URC Daily Devotions Sunday Service for 23rd January 2022 – The Revd. Catherine McFie

Daily Devotions from the United Reformed Church

Service for Sunday 23rd January 2022

Picture Credit Kamil Mehmood/Unsplash
The Rev’d Catherine McFie

Hello and welcome to worship.  My name is Catherine McFie and I am a minister within Mersey Synod.  Half my time is dedicated to being the minister of two congregations in the Liverpool area: St Columba, Hunts Cross and St George’s, Maghull. The other half of my time is given over to two Synod based roles.  Ministry in Liverpool is varied and exciting and it is a privilege to work with and among the people of this city.
Let us worship God
Call To Worship
Come, let us ring out our joy to the Lord; hail the rock who saves us. Let us come into God’s presence, giving thanks; let us hail the Eternal One with a song of praise. A mighty God is the Lord, a great king above all gods.  In God’s hands are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains belong to God. To the Eternal One belongs the sea,  for God made it and shaped the dry land. O come; let us bow and bend low. Let us kneel before the One who made us, for the Eternal One is our God and we the people who belong to the royal pasture, the flock that is led by hand.
Hymn       O For A Thousand Tongues To Sing
Charles Wesley


O for a thousand tongues, to sing
my great Redeemer’s praise,
the glories of my God and King,
the triumphs of his grace!
2: My gracious Master & my God,
assist me to proclaim,
to spread through all
the earth abroad
the honours of thy name.
3: Jesus! the name
that charms our fears,
that bids our sorrows cease;
’tis music in the sinner’s ears,
’tis life, and health, and peace.
4: He speaks, and,
listening to his voice,
new life the dead receive,
the mournful, broken
hearts rejoice,
the humble poor believe.
5: He breaks the power
of cancelled sin,
he sets the prisoner free;
his blood can make
the foulest clean,
his blood availed for me.
6: See all your sins on Jesus laid,
the Lamb of God was slain.
His soul was once
an offering made
for every one of us. 


Prayers of Approach and Confession 

Amazing God
At the beginning of time your words brought the world into being.
Your breath gave us the gift of life.
How majestic, awesome and wonderful you are,
yet at the same time you are tender, loving and kind.
We lift our songs of praise to your name. 
Generous God,
each day we receive gifts from you.
The gift of this new day and the opportunities it presents to us.
The gift of food and water that sustain us,
the gift of love and friendship that supports us.
We remember the most precious gift you have given us,
your Son Jesus, who showed us how life should be lived
and gave his life that we may live.
We lift our songs of thanksgiving to your name. 
Forgiving God,
in your presence we become aware of our unworthiness.
Lord, we confess before you that we have not followed our calling:
We have not served you as we should.
We have not cared for others as we ought.
We fall short in so many ways, putting ourselves above others.
We have come to say that we are sorry and in a moment of silence we bring before you our private petitions.
Because of what Jesus did, our sins are forgiven.
As we surrender our all to your will
we pray for an outpouring of your holy spirit on each of us,
guide our thoughts, our words and our actions.
In Jesus name we pray, Amen.
Prayer of Illumination
Living God,
speak to us now as we hear your word read and proclaimed,
that we may listen, understand and act,
to your glory, Amen.

St Luke 4:14 – 21  

Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country.  He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.
When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read,  and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
        to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
    and recovery of sight to the blind,
        to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’
And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.  Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’
Hymn       The Kingdom of God is Justice and Joy
Bryn A. Rees 1973

The kingdom of God
is justice and joy;
for Jesus restores
what sin would destroy.
God’s power and glory
in Jesus we know;
and here and hereafter
the kingdom shall grow.
2 The kingdom of God
is mercy and grace;
the captives are freed,
the sinners find place,
the outcast are welcomed
God’s banquet to share;
and hope is awakened
in place of despair.
3 The kingdom of God
is challenge and choice:
believe the good news,
repent and rejoice!
God’s love for us sinners
brought Christ to his Cross:
our crisis of judgement
for gain or for loss.
4 God’s kingdom is come,
the gift and the goal;
in Jesus begun,
in heaven made whole.
The heirs of the kingdom
shall answer his call;
and all things cry “Glory!”
to God all in all.



