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United Reformed Church Daily Devotions
Service for Sunday 24th October 2021 Dorothy Courtis
Hello. My name is Dorothy Courtis and I’m a lay preacher in East Anglia, a member and elder at Wortwell URC in the Waveney Valley Ecumenical Partnership.
Call to Worship
We lift up our eyes to the hills— from where will our help come?
Our help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
God will not let your foot be moved; God who keeps you will not slumber. The One who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
Our help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
Our help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
The Lord will keep you from all evil; the Eternal One will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and for evermore.
Our help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
Hymn:O Worship the Lord in the Beauty of Holiness John S B Monsell, The Choir of St Lawrence, Sydney
O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness! Bow down before Him, His glory proclaim; with gold of obedience, and incense of lowliness, kneel and adore Him: the Lord is His Name!
2: Low at His feet lay thy burden of carefulness, high on His heart He will bear it for thee, comfort thy sorrows, and answer thy prayerfulness, guiding thy steps as may best for thee be.
3: Fear not to enter His courts in the slenderness of the poor wealth thou wouldst reckon as thine; truth in its beauty, and love in its tenderness, these are the offerings to lay on His shrine.
4: These, though we bring them in trembling and fearfulness, He will accept for the Name that is dear; mornings of joy give for evenings of tearfulness, trust for our trembling and hope for our fear.
5: O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness! bow down before Him, His glory proclaim; with gold of obedience, and incense of lowliness, kneel and adore Him: the Lord is His Name!
Prayer of Approach, Confession and Forgiveness
It is our joy and our enormous privilege to come before You, O Lord, to praise You and worship You.
Through these difficult times You have been a shield of protection for us. Your presence has been as close as breathing and You have heard our every prayer.
Thank You, Lord God, that You have never deserted us. You have put Your arms around us and supported us, and we owe You our praise and thanksgiving. Thank You for Your endless love and care.
Thank You for our eternal security as Your children, deeply beloved by You. Thank You that we can come boldly before You, knowing that You love us and accept us.
But we, as all humankind, sin and fail You. We turn away only too easily, when life is hard, or not going the way we want. When we don’t get the answers to our prayers that we want. Too often we doubt You, turn away from You. Forgive us, Lord, for Jesus’ sake.
Draw us back into close friendship with You. Warm our cold hearts, heal our broken hearts, and lead us into new life with Jesus as our Lord, Redeemer, and Good Shepherd. We receive Your forgiveness with joy, given freely for us through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Prayer of illumination
Open our ears to Your Word that we may hear what You have to say to us. Guide the meditations of our hearts and lead us in the way You would have us go. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Reading: St Mark 10: 46-52
They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Jesus stood still and said, ‘Call him here.’ And they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Take heart; get up, he is calling you.’ So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Then Jesus said to him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ The blind man said to him, ‘My teacher, let me see again.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your faith has made you well.’ Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.
Psalm 34: 7 – 11 Sung by Back Free Church, Loch Tuath, Tune: Land of Rest
The angel of the Lord encamps, and round encompasseth All those about that do him fear, and them delivereth.
8 O taste and see that God is good: who trusts in him is blessed.
9 Fear God his saints: none that him fear shall be with want oppressed.
10 The lions young may hungry be, and they may lack their food: But they that truly seek the Lord shall not lack any good.
11 O children, hither do ye come, and unto me give ear; I shall you teach to understand how ye the Lord should fear.
Names matter. In the episode from Mark, we meet a man who doesn’t really have a name – and yet he’s been remembered by his non-name for millennia! Blind Bartimaeus. Which is strange, because after he met Jesus, he wasn’t blind any more. And as for Bartimaeus: ‘Bar # Timaeus’ son of Timaeus – his Dad’s name – but after meeting Jesus he is in a vibrant, living relationship with God his Heavenly Father through His Son Jesus.
This man, whose old non-name has stuck through the centuries, became a new creation with a new life to live through his encounter with Jesus.
It was the custom in the early church – as it was in monastic life – for the person coming to baptism – to new life in Christ – to receive a new name, appropriate for the new life.
We’ve been through a baptism of suffering, dislocation, and huge change as a result of the Covid pandemic. When you come through such – or other life-shaking events like the death of a loved one through cancer, the tragedy of dementia, our own experience of major illness – we’re not the same when we emerge at the end. We’re changed.
Some of those changes happen so gradually, we don’t notice. Others happen overnight. Even slow-moving monoliths like the church can change – we’ve witnessed the way Zoom has become a household word (like Hoover and Google!) as ministers and congregations have found new ways to ‘gather’ for worship and support one another.
Whether we like it or not, we’re not the same as the church or the people who stepped into the unexpected and unpredictable river of suffering and change that has been our experience of the pandemic.
And each experience has been unique because each of us is unique, each of our churches and their situations in their communities is unique.
So who are we now?
Did we simply choose to live up to our old names, our old reputations? If blind Bartimaeus had, he’d still be sitting begging on the roadside! Or have we received fresh insight, welcomed the transformation and upheaval of change, leapt to the opportunity of leaving behind the dusty cloak and focus on business as usual, and followed where Jesus is going in our community, our world, today? Or have we opted out? Simply sat and watched? ‘We’re fine as we are’ as one church leader devastatingly said to me. Do we come out of the fiery furnace (to mix scripture stories!) more alive, more loving, more truly Jesus-following than when we went in?
