URC Daily Devotion Service for Reformation Sunday 2021

Order of Service

Below you will find the Order of Service, prayers, hymns and sermon for today’s service.   You can either simply read this or you can
 

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Sunday Worship from the United Reformed Church
for Sunday 31st October 2021

 

 

Photo Credit Egor Myznik, Unsplash
 
The Rev’d Dr Michael Hopkins
 
Welcome and introduction
 
Good morning and welcome to worship today.  My name is Michael Hopkins, and our service today comes to you from the small chapel in the village of Elstead, Surrey, which is where Elstead United Reformed Church meets, one of the churches of which I am the minister.  You’ll find us on a map somewhere between Farnham, Godalming, and Hindhead, in the Surrey Hills.  The last Sunday of October is traditionally marked as Reformation Sunday, being the Sunday nearest to when Martin Luther nailed up his ninety-five propositions, and began the popular movement of the Reformation.  It was something that Reformed Churches used to mark regularly, but has fallen out of the church year in recent times. 
 
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:      All people that on earth do dwell
                William Kethe from Psalm 100
                Sung by the Choir of Kings’ College Cambridge

 
All people that on earth do dwell,
sing to the Lord with cheerful voice.
Serve Him with joy, His praise forthtell,
come ye before him and rejoice!
 
2: The Lord ye know is God indeed,
without our aid He doth us make;
we are His folk He doth us feed
and for His sheep He doth us take.
 
3: O enter then His gates with praise;
Approach with joy His courts unto;
Praise, laud, and bless His name always,
For it is seemly so to do.
 
4: For why? he Lord our God is good;
His mercy is for ever sure;
His truth at all times firmly stood,
And shall from age to age endure.

 

5: To Father, Son and Holy Ghost,
The God whom Heaven and earth adore,
From earth and from the angel host
Be praise and glory evermore.
 
Opening Prayers
 
God of Creation,
you break the cycle of wars, so we may be enriched by your peace; you shatter the grip of violence, so we may be freed from our fears; you plant your words of hope deep within us. 
You give us the word we need, so that we might live in your grace.
 
Friend of the needy,
you freely become one of us,
so that we could be liberated from our addiction to sin;
you take us by the hand to lead us out of our doubts;
you give us the words we need,
so we can continue to share your good news of life.
 
Spirit of Holiness,
you pull us to safety when sin’s waters swirl around our feet;
you surround us with serenity when doubts rattle our souls;
you give us words we need,
whenever we wander onto the paths of trouble,
 
Living God, we have known your hopes for us; if we have disappointed them, we are sorry.  We have seen your dreams for us; if we have turned them into ashes, we are sorry.  Forgive us.
 
Silence
 
There is no condemnation in Christ Jesus.  Know that you are forgiven, set free from fear and guilt, and can be at peace.
 
As a forgiven, healed, and restored community, we join together in the prayer that Jesus taught his followers:  Our Father…
 
Prayer of Illumination
 
Living God, we come to quiet ourselves in this haven of holiness.  We come to discern your Word, which can set us free.  May your Holy Spirit help us to hear you, who is our hope, our help, our refuge, and our Redeemer, in whose name we pray.  Amen.
 
Mark 12:28-31
 
One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, ‘Which commandment is the first of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second is this, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’
 
Ephesians 1:3-13 
 
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit.
  
Hymn:      Lord of creation to you be all praise
                Jack Copley Winslow by permission of Mrs J Tyrrell
                sung & played by Gareth Moore from the Isle of Man Methodist 
                Church with their kind permission

Lord of creation, to you be all praise!
Most mighty your working, most wondrous your ways!
Your glory and might are beyond us to tell,
and yet in the heart of the humble you dwell.
 
2: Lord of all power, I give you my will,
in joyful obedience your tasks to fulfil.
Your bondage is freedom, your service is song;
and, held in your keeping, my weakness is strong.
 
3: Lord of all wisdom, I give you my mind,
rich truth that surpasses my knowledge to find.
What eye has not seen and what ear has not heard
is taught by your Spirit and shines from your Word.
 
