them flow in endless praise.
 

Take my hands and let them move
at the impulse of thy love.
Take my feet and let them be
swift and beautiful for thee.
 

Take my voice and let me sing always,
only, for my King.
Take my lips and let them be
filled with messages from thee.
 

Take my silver and my gold;
not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect and use
every power as thou shalt choose.

Take my will and make it thine;
it shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart it is thine own;
it shall be thy royal throne.
 

Take my love; my Lord,
I pour at thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself, and I will be
ever, only, all for thee.

Offering

God’s love for us knows no bounds. In Jesus, God comes into the mess and muddle of our humanity and makes it sacred. We bring our gifts to God. Gifts that we offer out of the ordinariness that is our daily living. Gifts that we offer in gratitude for all that God has done for us through the Cross and Resurrection. Gifts that we bring inspired by the Sprit to offer with our thanks, praise, and ourselves.

O God,
We offer our gifts as symbols of our lives.
Help us to use these and all of your gifts wisely,
Bless our offering of money and of ourselves
and use all to build your Kingdom and share your love. Amen

Prayers of Intercession

God, Creator, Healer, Sustainer, we bring to you our prayers

We pray for the world in all its beauty and pain: the land stripped bare of resources by human greed, the animals and plants driven to extinction the oceans overfished and exploited.

Silence is kept

We pray for those who call us to account for our misuse of the planet

Give them courage to speak and give us courage to act to protect the globe. We pray for the healing of the world

We pray for your people, each one made in your image:
those caught up in war, living in fear, fleeing in terror,
those dying in places of famine, where enough is a distant dream, those burdened by poverty in lands filled with wealth.

Silence is kept

We pray for all who speak for justice and equity among peoples and nations:
those who broker peace in the face of hunger for power. Give them courage to speak
and give us courage to act with and for those in need

We pray for the healing of the nations.

We pray for your Church in every place
sent out by the flame and wind of Pentecost
to tell your story and be your love.
We pray for the unity that comes through Christ.
We pray that your Church may rejoice in diversity of worship and style and that all may be pleasing to you.
We pray that your Church may serve you in Spirit and in truth

Silence is kept
 

We pray for those who call us to unity and friendship,
who challenge us to inclusion for all, justice for all, fullness of life for all; give them courage to speak and give is courage to serve
We pray for the healing of the Church.

We pray for ourselves:
carrying the burdens we bring and cannot let go of, the unspoken and unhealed hurts, grief in its fresh rawness or the dull ache of time.

We pray for those we know in need of your presence today and in the days to come.
 

Silence is kept

We pray for healing and wholeness that we may more faithfully follow Jesus and serve the world.
In the name of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit,
Amen.

 

Hymn Be Thou My Vision
6th Century Irish Traditional BBC Songs of Praise

Be Thou my vision,
O Lord of my heart.
Be all else but naught to me, save that Thou art.
Be Thou my best thought,
in the day and by night
O waking or sleeping,
Thy presence my light.

Be Thou my wisdom,
be Thou my true word.
Be Thou ever with me
and I with thee, Lord.
Be Thou my great Father,
and I Thy true son.
Be thou in me dwelling
and I with Thee one.

Be Thou my breastplate, my sword for the fight.
Be Thou my whole armour,
be Thou my true light.
Be Thou my soul’s shelter, 
be Thou my strong tower, 
raise Thou me heav’nward,
O Power of my power.
 

High King of heaven,
Thou heaven’s bright sun,
O grant me its joys,
after vict’ry is won;
Great Heart of my own heart,
whatever befall,
still be Thou my vision,
O Ruler of all.
 

Blessing

Send us out with hearts filled with love. Send us out in the name of Jesus.
Send us out in the power of the Spirit. Send us out alert to need, awake to opportunities to be and tell Good News. Send us with your blessing Holy God.

And may that same God, Mother and Father to us all, Jesus our brother, and the Spirit of joy and hope, be with us and in us, around us and before us, in all our coming and going, today and always.

Amen.

 
Thanks to Hannah Clark, Rhona Newby, Diana Cullum-Hall, Sue Cresswell, David Shimmin and Hilary Eveleigh for recording some of the spoken parts.  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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