URC Daily Devotions Sunday Service for 6th February 2022 – The Revd. Clare Downing

Daily Devotions from the United Reformed Church
Service for Sunday 6th February 2022
Photo credit: Ugur Akdemir/Unsplash
The Rev’d Clare Downing
Moderator of the General Assembly
Hello. My name is Clare Downing and I am delighted to be able to share in today’s service. My ‘day job’ is as Synod Moderator for Wessex, and I am based in the centre of the synod, near Basingstoke.

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       Holy, Holy, Holy
Reginald Heber (1783-1826) (alt.)

Holy, holy, holy,
Lord God almighty!
early in the morning
our song shall rise to thee;
holy, holy, holy,
merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons,
blessed Trinity!
2  Holy, holy, holy!
All the saints adore thee,
casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
cherubim and seraphim
falling down before thee,
which wert and art and
evermore shalt be.

3 Holy, holy, holy!
Though the darkness hide thee,
though the sinful human eye
thy glory may not see,
only thou art holy;
there is none beside thee,
perfect in power, in love,
and purity.
4 Holy, holy, holy,
Lord God almighty!
all thy works shall praise thy name in earth and sky and sea;
holy, holy, holy!
Merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons,
blessed Trinity.


Prayers of Approach, Forgiveness and Assurance
God, who speaks through creation, we thank you for the wonder of the universe around us, and for our own lives.
God, who speaks through Jesus, we thank you for his words of wisdom and of challenge. For the way in which his life, death and resurrection continue to change the world today.
God who speaks by the Spirit – through the still small voice, through the words of others – we thank you for your continuing call to us, for your challenge to change, for your presence within.
We come, knowing that we do not live up to our own standards, let alone yours.
         For the times when we don’t listen for your voice;
         for the times we listen, but go our own way;
         for the times when you call us to speak, and we remain silent;
         forgive us.
God speaks to us, and offers forgiveness, restoration and renewal.
Listen – and accept God’s offer.
Thanks be to God. Amen.
Prayer of Illumination
Lord, speak to us afresh through your word. Help us to hear your call to follow, to serve and to share the good news. Amen
Isaiah 6:1-8
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said:
‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.’
The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke.  And I said: ‘Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!’
Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs.  The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: ‘Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.’ Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I; send me!’
Hymn       God Is In His Temple
Gerhardt Tersteegen; Paraphraser: William T. Matson (1887)

God is in His temple,
the almighty Father,
round His footstool let us gather:
Him with adoration
serve, the Lord most holy,
who has mercy
on the lowly;
let us raise hymns of praise
for His great salvation:
God is in His temple!

2: Christ comes to His temple:
we, His Word receiving,
are made happy in believing.
Lo! from sin delivered,
He has turned our sadness,
our deep gloom,
to light and gladness!
Let us raise hymns of praise,
for our bonds are severed:
Christ comes to His temple!

3: Come and claim Thy temple,
gracious Holy Spirit!
In our hearts Thy home inherit:
make in us Thy dwelling,
Thy high work fulfilling,
into ours
Thy will instilling,
till we raise hymns of praise
beyond mortal telling,
in the eternal temple.