The events in today’s reading take place after Jesus has been baptised and he has spent some time in the wilderness. Jesus returned to Galilee, and he was teaching in local synagogues. Everyone had good things to say about this new teacher and news about Jesus was spreading throughout the surrounding area.
Jesus travelled to Nazareth, the place of his childhood so he wasn’t coming as a stranger. The people of Nazareth had probably heard some of the news that was circulating around the local villages. Maybe this news made people more curious, after all Jesus was one of their own. Maybe others were wondering what the fuss was all about, after all it was only Jesus. I wonder how Jesus felt, returning home when everyone was talking about his teaching?
On the Sabbath Jesus went to the synagogue as was his custom. Luke is careful to point out that the worship of God and attending the synagogue was a part of Jesus’ everyday life.
Just like our services, worship at the synagogue took on a predictable pattern which began with the reciting of the Shema. Within worship any man could be invited to read from scrolls of the Torah and the prophets or give a sermon. On this Sabbath, Jesus stands to read, and he is given the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Jesus unrolls the scroll until he finds the passage he is looking for and begins to read. 
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”
This reading would have been familiar to many present.  Jesus had selected one of the passages in which Isaiah described the servant of the Lord, and these verses had become interlinked with the promise of a Messiah.
As Jesus sat down all the eyes of the synagogue were fixed on him. The people were waiting for Jesus to continue with a sermon and they were anxious to hear what Jesus would say about this important messianic text. Jesus continues from his seat and gives the shortest sermon ever – “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” That was it. Jesus didn’t expand or explain, he didn’t take questions. His teaching on this passage totalled 9 words and left the people to work out for themselves the full meaning of his declaration.
This was a bold move for Jesus. Right at the start of his ministry Jesus uses scripture to make it very clear what his ministry is all about. But even as we read these words today, we can see that they are open to interpretation. Were the people in the synagogue interpreting the words they heard in the same as Jesus?
1st century Galilee was not a great place to live. The people lived under Roman occupation, and this was all the people listening had known. They were allowed to practice their faith, but they did so in the shadow of the gods of Rome. The people paid taxes to Rome and so supported the military regime that oppressed them, and from which they received no benefit. Life expectancy within this community was about half that of those who lived in the capitol. Life was hard so you can understand why some would have interpreted the text in a particular way. Hopes would have been raised and if you carry on reading the chapter you can find out how Jesus’ words are received. But for the moment let’s focus on what Jesus did say.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…” Our passage begins with this very fact. Jesus begins his ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit. In the account we have of Jesus baptism, we know that God’s Spirit descended upon him. The time spent in the wilderness, including a time of temptation, appears to have been a time of strengthening. Now as Jesus begins his ministry in earnest he does not do so in his own strength but in the strength of God, given through the Spirit.
“Bring good news to the poor…”  We could interpret the poor to simply be people with no money, but this gives us a very narrow understanding. In this context I think the poor refers to people who have no power, no prestige, no voice or are overlooked by society. Now that our thinking has been expanded beyond simple economics what would good news look like? Good news could be showing people that they matter, that they have value and have something to offer the wider community. It could be about listening to them, hearing what they say, calling them by name and showing them the respect that they are due because they are a person made in God’s image. It could be about showing them how God loves them and telling them they can experience God’s forgiveness because of Jesus.
“Proclaim release to the captives…”  When we hear the word captives we think about people in prison. Jesus’ ministry was not about challenging the criminal justice system of his time, but it was about freeing people from sin. The good news that Jesus brought released people from the control sin had over people’s lives. Of course, this doesn’t mean that we won’t sin again, unfortunately that is part of our human nature. It does mean that we will no longer experience the consequences of sin, eternal separation from God.
“Recovery of sight to the blind…” While Jesus does miraculously restore the physical sight of a blind person, in this passage Jesus is referring to spiritual blindness. Jesus will restore the sight of those who can no longer see the reality of God in their midst. For Jesus listeners, practicing their faith was more about keeping the Law and living in a particular way than having a relationship with God and Jesus’ ministry challenged that practice. Jesus, taught from the perspective of someone who is living their life differently. Jesus had that close relationship with God, and he was under the power of God’s Spirit, however, he lived within the confines of the Jewish faith. Jesus knew the Scriptures, understood what was important, what was being misinterpreted and he knew how to change people’s understanding.
“Let the oppressed go free….” This is about justice and equality. Where there is injustice and inequality there is oppression, and someone is suffering. Jesus was speaking to a people who were being oppressed but this was also a time of slavery, a time when the Jewish people held Gentiles in distain and considered them excluded from God’s chosen people. This was also a time when women and children had no rights. Jesus’ words would have been words of hope to many listening.
“Proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour…” Scholars say that this is a reference to the year of Jubilee, an event that happens every 50 years during which land was returned to its original owner, slaves were set free, debts were cancelled. There is some debate as to whether this ever happened, but it is a time of disruption. When Jesus speaks these words, he is letting people know that his ministry would be a time of disruption, a time when he would challenge what people found comfortable and familiar and bring change.
Today…. The wait is over. After centuries of hope now, in this moment, they can see the Messiah and all the hopes of this passage are fulfilled.
As with all scripture our challenge is to understand what this passage says to us today. At the start of his ministry, Jesus proclaimed what his ministry would look like. Jesus was offering something new, something different, something exciting, something risky and we know that his ministry made a difference. Jesus changed people’s lives, he challenged people to rethink how they lived, how they practiced their faith, what they thought about God. This was the starting point. The end has yet to come so Jesus’ ministry still has a place in our world today.