4: Lord of all bounty, I give you my heart;
I praise and adore you for all you impart;
your love to inspire me, your counsel to guide,
your presence to shield me, whatever betide.

 

5: Lord of all being, I give you my all;
if I should disown you, I stumble and fall;
but, led in your service your word to obey,
I walk in your freedom to the end of the way.
 
Sermon
 
You may have heard the old joke that all Calvinists work for God, but only in an advisory capacity.  Outside specialist theological circles, Calvinism always creates images of puritanical prohibition of enjoyment, of doom and despondency, and the one word that immediately creates revulsion: predestination.
 
We need to be clear that Calvin lived in a time and circumstance in which we do not, and we would be unwise to judge adversely the actions of a different historical age solely because we can’t make sense of it in our own age.  Nowadays everyone knows that the suggestion that some people are automatically saved and some automatically damned is nonsense, and no-one seriously suggests that is what Christian faith is all about in 2021.  In preaching predestination, Calvin was doing nothing different from everyone else five hundred years ago because, as we heard in the reading from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, predestination is in the Bible. 
 
However, other aspects of the Reformed tradition do have something very relevant to say to what it means to try to be a Christian in 2021.
 
One of these is that God is in charge.  God reigns over all, sovereign.  The Reformed ethos is that each and every one of us at all times, lives before God, and we place our lives before God, whose glory and purpose are more important than anything else.  Our faith is not something that exists to satisfy our needs, or to give meaning to our lives, but is how we acknowledge, praise, and serve our God.  God is the beginning and the end of all things.  God, is utterly indescribable, sovereign of all, but also immediate and everywhere, and in the end all of us can only come before God with empty hands and open hearts.
 
This is a tall order.  There are many pressures on us from so many different directions.  Do we always give God the place that God deserves in our pecking order?  Is God the most important aspect of our lives, or is God where we turn when we remember, or when other avenues are exhausted?  Is our church a community in which we gather under God, always seeking what God wants, or do we sometimes risk straying into being a club?  Our Reformed tradition emphasises that God is sovereign over all, and that includes me and you.
 
Another Reformed emphasis is the authority of the Bible.  All Reformed churches believe in the centrality of the Bible.  The United Reformed Church uses these words to expresses it:
 
The highest authority for what we believe and do is God’s Word in the Bible, alive for his people today through the help of the Holy Spirit.
 
This is very important.  The Reformed tradition does not suggest that every single word printed in the Bible is literally true.  Instead, what it speaks of is that with the help of the Holy Spirit to guide us, and I cannot overemphasise how essential the help of the Holy Spirit to guide us to understand is, we can seek God speaking to us today through the Bible.
 
Within the Bible there are some passages that directly contradict each other, and there are a few passages that are simply bizarre.  The Reformed Tradition is not about pressing for the authority of God in and upon any individual verse, but the within the context of the whole of scripture and its overall message, along with the Holy Spirit to guide us.  One author describes the authority of the Bible with this analogy: “a trusted friend, on whose impressions and interpretations of an all important event or experience we place reliance”.
 
How do we use, rely upon, and seek to interpret the Bible in our own lives?  How much do we read the Bible outside worship?  How do use the Bible in our church, and where do we look for God’s Word to us?
 
The final characteristic of the Reformed tradition that I’m going to mention is God’s grace.  Grace is something of an old-fashioned word.  It was a very popular word until the eighteenth century, but isn’t something used in every sentence in many churches in the twenty-first century.  It means that God loves us all more than we can measure, understand, or appreciate.  God’s love is much bigger than we can imagine, much wider, taller, and deeper, and it applies to me and to you.  I’m not sure whether the biggest challenge is to accept that God really loves the people that we can’t stand, or whether it’s actually harder to accept that God loves us, ourselves, so much.  The word grace may be antiquated, but the concept certainly isn’t, and it can challenge our faith and our humanity at the deepest level.
 
Today, on this Reformation Sunday, our Reformed tradition still has much to stimulate and to challenge our faith.  God is sovereign over all.  Our highest authority is the Bible, discerned with the help of the Holy Spirit.  God’s love is unconditional and unlimited, for us and for everyone.
 
