URC Daily Devotions Sunday Worship for 29th August 2021 – The Revd. Fiona Bennett

URC Daily Devotions Sunday Worship

Sunday 29th August 2021
The Revd. Fiona Bennett

Hello – I am Fiona Bennett. I serve as a minister at Augustine United Church which is in the centre of Edinburgh. It is good to share in worship with you this morning, and we worship together in one spirit in our many different locations.
Call To Worship
Come before the Lord with joyful songs, because God is good and generous, because we lack nothing. Let us enter God’s gates with thanksgiving and God’s courts with praise.
Serve the Lord with gladness, because of God’s greatness and justice,
because God puts an end to war, and to all forms of violence. Let us enter God’s gates with thanksgiving and God’s courts with praise.
Come before the Lord with joy because God is a faithful promises keeper;
God’s Word is eternal. Let us enter God’s gates with thanksgiving and God’s courts with praise.
Know that the Lord is God, and we are God’s own people, a community, the family of God. Let us enter God’s gates with thanksgiving and God’s courts with praise.
It is God who has made us to the praise of the Holy Name, and therefore today, in the same spirit, we have a festival to celebrate God’s peace. Let us enter God’s gates with thanksgiving and God’s courts with praise.
Hymn       Womb of life
                  Ruth C. Duck © 1992 GIA Publications Inc.


Womb of life, and source of being, .
home of ev’ry restless heart,
in your arms the worlds awakened;
you have loved us from the start.
We, your children, gather ’round you,
at the table you prepare.
Sharing stories tears and laughter,
we are nurtured by your care.
Mother, Brother, holy Partner;
Father, Spirit, Only Son:
we would praise your name forever,
one-in-three, and three-in-one.
We would share your life, your passion,
share your word of world made new,
ever singing, ever praising,
one with all, and one with you.