  • There are still people who have no voice, no power, feel neglected and uncared for
  • There are still people who don’t know Jesus in their lives
  • There are still people who don’t believe that God exists or see faith as a Sunday only activity
  • There are still people being oppressed by unjust systems, slavery, and inequality

For almost 2000 years Jesus and his disciples have been turning the world upside down, challenging and changing it, but there is still work to do and that now falls to us to do.
We have the voice that can speak up and speak out.
We have the capacity to show others God’s love.
We have a gospel to share that tells others the difference Jesus can make in their lives.
We have a gospel that speaks to the existence of God and challenges us to do more than simply believe
We can challenge systems of injustice and inequality, and make a difference
We can continue to change and challenge this world, turning everything around.
The question today is not can we, but do we! We have opportunities to share the story of Jesus, the chance to make a difference to the lives of others, the voice to speak up and speak out against what we see is wrong in our community, country and world but do we seize these opportunities? I will leave you to ponder that question for yourself.
I want to finish where Luke begins because we often forget this part. As we focus on what Jesus had planned for his ministry, as we think about what this could mean for us today, we often forget that Jesus was doing this in the power of the Spirit. Jesus was not simply man against the world, he was a man, with God on his side, against the world. As disciples of Jesus today, we are not asked to go head-to-head with the world on our own, we are asked to go head-to-head with the world with the power of God in us and working through us.
This made a difference to Jesus and this will make the difference to us. As we reflect on this passage and consider how this applies to us today let us do so knowing that we too are filled with the power of the Spirit and can say with boldness “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me”.  Amen.

Hymn       Inspired by Love and Anger
John L. Bell (b.1949) and Graham Maule (b.1958)

Inspired by love and anger,
disturbed by need and pain,
informed of God’s own bias,
we ponder once again:
‘How long must some folk suffer?
How long can few folk mind?
How long dare vain self-interest
turn prayer and pity blind?’
2  From those for ever victims
of heartless human greed,
their cruel plight composes
a litany of need:
‘Where are the fruits of justice?
Where are the signs of peace?
When is the day when prisoners
and dreams find their release?’
3  From those for ever shackled
to what their wealth can buy,
the fear of lost advantage
provokes the bitter cry,
‘Don’t query our position!
Don’t criticise our wealth!
Don’t mention those exploited
by politics and stealth!’
4    God asks, ‘Who will go for me?
Who will extend my reach?
And who, when few will listen,
will prophesy and preach?
And who, when few bid welcome,
will offer all they know?
And who, when few dare follow,
will walk the road I show?’


Affirmation of Faith
As followers of Jesus Christ,
living in this world –
which some seek to control,
and others view with despair –
we declare with joy and trust;
Our world belongs to God!
From the beginning,
through all the crises of our times,
until the Kingdom fully comes,
God keeps covenant forever
Our world belongs to God!

We rejoice
in the goodness of God,
renounce the works of darkness,
and dedicate ourselves
to holy living, for:
Our world belongs to God!
As committed disciples,
called to faithful obedience
and set free for joyful praise,
we offer our hearts and lives to do God’s work in His world, for
Our world belongs to God!


