URC Daily Devotions Sunday Service for 13th February 2022 – The Revd. Jayne Taylor

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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Daily Devotions from the United Reformed Church
Order of Service for Sunday 13th February, 2022

Photo credit Nick Fewings /Unsplash
 
The Rev’d Jayne Taylor

Introduction
 
Hello, my name is Jayne, a minister currently based in the Cotswolds. Today I’m speaking from my home in Tetbury, Gloucestershire. Tetbury is close to the Westonbirt Arboretum and also Prince Charles’ Highgrove Estate

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       Make Me A Channel of Your Peace
Sebastian Temple (1928-1997) from the Prayer of St Francis
 

Make me a channel
of your peace.
Where there is hatred
let me bring your love;
where there is injury,
your pardon, Lord;
and where there’s doubt,
true faith in you.
 
Oh, Master, grant that I
may never seek
so much to be consoled
as to console;
to be understood 
as to understand;
to be loved,
as to love with all my soul.

2  Make me a channel
of your peace.
Where there’s despair in life
let me bring hope;
where there is darkness,
let me bring your light;
and where there’s sadness,
ever joy.
 
3  Make me a channel
of your peace.
for when we give
we will ourselves receive.
It is in pardoning
that we are pardoned,
and in dying that we gain
eternal life.

 

Prayers of Adoration, Confession and Forgiveness
 
Loving God,  from the comfort of our Western homes and prosperous lives, we are hungry for a better world for all.
 
In our society divided by power struggles and prejudice, we affirm the power of your healing love.
 
With the honesty of our doubts and insecurities, we rejoice in your love for each one of us; seeking your blessing to make us whole.
 
Compassionate God,  we recognise that our world is a broken place, hurt by poverty, famine and disease. We admit that sometimes we make the world a broken place, tolerating prejudice, conflict and self-interest. We confess that our hearts also suffer with anger, resentment and jealousy. Renew us in your love, O God, and heal us with the comfort of your abundant love. Awaken us to the role we can play in healing your creation. Strengthen us through the power of the Holy Spirit to hear your word and move forward in faith. Amen.
 
Benevolent God,  you see those who are hungry, poor and marginalized, who too often we overlook. You recognize their humanity and their suffering and promise to overthrow the rejection they encounter in our world. Help us be part of that transformation. Help us to feed the hungry and sustain the poor. Help us to erase the margins of our society, embracing us all in your inclusive love. Amen.
 
Blessed are you, for you are God’s child. God loves you. God desires the best for you. Give of your best by loving your neighbours as yourselves. Know that you are forgiven. Live for others, loving and forgiving. Amen.
 
The Lord’s Prayer
 
Prayer of Illumination
Inspire us Holy Spirit, that as we listen to the Word read and proclaimed we may listen, understand and follow your call.  Amen
 
Readings:
 
Psalm 1
 
Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
or take the path that sinners tread,
or sit in the seat of scoffers;
but their delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law they meditate day and night.
They are like trees planted by streams of water,
which yield their fruit in its season,
and their leaves do not wither.
In all that they do, they prosper.
The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgement,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.
                 
St Luke 6:17-26
 
Jesus came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon.  They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured.  And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them. Then he looked up at his disciples and said:
 
‘Blessed are you who are poor,
    for yours is the kingdom of God.
‘Blessed are you who are hungry now,
    for you will be filled.
‘Blessed are you who weep now,
    for you will laugh.
 
‘Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man.  Rejoice on that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.
 
‘But woe to you who are rich,
    for you have received your consolation.
 ‘Woe to you who are full now,
    for you will be hungry.
‘Woe to you who are laughing now,
    for you will mourn and weep.
 
‘Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.
 
Hymn       How Blest Are They Who Hear God’s Word
                  J N Brun, Translated by Oluf H Smeby
 
How blest are they
who hear God’s Word,
and keep and heed
what they have heard!
They daily grow in wisdom.
Their light shines brighter
day by day,
and while they tread
life’s weary way,
they have the oil of gladness
to soothe their pain and sadness.

 

2 God’s Word a
treasure is to me,
through sorrow’s night
my sun shall be,
the shield of faith in battle.
The Father’s hand
has written there
my title as His child and heir,
“The kingdom’s your’s forever.”
That promise fails me never.

3 Today I was my
Saviour’s guest;
my soul was here
so richly blest,
the Bread of Life receiving.
O may thereby my faith prevail
so that its fruits
may never fail
till my account is given
before God’s throne in heaven!

