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United Reformed Church Daily Devotion Service for Sunday 4th July 2021
Mantas Hesthaven: Embarking on an Adventure, Unsplash
Peter Pay, Moderator of General Assembly
Prelude – He Was Despiséd – from the Messiah sung by Jakub Józef Orliński with the Warsaw Philharmonic.
Introduction Good morning, my name is Peter Pay. I am one of the two current serving Moderators of the General Assembly of the URC. I am a member at Salisbury URC and an assembly accredited Lay Preacher.
Call to Worship
We meet in the name of God, the Holy Trinity of Love who knows our needs, hears our cries, feels our pain, and heals our wounds. God is our light and our salvation. In God’s name we light this candle and are reminded of Jesus, the Light of the World, God’s own Voice who came to live with us. May our hearts be open to you, O God, now and always. Amen.
Lord of all hopefulness, Lord of all joy, Whose trust, ever child-like, No cares could destroy, Be there at our waking, And give us, we pray, Your bliss in our hearts, Lord, At the break of the day.
2: Lord of all eagerness, Lord of all faith, Whose strong hands were skilled At the plane and the lathe, Be there at our labours, And give us, we pray, Your strength in our hearts, Lord, At the noon of the day.
3: Lord of all kindliness, Lord of all grace, Your hands swift to welcome, Your arms to embrace, Be there at our homing, And give us, we pray, Your love in our hearts, Lord, At the eve of the day.
4: Lord of all gentleness, Lord of all calm, Whose voice is contentment, Whose presence is balm, Be there at our sleeping, And give us, we pray, Your peace in our hearts, Lord, At the end of the day.
Prayers of Approach, Confession and Forgiveness
Heavenly father, heavenly king we come before you today just as we are. We come to listen and to learn. We come and lay everything down to stand in your awesome presence.
We bow before you O God, and we confess that we have let you down. We have allowed material things to dominate our lives and to occupy our minds. We are sorry, and we lay everything at your feet. We are sorry that we over complicate everything. Help us to learn how to be still and know that you are God.
Help us to seek simplicity, to slow down and not to hurry, to require nothing more than what you give, or to fear being vulnerable, so that we can be complete in your presence. Amen
The Lord, Jesus Christ died and rose again that we might be released from all the worldly things that weigh us down. Thank you, O God, that we are forgiven, that our chains are gone, and we have been set free to serve you again. Amen
Prayer of Illumination
Lord as we listen to our gospel passage, may we be inspired. guided and encouraged. Amen
Reading: St Mark 6. 1-13
Jesus left that place and came to his home town, and his disciples followed him. On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, ‘Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?’ And they took offence at him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Prophets are not without honour, except in their home town, and among their own kin, and in their own house.’ And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.
Then he went about among the villages teaching. He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them, ‘Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.’ So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.
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: a workman can earn his own keep, can earn his 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
Whenever I meet One of our retired ministers, someone who I have known and admired for many years, he always tells those around us and reminds me to my embarrassment that when I was a child, I fell in the pond at his father’s house during the Kingston Church garden party. I guess we will all be remembered by those who knew us as we grew up and matured, in our earlier lives such as in work, in our faith journey or situations where they have known us.
As people develop we ourselves will also on occasion, find the need to reassess our view and understanding of them and we may be surprised by them. May discover new depths, new skills, new wisdom we had not previously seen. Sadly, and too easily our past image of folk can form prejudice that makes it hard to accept or see them differently or more fully.
In our gospel passage where it starts ‘Jesus left there….’, Jesus has just raised Jairus’ daughter from death and cured a haemophiliac woman. Following these great demonstrations of Jesus’ power He now returns to his home town. So to the extent that they are aware of these miracles, Jesus’ hometown folk would have reason to be proud of him. We would surely expect them to welcome him as a local hero with a ticker-tape parade perhaps—but they don’t.
In Nazareth people thought they knew who he was and what he was. They remembered the boy who had grown up there. His actions, his teaching amazed the people . “Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? ‘. Too easily the people start to discount him with Prejudice. He is only the carpenter’. ‘Just Mary’s son’.
You can almost hear them muttering ‘what right has he to teach and preach? What is his status? Is he qualified? They seem let in any old riff-raff to preach these days.’ Their prejudice blocks their willingness to hear and accept his message. That message was not what they expected or were used to hearing. A radical, inclusive message. A kingdom message but not a welcome one. His powers are also evident but perhaps that also made them feel uncomfortable. So they reject him. They take offense.
‘This is not the first time either. Look at Mark 3 19-31. Where Mark tells us that on a previous visit to Nazareth. ‘People’, particularly scribes started to suggest that Jesus must be mad or possessed of the devil. Even his mother and brothers and sisters then tried to restrain him. So Put down by his neighbours and even by his family, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that the hometown folk fail to welcome Jesus more warmly in this later visit.
It is hardly surprising either how it affected his ability there and how he was amazed at their lack of faith. A painful rejection. As he says “A prophet is not without honour except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.”
In contrast, you may notice in the Acts of the Apostles that James the brother of Jesus takes on a leading role in the early Chistian church. It is therefore reassuring to see that earlier rejection can later turn to acceptance and more.