With tempered impatience, eager to see injustice ended,
we expect the Day of the Lord
and we are confident that the light  that shines in the present darkness
will fill the earth  when Christ appears, for Our world belongs to God!


Loving God,
We hear Jesus’ words echoing down through the centuries, we seek to be part of that continuing mission today.
As we listen and consider what they say for us today, as we think about what you need us to do, people and situations come to mind and we recognise this as a call to prayer.
So, we come humbly before you with compassion in our hearts and offer up our prayers for others.
Caring God, today we pray

  • For the person who is different and looking for acceptance…
  • For the person who is scared and looking for safety…
  • For the person who is struggling and looking for support…
  • For the person who is angry and looking for peace…
  • For the person who doubts and looking for answers…
  • For the person who has power and looking for wisdom…
  • For the person who has hurt and looking for forgiveness…
  • For the person who is sick and looking for healing…

Hear our prayers Lord, and as we seek answers to these prayers may we be willing to be your hands and feet in our communities.
In Jesus name we pray.  Amen
Giving is a key facet our discipleship – we give because God first gave.  We give in many ways, of our time when we attend worship, with our love and our prayers, with our actions in serving others and, now, with our financial gifts.  Many of us give directly through our banks, many of us put money in our envelopes and get them to the church when we can, many of us simply put a gift in the collection plate as it passes.  However, we give, we give because it’s good for us.  Let us pray:
All good things come from you, O God, and of your own do we give you. Help us to use our gifts wisely in your service, Amen. 
Hymn       God’s Spirit Is In My Heart
The Rev’d Alan Dale & Fr Hubert J Richards 1969  


God’s Spirit is in my heart,
He has called me and set me apart.
This is what I have to do,
what I have to do.
He sent me to give
the Good News to the poor,
tell prisoners that
they are prisoners no more,
tell blind people that they can see,
and set the downtrodden free
And go tell everyone
the news that the
Kingdom of God has come,
And go tell everyone
the news that
God’s Kingdom has come.

2: Just as the Father sent me,
so I’m sending you out to be
my witnesses throughout
the world, the whole of the world.
3: Don’t carry a load in your pack,
you don’t need two shirts on your back,
workers can keep earn their own keep
can earn their own keep.
4: Don’t worry what you have to say,
don’t worry because on that day
God’s Spirit will speak in your heart,
will speak in your heart.



The Spirit is still at work among us, disciples of Christ,
sending us to bring good news to the poor,
to proclaim release to those in captivity,
to be healers and a freedom force against all oppression,
Go boldly as disciples, trusting in the Spirit’s guidance.

As we go from this time of worship,
we rejoice in the strength of God,
we fix our eyes on the grace of Christ,
and we drink deeply of the Spirit, who makes us one.

Sources and Thanks
Call to Worship adapted from the Revised Grail Version of Psalm 95 by Andy Braunston.    Affirmation of Faith  adapted by Andy Braunston from the Christian Reformed Church’s affirmation Our World Belongs To God. Prayer of Illumination and Offertory Prayer by Andy Braunston.  All other liturgical material by the Rev’d Catherine McFie. 
O For A Thousand Tongues To Sing – Charles Wesley performed by Maddy Prior and the Carnival Band.

The Kingdom of God is Justice and Joy – Bryn A. Rees 1973 © 1973 Alexander Scott sung by the Rev’d Paul Robinson
Inspired by Love and Anger – John L. Bell (b.1949) and Graham Maule (b.1958) © WGRG, Iona Community, Glasgow G2 3DH  Scotland.  Loaded to YouTube by Upper Clyde Parish Church

God’s Spirit Is In My Heart – The Rev’d Alan Dale & Fr Hubert J Richards 1969 © 1969 Vanguard Music Corp sung by Kathryn Crossweller
Organ Pieces
Ein Feste Burg (“A mighty fortress”) by Max Reger (organ of Basilica Santo Spirito, Florence, Italy – 2016)
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)
Both pieces played by and received, with thanks, from Brian Cotterill http://briancotterill.webs.com
Thanks to John Wilcox, David Shimmin, Sylvia Nutt, Rhona Newby and Karen Smith for reading various spoken parts of the service.

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