We heard from the Bible the most important commandment of God: you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  John Calvin and all the other theologians who elucidated the Reformed tradition did so precisely in order to help you and help me love our God with all our heart, all our soul, and all our mind.  May we do just that, today and every day.
 
Hymn       Jesu, Jesu, fill us with your love
Tom Colvin (1963)  © 1969, Hope Publishing Co sung by the choir of the First Plymouth Church, Nebraska, USA
 
Jesu, Jesu, fill us with your love,
show us how to serve
the neighbours we have from you.
 
Kneels at the feet of his friends,
Silently washes their feet,
Master who acts as
a slave to them.

2: Neighbours are wealthy & poor,
Varied in colour and race,
Neighbours are near us
and far away.

3: These are the ones we should serve,
These are the ones we should love:
All these are neighbours to us and you.

4 Loving puts us on our knees
willing to wash other’s feet,
this is the way we should live like you.
 

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.
 
Prayers
 
Living God, on this Reformation Sunday, we thank you for those women and men who courageously set about reforming your church.  Thank you that you are still at work in the life of your church today, re-forming us, re-shaping us, and re-making us.  Thank you for those who translated the Bible into languages that we can all understand.  Give your help to all who seek to make the Bible accessible to people near and far today.
 
We know that there are Christians around the world who face imprisonment and martyrdom.  We know that there are countries torn apart by civil war.  We know that billions of people are living in poverty, facing slavery or human trafficking, or who have been affected by natural disasters.  Show us how to work for justice and to offer your love in practical ways.
 
We hold before you all those we know who suffer in pain of body, mind, or spirit.  To all and to each for whom we prayer, bring healing, wholeness, and peace.  Show us how to offer your love and care.
 
Help our part of your universal church always to be a beacon of hope, grace, love, and light in this world.  Open our doors to reflect your open arms to all.  Stretch out our arms and hands to reach out to those in need, reflecting your love for all.  May your Holy Spirit give us strength, encouragement, and hope in these and all the work to which you call us.
 
We offer these and all our prayer to you, living God, in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.
 
Offering Prayer
 
We serve God each day and each week, as we give our skills, our time, and our money to God as a sign of our thanks to God for all that God has given to us, and we mark that offering with a prayer:
 
Generous God, we can give you nothing to earn your love, but you have given us everything in Jesus.  We bring you our money and our lives as tokens of our gratitude for your great gifts to us; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.
 
Hymn       For all the saints
                 W W How Worcester Cathedral Choir
 
For all the saints who from their labours rest,
who Thee by faith before the world confessed;
Thy name, O Jesus, be forever blest.
Alleluia, Alleluia!
 
2 Thou wast their Rock, their Fortress, and their Might;
Thou, Lord, their Captain in the well-fought fight;
Thou, in the darkness drear, their one true Light.
Alleluia, Alleluia!
 
3 And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
and hearts are brave again, and arms are strong.
Alleluia, Alleluia!
 
4: The golden evening brightens in the west;
Soon, soon to faithful warriors cometh rest;
Sweet is the calm of Paradise the blest.
Alleluia! Alleluia!
 
5: But lo! there breaks a yet more glorious day;
The saints triumphant rise in bright array,
The King of glory passes on his way.
Alleluia! Alleluia!
 
6: From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast,
Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
Singing to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, Alleluia! Alleluia!


Blessing
 
The service has ended. Go in peace and joy, and the blessing of God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is upon you, and all God’s people, now and forever.  Amen.
 

Thanks and Sources

 
Call to Worship from Psalm 121 adapted by Andy Braunston.  Affirmation of Faith from the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America.  All other liturgical material by Michael Hopkins.
 
Opening and Closing Music: Our God Stands Like a Fortress Rock – Stephen Orchard’s adaptation of Martin Luther’s hymn sung by the Rev’d Paul Robinson. 
 
Thanks to Anne Hewling, Lorraine Webb, Sylvia Nutt, Liane Todd, Zoe Mather, Christopher Whitehead, the choir of Barrhead URC and the Ministerial Incapacity and Discipline Advisory Group for recording various parts of the service. 

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

 

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