As a child of the post-second world war era, it was quite common to ask, ‘What did you do in the war, Daddy?’ In years to come, I wonder will we see the evidence of what our churches did during the pandemic in those that survive and thrive? I’m sure a lot of praying went on, either alone or more organised by the churches, yet I was reminded firmly by a friend, overwhelmed by the practicalities of moving house on her own for the first time in many years, ‘Sometimes you need more than being assured of people’s prayers!’ I know a lot of practical, loving action went on in our communities. Did the church shine as a beacon of hope and help during this time? Did we even look after the vulnerable members of our congregations – those without laptops and mobile phones, unable to join in online?
And if we didn’t help, do we have any right to preach to them afterwards?
Hymn:Will You Come and Follow Me? John L. Bell (b. 1949) and Graham Maule (b. 1958)
Will you come and follow me if I but call your name? Will you go where you don’t know and never be the same? Will you let my love be shown, will you let my name be known, will you let my life be grown in you and you in me?
2 Will you leave yourself behind if I but call your name? Will you care for cruel and kind and never be the same? Will you risk the hostile stare should your life attract or scare? Will you let me answer prayer in you and you in me?
3 Will you love the ‘you’ you hide if I but call your name? Will you quell the fear inside and never be the same? Will you use the faith you’ve found to reshape the world around, through my sight & touch & sound in you and you in me?
4: Lord, your summons echoes true when you but call my name. Let me turn and follow you and never be the same. In your company I’ll go where your love & footsteps show. Thus I’ll move and live and grow in you and you in me.
Affirmation of Faith
The risen Christ is the Saviour of all people. Those joined to him by faith are set right with God and commissioned to serve as God’s reconciling community. Christ is head of this community, the Church, which began with the apostles and continues through all generations.
Yours is the earth, O Lord God – and we have spoiled and polluted it. We have wasted Your wonderful gifts out of greed and ignorance and we ask Your forgiveness for what we have done – and for what we are not doing now to put it right.
We ask Your blessing and guidance and support for all those who are working to reclaim and protect the environment, those whose hearts are committed to working to staunch the climate emergency that we find ourselves in, to cleanse and restore our oceans, and prevent the extinction of the precious creatures You created.
Inspire workers, Lord. The need is great. But more than that, touch the hearts of those in powerful places – whether in government or in big business, the influencers and the decision-makers. Turn their hearts to You and to Your concerns for the earth and its people.
Let justice roll, and a new attitude of good stewardship. Turn hearts from war and conflict. End the arms trade which fuels conflict in places least able to afford it. Protect the weak and vulnerable from the blind and uncaring mighty and aggressive. Bless peacemakers everywhere – at negotiating tables, in governments, and in homes and workplaces. We need peace and a rebuilding of our world along lines of care for the weaker in society, justice and integrity – not a return to the old ways but a flourishing of a new and better way. Lord, as Your people, we ask that the new normal be Your new way for our country and our world. For You care – about the big matters of national and international import, and about the individual cares and troubles we all suffer.
So with confidence in Your loving attention and practical concern, we bring You our prayers for our friends and families – for those especially on our hearts this morning…
And we bring You our prayers for ourselves… Thank You that You hear all our prayers and that You do indeed work together all things for good for those who love You.
Thank You for hearing our prayers, in Jesus’ Name, Amen
Our Lord invites us to express our love and care for the world by giving of ourselves and our money. We do this in His name and to His glory.
Father God, You offer us so many ways to give back to You – in money, our time… Sometimes though we feel we have so little to give – but like the widow’s mite that Jesus commended, You welcome and accept what we bring, however small it seems to us. Accept all that we offer to You, Lord, for we offer it in love and gratitude for all that You offer us, in Jesus’ Name, Amen
Hymn:One More Step Along the World I Go Sydney Carter
One more step along the world I go, One more step along the world I go; From the old things to the new, Keep me travelling along with you:
2: Round the corners of the world I turn, More and more about the world I learn; All the new things that I see You’ll be looking at along with me.
And it’s from the old I travel to the new; Keep me travelling along with you.
3: As I travel through the bad and good, Keep me travelling the way I should. Where I see no way to go, You’ll be telling me the way, I know.
4: Give me courage when the world is rough, Keep me loving though the world is tough; Leap and sing in all I do, Keep me travelling along with you:
5: You are older than the world can be, You are younger than the life in me; Ever old and ever new, Keep me travelling along with you:
Bless us, Lord, as we move forward into the life You have planned and prepared for us. Give us new courage and strength, lots more love and plenty of forgiveness. Bless us and those we love and pray for, in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Sources and Thanks
Call to Worship adapted from Psalm 121 by Andy Braunston. Affirmation of Faith from the Presbyterian Church of the USA. All other liturgical material by Dorothy Courtis.
Thanks to Graham Handscomb, Esther Watson, Sue Cresswell, Geoffrey Roper and Lorrain Webb for reading various spoken parts of the service.
Opening Organ Piece – Lobt Gott Ihr Christen (“Praise God ye Christians”) by Johann Gottfried Walther (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)
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