 

Sermon
 
Our gospel reading today is Luke’s version of the so-called Beatitudes, and I think we frequently make two mistakes when we think about them:
 
The first is to misunderstand what the word translated as ‘blessed’ really means. The Greek word is makarios and blessed is a reasonable translation but can be misunderstood. Perhaps the word ‘honoured’ helps us more in this instance. Try replacing each ‘blessed’ with the word ‘honoured’ and things make a little more sense.
 
And the Greek word makarios has quite a long history: In the ancient Grecian world, makarios referred to the Greek gods. They were the blessed ones, honoured ones, the revered ones. They had achieved a state of happiness and contentment in life that was beyond all worries and sufferings. The blessed ones were beings who lived in some other world away from the cares and problems and worries of ordinary people.
 
So, to be blessed, you had to be a god.
 
Later, the word makarios came to refer to people who had died. The blessed ones were people, who, through death, had reached the other world of the gods. They had escaped this life of woes and were now carefree.
 
So, to be blessed, you had to be dead.
 
Later still, makarios came to refer to the elite, the upper crust of society, the wealthy people. It referred to people whose riches and power put them above the normal cares and problems and worries of the lesser folk, those who constantly had to struggle and labour through life.
 
So, to be blessed, you had to be rich and powerful.
 
Finally, in the Old Testament understanding, makarios had taken on an additional meaning. It came to be referred to as the results of right living or righteousness. If you lived right, you were blessed. So, the first Psalm makes a stark contrast between those who ‘delight in the Lord’, who are righteous and happy, and those who are wicked and perish.
 
So being blessed naturally meant that you received earthly, material things: a good wife or husband, many children, abundant crops, riches, wisdom, beauty, good health, and so on. A blessed person prospered; they had more things and better things than other people.
So, to be blessed, you had to live a righteous life.
 
But Jesus takes the word makarios and gives it a completely new meaning.
 
It is not the elite who are blessed.
 
It is not the rich and powerful who are blessed.
 
It is not the high and mighty who are blessed.
 
It is not the people living in palaces who are blessed.
 
Rather, Jesus pronounces God’s blessing, God’s honour, on the lowly: the poor, the hungry, the thirsty, the outsider.
 
Throughout Biblical history, it had always been the other people who were considered blessed: the rich, the satisfied, the powerful. Jesus turns it all upside-down. The elite in God’s kingdom, the blessed ones in God’s kingdom, are those who are at the bottom of the heap of humanity. They are the blessed ones, they are the honoured ones.
As Jesus often repeated; in the kingdom of God, the first will be last, and the last first.
 
So, we tend to misunderstand what the word blessed means in our reading.
 
The other way in which we misunderstand the beatitudes is by seeing them as referring to us, as giving us a kind of guidebook for living. We ask ourselves: Am I humble? Do I work for peace? Do I love my enemy? Do I give to the needy? Do I judge? And so on.
 
There’s nothing wrong with doing that, but the point of the beatitudes is that it’s not about you, it’s about them; the outcasts, the outsiders, the people others look down upon.
 
In the New Testament world, the esteem and honour you were given depended on how important your family and connections were.
 
If you were part of a very important family, then you were important. If your family was less important, then you were less important.
 
And being rejected by your family, and rejected by your community as a result, was probably the worst thing that could happen to anyone.
This is the very situation that Jesus was addressing in the beatitudes, and one beatitude, I believe, is the key to understanding the others:
“Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man.
 
It was in following Jesus that some people were disowned by their families, rejected by their communities.
So, what does Jesus do about their predicament? Jesus gives them honour. In front of all the crowds, Jesus ascribes honour to them; he pronounces them to be the blessed ones, the makarios.
 
Their human parents may have disowned them, but they are children of the God who created the universe, to whom all honour belongs.
And so, Jesus gives them a new family: if they are all children of one God, then that makes them all brothers and sisters.
 
This new community, this the kingdom of God, is one where all are family, one that cares for one another as our own family would.
We might want to ask ourselves who the outsiders, the outcasts are in our own society. Are they the refugees? Are they the migrants? Are they the people on benefits or who resort to foodbanks? Are they LGBT+ people?
 
Unless we value, celebrate and even fight on behalf of those on the fringes of our society, as Jesus did, can we truly lay claim to be a people who obey what he said were the most important commandments: to love God and to love our neighbour as we love ourselves?
 
Hymn       Heaven Shall Not Wait
John L. Bell (b.1949) and Graham Maule (b.1958)
 
Heaven shall not wait
for the poor to lose their patience,
the scorned to smile,
the despised to find a friend:
Jesus is Lord;
he has championed
the unwanted;
in him injustice
confronts its timely end.
 