Prayers of Approach, Confession and Declaration of Forgiveness:
Within us,
Between us,
Beyond us,
The Spirit of God is weaving new life.
Holy One,
Your transforming Spirit
Nourishes our souls,
Draws us together,
Moves us to love.
We are filled with awe and gratitude at the new life you weave in us and throughout the earth.
Transforming One, awaken us to the beckoning of your Spirit;
To welcome her into the heart of our being, disempowering our fear and deepening our trust.
To work with her to turn from our prejudices and destructiveness, toward your gift of diversity.
To move with her in the dance of life; being transformed through death to life, and moving towards wholeness for all.
Spirit of Life, we invite you to weave in us and with us, as you birth anew our beings and world.
We united our prayers together in the Jesus Prayer or Lord’s prayer, using a form of words which is worshipful for us…
Prayer of Illumination / Song: Listen to the word which God has spoken
Listen to the Word which God has spoken
Listen to the one who is close at hand
Listen to the Voice which began creation
Listen even if you don’t understand.
Canadian traditional
Reading:  Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders;
and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.)
So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” He said to them, “Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honours me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.’ You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.”
Then he called the crowd again and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.” For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
For it is within the human heart that evil intentions come….
I would invite us to notice what this verse does NOT say, it does not say,
“Within the human heart that ONLY evil intentions come.”
In this conversation as Mark records it, Jesus is not saying the human heart is wicked beyond hope nor that humanity is only capable of evil; It is also within the human heart that good intentions come; It is within the human heart that loving intentions come.
And just like evil intentions, there is nothing outside a person that by going in can make pure. For it is from within the human heart that good intentions come… all these good things come from within and if evil defiles, then perhaps goodness sanctifies / complete?
Why am I starting with this thought? Well because Christianity has a strong legacy of trying to gain control over people by telling them how corrupt they are, and how much they need Jesus filtered through the church to save them.
Now as we look at the world around and our own behaviour, I would not for a moment suggest that humanity does not make corrupt and destructive choices again and again, but I begin all my thinking about life from a belief in the fundamental goodness of creation (which includes humanity), because creation comes from the heart of God and so is the good intention of God.
The heart, which Jesus talks about, is a wonderful part of God’s creation and gift of life – but, as Jesus is pointing out, we have choices in how we use it.
What is most challenging in this teaching from Jesus is not about the potential evil of the human heart, but the idea that in our hearts we make choices; how we react to anything is ultimately our own choice, within our own heart.
Now this is tough stuff. We cannot change and we cannot always control what happens to us in life, but how we react to it, is always our choice. We are not always responsible for the things which happen to us, but ultimately we are always responsible for how we respond. Some of the greatest wisdom in this comes from people who experience abuse, but who make a choice (often through long term support) not to be controlled or defined by their experience – so they choose to see and define themselves as survivors and not victims.
Or peace makers who choose not to respond to violence with violence.
These are some of the hard edge choices for the heart,
but there are softer edges where we all make choices in our heart each day; in how he response to ourselves and those around us…
The pharisees and scribes we heard about in the story, were in a tough position;
They were trying to up hold the culture and faith of the children of Abraham as an occupied nation;
some of them may have enjoyed enforcing rules on others as a way to exhort power,
but others would have been enforcing rules as a way to cling onto cultural identity and find some sense control under occupation.
They were not happy that Jesus did not enforce the same rules and they questioned him critically – their response to Jesus came out of fear.
Jesus too was a child of Abraham living under occupation, but he found the ability not to act out of fear or a need to control – he responded out of love.
Choices of the heart are tricky. They can bring life and they can destroy life. They can grow goodness or evil – and sometimes in the throes of responding to a situation it can be hard to know what is good…
A useful question to ask:
Am I responding to a situation or making a choice out of fear or out of love?
As life is unlocking and changing yet again, we are all being faced with many choices and many unpredictable situations to respond to:
Choices about meeting in person or online
Choices about how we spend our time
Choices about the priorities for our national budgets
Choices about how we do church
Choices about the sort of society we live in
Choices about the way we live and the health of the earth
There are the small daily choices and the bigger ones about how we participate in shaping the world.
Jesus invites us know that if the unlocked world is different to the world we knew before, that does not make it good or bad, it is how we respond to it, how we perceive it, how we treat it, how we live it  – these are the expression of our hearts, which will grow creativity or destructiveness.
All of our choices begin in our hearts and we must choose if we grow them in love or fear; for all choices grow and bear fruit.
Affirmation of Faith
We believe in the one and only God, Eternal Trinity, from whom, through whom and for whom all created things exist. God alone we worship; 
in God we put our trust.