How easy is it still today for new unexpected voices to be discounted, for our previous image and memories of others to block our hearing or acceptance. perhaps that can happen in the church too. We are approaching our General Assembly meeting as we seek to hear God’s will. May we too be ready to listen and to hear.
The joy of this gospel passage is what happens next. Despite this rejection, Jesus continues his ministry. He then goes from village to village teaching and then sends his newly called disciples out. Two by two. Empowered. With clear instructions. To take nothing, no resources, no reserves. No food, no money, no spare clothes. He is Sending them out as a sign of his trust and confidence in them.
I confess that during my working life I travelled a lot on business and I would always did take those sort of things with me. I wouldn’t even have considered going without tickets, a confirmed hotel booking, money, a credit card, spare clothing etc. I do also recall just how vulnerable I sometimes felt. Going to unknown places and contexts, to hostile environments or people, to unpredictable situations and uncertain outcomes.
What Jesus is asking of his disciples is essentially, to travel in trust. To live a minimalist life as material beggars. No privileges, no rights. To depend on hospitality. To be vulnerable. A big ask!
And as perhaps, an echo of the incident in Nazareth, they are clearly told not to waste time where they are not welcomed. Not to dwell on it and then to simply move on to the next place.
We then hear that that they start preaching repentance, casting out demons and healing the sick.
A bit further on in Mark’s gospel we will hear their report when they come back. Mark sandwiches that report between the news of John the baptist’s death; another prophet rejected.
We too are called to share the Good News of Jesus wherever we are. News that will in some cases be welcomed, in others rejected. We can have no privileges, no expectations. As Disciples walking the way. We too are on a journey. We travel in hope and in faith.
May God bless us in all that we do in His name. Amen
Hymn It Is A Thing Most Wonderful William Walsham How (1823 – 1897) BBC Songs of Praise
It is a thing most wonderful almost too wonderful to be that God’s own Son should come from heaven and die to save a child like me.
2 And yet I know that it is true: he chose a poor and humble lot, and wept and toiled, and mourned and died, for love of those who loved Him not.
3 I sometimes think about the Cross, and shut my eyes, and try to see the cruel nails, and crown of thorns, and Jesus crucified for me.
4 It is most wonderful to know His love for me, so free and sure, but ‘tis more wonderful to see my love for Him so faint and poor.
5 And yet I want to love Thee, Lord: O light the flame within my heart, and I will love Thee more and more until I see Thee as Thou art.
Affirmation of Faith
We believe in God. Despite His silence and His secrets we believe that He lives. Despite evil and suffering we believe that He made the world so that all would be happy in life. Despite the limitations of our reason and the revolts of our hearts, we believe in God.
We believe in Jesus Christ. Despite the centuries which separate us from the time when he came to earth, we believe in His word. Despite our incomprehension and our doubt, we believe in His resurrection. Despite his weakness and poverty, we believe in his reign.
We believe in the Holy Spirit. Despite appearances we believe He guides the Church; despite death we believe in eternal life; despite ignorance and disbelief, we believe that the Kingdom of God is promised to all. Amen.
Lord we hold before you:
those who feel rejected and excluded.Show us how we may reach out to them.
those who suffer from prejudice and bias. Help us to work to ensure
that they are treated equally and inclusively. those who are sick in mind or in body and those who support and care for them. May all feel your love and strength. world leaders that they may find the wisdom and the courage to meet the needs of this world in a responsible and just way. our churches and church leaders that they may be strengthened in their work and enabled see the mission you call them to and may find the ways to deliver them.
a more equal sharing of resources in this world. Sharing of food,
wealth and vaccines.
a more responsible way of living with and caring for your creation.
Lord we are your body, your hands and mouth. Use us to help in the work of building your Kingdom. We bring these prayers in the name of your Son Jesus Christ in whose name we pray saying, Our Father…
Our giving to support the work of your church is an important part of our discipleship. May God bless our offerings of both money and our lives. Amen
Hymn:Now Thank We All Our God Martin Rinkart (1636) translated by Catherine Winkworth BBC Songs of Praise
Now thank we all our God with heart and hands and voices, who wondrous things has done, in whom this world rejoices; who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way with countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.
2 O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us, with ever joyful hearts and blessed peace to cheer us, and keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed, and free us from all ills of this world in the next.
3 All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given, the Son and Spirit blest, who reign in highest heaven the one eternal God, whom heaven and earth adore; for thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.
Go into the world, sharing the good news of Jesus. Walk His way in trust and in hope. And may the blessing of God, Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer be with us all. Amen
Sources and Thanks
Call to Worship from the Church of England’s New Patterns of Worship, Affirmation of Faith from the Reformed Church of France, translated by Andy Braunston, intercessions from Roots, all other material by Peter Pay.
Thanks to Lesley Thompson, Myra Rose, and the Rev’d Gordon Smith for reading spoken parts of the service along with Andy Braunston and members of Barrhead URC.
Closing organ voluntary played by Brian Cotterill. 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)
Where words are copyright reproduced under the terms of Barrhead URC’s CCLI licence number 1064776, Some material reprinted, and streamed, with permission under ONE LICENSE A-734713 All rights reserved. PRS Limited Online Music Licence LE-0019762