2  Heaven shall not wait
for the rich to share their fortunes,
the proud to fall,
the elite to tend the least:
Jesus is Lord;
he has shown
the master’s privilege –
to kneel and wash servants’ feet before they feast.

 

3 Heaven shall not wait
for the dawn of great ideas,
thoughts of compassion divorced from cries of pain:
Jesus is Lord; he has married word and action;
his cross and company make his purpose plain.
 
4 Heaven shall not wait
for triumphant Hallelujahs,
when earth has passed and we reach another shore:
Jesus is Lord
in our present imperfection;
his power and love are for now; and then for evermore.

 

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!
 
Intercessory Prayers
 
Gracious God,
as your Jesus reached out to those on the margins,
so now in our prayers we do likewise:
We pray for all who have little love in their lives
those who are lonely and isolated,
those who are addicted and feel trapped,
those who grieve and mourn,
those whose relationships have been shattered.
 
Loving God,
We pray for those who love things which are unhelpful
those who worship their wealth or possessions, and where greed has taken over,
those who find love only in the approval of others, in flattery, or in power,
those who can only love themselves
those for whom bitterness and hatred reign
 
Compassionate God,
We pray for those who give totally of themselves for the sake of others
those who are persecuted or outcast
those who face prejudice because of the colour of their skin,
those who face discrimination because of their gender
those who face harassment for their sexuality
 
Merciful God,
help us to strive to see others as you see us,
help us to reach out in love to our neighbour
help us to live as Christ would have us live
help us to walk the way of Jesus
As we ask these things in his name, Amen.
 
Offertory
 
Our discipleship is marked by many things – our faith in God and our determination to trust in God’s providence even when things are difficult, the way we treat others, the way we take good care of ourselves and, of course, how we use our money.  As committed disicples we know that the use of our money is a key indicator of our love for the Lord Jesus.  At this point in the service we remember how we give – in the plate, using those little envelopes we’re given, direct to the bank or in some other way and we give thanks for all that is given.
 
Loving God, we know you honour the poor and the outsider,
bless the gifts that support your people,
in charity, in church, in helping directly those in need,
that through our giving,
we may reflect a little more of the honour of your name. Amen.
 
Hymn       Tell Out My Soul
Timothy Dudley-Smith (b.1926)
 
Tell out, my soul,
the greatness of the Lord!
Unnumbered blessings,
give my spirit voice;
tender to me
the promise of his word;
in God my Saviour
shall my heart rejoice.
 
2  Tell out, my soul,
the greatness of his name!
Make known his might,
the deeds his arm has done;
his mercy sure,
from age to age the same;
his holy Name,
the Lord, the Mighty One.

3  Tell out, my soul,
the greatness of his might!
Powers and dominions
lay their glory by.
Proud hearts and stubborn wills
are put to flight,
the hungry fed,
the humble lifted high.
 
4  Tell out, my soul,
the glories of his word!
Firm is his promise,
and his mercy sure.
Tell out, my soul,
the greatness of the Lord
to children’s children
and for evermore.
 

Blessing
 
May God watch over you,
Christ walk with you,
and the Spirit give you peace.
And the blessing of God Three in One,
one in community be with you this day,
and evermore, 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 GodPrayer of Illumination and Offertory introduction and prayer by Andy Braunston. All other liturgical material by the Rev’d Jayne Taylor. 
 
Thanks to Pam Carpenter, Jacqueline Kwawu, Kathleen Haynes and Esther Watson for reading various spoken parts of the service.
 
Make Me A Channel of Your Peace – Sebastian Temple (1928-1997) from the Prayer of St Francis © 1967, OCP. BBC Songs of Praise.
How Blest Are They Who Hear God’s Word – J N Brun, Translated by Oluf H Smeby Performed by Koiné
Heaven Shall Not Wait – John L. Bell (b.1949) and Graham Maule (b.1958) © WGRG, Iona Community, G2 3DH. Performed by Ruth and Joy Everingham used with their kind permission.
Tell Out My Soul – Timothy Dudley-Smith (b.1926) based on the Magnificat from The New English Bible © Hope Publishing Company  BBC Songs of Praise
 
Opening Organ Piece: Liturgical Prelude by George Oldroyd
(organ of The Spire Church, Farnham – 2020)
Closing Organ Piece: Procession by Arthur Wills
(organ of Santa Maria dei Miracoli, Venice, Italy – 2014)
 
Both pieces played by and received, with thanks, from Brian Cotterill http://briancotterill.webs.com

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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