We worship God, source and sustainer of creation, whom Jesus called Father, whose sons and daughters we are.
We worship God revealed in Jesus Christ, the eternal Word of God made flesh; who lived our human life, died for sinners on the cross; who was raised from the dead, and proclaimed by the apostles, Son of God; who lives eternally, as saviour and sovereign, coming in judgement and mercy,  to bring us to eternal life.
We worship God, ever present in the Holy Spirit; who brings this Gospel to fruition, assures us of forgiveness, strengthens us to do God’s will,
and makes us sisters and brothers of Jesus, sons and daughters of God.
We believe in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, united in heaven and on earth: on earth, the Body of Christ, empowered by the Spirit to glorify God and to serve humanity; in heaven, eternally one with the power, the wisdom and the love of God in Trinity.
We believe that, in the fullness of time, God will renew and gather in one all things in heaven and on earth through Christ, and be perfectly honoured and adored.
We rejoice in God who has given us being,  who shares our humanity to bring us to glory, our source of prayer and power of praise; to whom be glory, praise and adoration, now and evermore. Amen
Offering & Dedication
Let us dedicate our time, our talents, our resources
To the work of God’s realm, let us pray together:
Loving God,
All that we have and all that we are,
Are gifts of love from yourselves
We offer ourselves to you
Praying that you will take us, use us and transform us
That we may become part of your realm of love and justice
And that through us the whole world may be transformed.
In the name of Jesus we pray,
Holy Communion
Today we share together in bread and wine in different places.
But every time we share in this meal we connect with in the company and companionship of Jesus and of all who wish to share in this meal and to remember across the world and across time.
We gather together because Jesus invites us.
Jesus often enjoyed meals with friends.
We remember on a particular meal on the night before he died.
When darkness was beginning to fall,
he sat at table with the disciples in an upper room in Jerusalem.
At this Last Supper, he broke bread and took wine,
He told his disciples to remember him by following his example.
Here today, Jesus invites us to share bread and wine, and to remember.
We are invited just as we are in all our different locations;
All ages and races
All sexualities and abilities
All gender identities
However wealthy or poor
Faithful, Doubter, Seeker…
Together around this table and in his memory,
Jesus offers:
Nourishment for our minds and hearts
Companionship to steer our lives and world
Transformation in the Breath of Life
Hymn       This is the body of Christ
                  John L. Bell (1949 – ), © 1998 WGRG / The Iona Community
This is the body of Christ
Broken that we may be whole.
This cup as promised by God,
True to God’s Word,
Cradles our Lord
Food the good of us all.
Please pray with me:
Holy loving one
In this bread & wine we remember the life and story of Jesus;
We remember his way of self-offering love,
his path of death and resurrection
his wisdom of abundant life for all.
And his continued presence in the fire and breathe of the Spirit.
Open our minds to Gospel of your Realm on Earth.
As we take and break this bread, we give thanks for the goodness of the earth
and remember the vulnerability & brokenness in our lives and world;
May our brokenness nourish our love and transform our vision.
As we give thanks for the nourishment of this bread,
we remember hunger in many lives and bodies in our world.
May our hunger nourish us with generosity and transform our vision.
As we celebrate this cup of reconciliation,
we remember also the divisions in our lives and world, between families and friends, between nations and faith, between rich and poor.
May our thirst for peace shape us and transform our vision.
As we share together in many different places, we taste the gift of companionship,
And we remember humanity’s power to create and destroy.
We think on all who serve in frontline care at this time from healthcare to shop assistants.
And the collective power we all hold to support and protect each other.
May our companionship empower us to love and transform our vision.
Nourished by this meal may we live as Jesus showed us;
Savouring & sharing the good news of your Realm, this and everyday.
Hymn God Bless to us this bread
Text: © Frederico Pagura, Argentina/(English by John L. Bell) WGRG The Iona Community
God bless to us this bread;
And give bread to all those who are hungry,
And hunger for justice to all who are fed.
God bless to us this bread.
Let us eat together the broken bread and receive God’s goodness
Let us lift together the cup of life, drink and receive God’s restoration
May the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ, be with you, be with us all.
Closing Response
Presider: Together we are nourished by Jesus’ life.
ALL: Let us go to share his life and his love.
Hymn       In a byre near Bethlehem
                  John L. Bell (1949 – ), Graham Maule, © 1987 WGRG / The Iona Community
In a byre near Bethlehem ,
Passed by many a wand’ring stranger,
The most precious Word of Life
Was heard gurgling in a manger,
For the good of us all.
And He’s here when we call Him,
Bringing health, love and laughter
To life now and ever after,
For the good of us all.
On the hill of Calvary –
Place to end all hope of living –
The most precious Word of Life
Breathed his last and died forgiving,
For the good of us all.
And He’s here when we call Him,
Bringing health, love and laughter
To life now and ever after,
For the good of us all.
In a garden, just at dawn,
Near the grave of human violence,
The most precious Word of Life
Cleared his throat and ended silence,
For the good of us all.
And He’s here when we call Him,
Bringing health, love and laughter
To life now and ever after,
For the good of us all.
May the blessing of God almighty
The source, the redeemer, the Holy Spirit,
Be with us all
Now and forevermore.
Sung Amen
Organ Pieces
Opening: Prelude in E Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach
(organ of The Spire Church, Farnham – 2020)
Closing: 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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