St Luke 5:1-11
Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God,  he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets.  He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.  When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.’  Simon answered, ‘Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.’  When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break.  So they signalled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink.  But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!’  For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken;  and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.’  When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.
Sometimes the language of the Bible goes over the top. Jesus himself is fond of a bit of hyperbole. But today’s reading from Isaiah seems to start with the opposite approach. After the previous chapter of woe and judgement, and starting with a little bit of context – the year King Uzziah died – he says (as if it were quite a normal occurrence) “I saw the Lord…” No clues as to where the prophet was, or what he had been doing. No suggestion of fasting and prayer. Just those words “I saw the Lord…”
Of course he then goes on to say something more of the experience – God’s robe filling the space, seraphs flying, whilst covering both their eyes and their dignity with spare wings and calling to each other, proclaiming the holiness and glory of God. It may be reported in a simple factual way – “I saw the Lord…” – but the whole experience is overwhelming.
§Simon too is overwhelmed. After a night of unsuccessful fishing, he responds to Jesus’ instruction – calling him ‘master’ – and, with his friends lets the nets down again, only to be overwhelmed by fish. So many fish that the nets were at risk of breaking.
Two people, centuries apart overwhelmed by their experience of God. It begs the question of our own experiences. Putting it bluntly, when was the last time I had any sense of being overwhelmed by God’s presence?
Of course these were very particular moments in the life of the prophet and the disciple. But they are important experiences. In our reformed tradition it is easy to be wary of faith built on feelings, but as humans we have both intellect and emotion. Being overwhelmed sounds a bit dangerous. If I am overwhelmed, I’m not in control. But for God to work with Isaiah and Simon, perhaps they need to have that moment of feeling very small in God’s presence.
Although the actual circumstances of their encounters are very different, Simon and Isaiah have similar responses to their experience of God. Both are overcome by a sense of their own inadequacy. They see themselves as not being good enough to be in the presence of God. “Woe is me” says Isaiah – who describes himself and his people of having unclean lips. Peter’s response is “Go away from me – I am sinful”.
§ We are human, and sinful. We may not have committed any great crimes, but we make mistakes, bad decisions, selfish choices. More than that, we, unlike God, are not whole – we are not holy.
In our day and age, we tend to avoid the words sin and holiness. We emphasise God’s love, God’s closeness to us, but can forget God’s ‘otherness’. When we have an experience of being overwhelmed by God, surely our response, like Simon, like Isaiah, should be to recognise how much we fall short of God’s standards.
§But if we stop there, then we miss out on the whole point of these encounters. The experience of being overwhelmed by God’s presence, and overcome by a sense of our own inadequacy is nothing unless it leads to action. Both Isaiah and Simon recognising the greatness of God and their own smallness, don’t run away, but are overtaken by God’s plan for them.
In Isaiah there is a symbol of the blotting out of sin, with the burning coal. It is, of course, later in the gospels, after the resurrection, that Jesus provides breakfast cooked over hot coals, and reassures his disciple – calling him Simon again, even though he has been known as Peter for the previous three years – that he is loved and forgiven.
But for both of them, the encounters we have read about this morning lead them outwards. Not concentrating on their own limitations, but responding to God’s call. Jesus tells Simon that he’s going to be catching people, not fish – and Simon’s response is to leave everything and follow. Isaiah responds to God’s question – “whom shall I send?” “Here I am” he says, “send me”. Both of them answer a call. Both leave their own ways behind, and follow a new path.
To be ready to respond to God’s call, perhaps we need to be overwhelmed by our experience of God, overcome by a sense of our own smallness against God’s greatness, our own sinfulness in contrast to God’s holiness.
Then, in our own lives – and in our life together as the body of Christ – can be open to God’s call afresh. To be ready to say “here I am, send me”.
Hymn       Sent By the Lord Am I
© Jorge Maldonado

Sent by the Lord am I;
my hands are ready now
to make the earth the place
in which the kingdom comes.
Sent by the Lord am I;
my hands are ready now
to make the earth the place
in which the kingdom comes.
2  The angels cannot change
a world of hurt and pain
into a world of love,
of justice and of peace.
The task is mine to do,
to set it really free.
Oh, help me to obey;
help me to do your will.


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!
Prayers of intercession
The God who speaks, is also the God who listens to our prayers – spoken and unspoken – and so we bring our concerns to God.
Loving God we ask you to speak into the life of the world:
         … for those in political leadership, that they may be motivated by love, not power
         … for those in industry, that they may work for the common good, not just profit
         … for those who are lacking even the basic needs for life
We ask you to speak into the life of your church:
         … for ears that listen for your voice, and mouths that speak your truth
         … for hearts that long to worship and work for you
         … for the courage to change and the inspiration to look beyond our own wishes
We ask you to speak into the lives of those known to us:
         … for those who are struggling to hear your voice amid their own worries
         … for those who are sick in body, mind or spirit
         … for those we disagree with, and those we struggle to love
         … and in a moment of quietness we bring our own particular concerns to you.
And we ask you to speak into our lives, that we may hear your voice guiding us, and be your voice in the world.
We bring our prayers together as we share the prayer that Jesus taught his first followers:
The Lord’s Prayer
God is the giver of every good gift. We bring our offerings as a response to God’s generosity to us, and you are invited to dedicate your gifts alongside others who are sharing in this act of worship.
Generous God, we bring our offerings to you, asking that you will use both the gifts and the givers – all that we have and all that we are – to bring your good news into the world. Amen
Hymn       I the Lord of Sea and Sky
Daniel L. Schutte (b.1947) © 1981, OCP Publications, USA.

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?
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.

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 Word 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 God bless us with wisdom in our words
May God bless us with compassion in our actions
May God bless us with joy in our service,
May God, creator, son and spirit,
Bless us this day, and always.  Amen
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. All other liturgical material by the Rev’d Clare Downing.
Thanks to Mairi Macdonald, Graham Handscomb, Richard Church, Karen Smith, Kathleen Haynes and Sylvia Nutt for reading other spoken parts of the service.
Holy, Holy, Holy – Reginald Heber (1783-1826) (alt.). Recorded remotely by the Choral Scholars of St Martin-in-the-Fields.
God Is In His Temple – Gerhardt Tersteegen; Paraphraser: William T. Matson (1887) sung by the congregation of the Metropolitan Tabernacle, London.
Sent By the Lord Am I – © Jorge Maldonado sung by Matt Beckingham, used with permission
I the Lord of Sea and Sky – Daniel L. Schutte (b.1947) © 1981, OCP Publications, USA.  BBC Songs of Praise
Opening Organ Piece- Prelude in E Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach
(organ of The Spire Church, Farnham – 2020)
Closing Organ Piece- Trumpet Voluntary in D by John Baston
(organ of Basilica Santo Spirito, Florence, Italy – 2016)
Both pieces played by and received, with thanks, from Brian Cotterill http://briancotterill.webs.com

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