URC Daily Devotions Sunday Service for 29th May 2022 – The Revd. Fleur Houston

Order of Service

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Daily Devotions from the United Reformed Church
Service for Sunday 29th May 2022
The Seventh Sunday of Easter

The Rev’d Fleur Houston
Good morning!  I am Fleur Houston and it is a pleasure to worship with you today from Macclesfield.  This is the home of AstraZeneca pharmaceuticals, and it is also the home of Macclesfield and Bollington United Reformed Church where Walter, my husband, and I are members.  I bring you their greetings.
Let us now be still for a moment and prepare for worship.
Call to Worship
One:         Alleluia! Christ is Risen!
Many:      He is Risen indeed! Alleluia!
One:         Rejoice, heavenly powers!   Sing, choirs of angels!
Exult, all creation around God’s throne!
Jesus, our King, is risen! Sound the trumpet of salvation!
Many:      Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing, choirs of angels!
One:         Rejoice, O Earth, in shining splendour, radiant in the brightness of our King! Jesus has conquered! Glory fills you! Darkness vanishes for ever!
Many:      Rejoice, heavenly powers!  Sing, choirs of angels!
One:         Rejoice, O holy Church! Exult in glory! The risen Saviour shines
upon you! Let this place resound with joy,  as we sing, echoing the mighty song  of all God’s people!
Hymn       The Saviour Died But Rose Again
Scottish Paraphrases,1781 Romans 8:  34-end
The Saviour died, but rose again
triumphant from the grave;
and pleads our cause
at God’s right hand,
omnipotent to save.
2   Nor death nor life,
nor earth nor hell,
nor time’s destroying sway,
can e’er efface us from his heart,
or make his love decay.


3  Each future period that will bless,
as it has blessed the past:
he loved us from the first of time,
he loves us to the last.

Prayers of Approach, Confession and Declaration of Forgiveness
Our Father, your Son prayed that those who follow him
might see your glory and share in your love.
And so, as we gather in his name,
we celebrate your love and proclaim your glory.
But even as we do, we know that we have fallen short of our calling,
we know that we have not loved you with all our heart,
we have not loved others as our Saviour Christ loves us.
For his name’s sake, forgive us,
set us free to hear your word to us,
set us free to serve you.
Hear the good news of the Gospel:
God forgives you. Forgive others, forgive yourself and be at peace;
through Jesus Christ, the first-born from the dead,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever.    Amen.
Reading  St John 17: 20-26
Hear now what the Spirit is saying to the Church.
Jesus prayed ‘I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word,  that they may all be one.  As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one,  I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.  Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
‘Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me.  I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.’
Hymn                O Jesus, I Have Promised
John Ernest Bode (1816-1874) (alt.)


O Jesus, I have promised
to serve thee to the end;
Lord be forever near me,
my master and my friend:
I shall not fear the battle
if you are by my side,
nor wander from the pathway
if you will be my guide.
2  Oh, let me feel you near me:
the world is ever near;
I see the sights that dazzle,
the tempting sounds I hear;
my foes are ever near me,
around me, and within;
but, Jesus, draw now nearer,
and shield my soul from sin.
3  Oh, let me hear you speaking
in accents clear and still,
above the storms of passion,
the murmurs of self-will;
Oh, speak to reassure me,
to hasten or control;
O speak, and make me listen,
O guardian of my soul.
4  O Jesus, you have promised
to all who follow you,
that where you are in glory
your servant shall be too;
and, Jesus, I have promised
to serve you to the end:
Ogive me grace to follow,
my master and my friend.


Like many of you, I have been watching with grief and horror the calvary of Ukraine.  Reporters on radio and television transmitted interviews from bunkers, and news bulletins from bombarded streets, reporting on what they had seen and heard, often at personal risk, so that the world might know and believe the truth.  That testimony will go down in history. Thanks to these reporters future generations will remember the courage of the people of Ukraine and their readiness to lay down their lives in the cause of freedom and love.
This reminds one in some respects of the passage from John’s gospel which we have just heard.  It resonates with where we are today.  It’s an extraordinary passage.  John presents the real Jesus but in different way from the other Gospels;  here he is at the same time the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith.
Jesus has been eating supper with his disciples, the last meal he will have with them before he lays down his life.  He knows he has not much time left.  He knows he has been betrayed.  He will soon return to the Father and those who follow him will see him no more.  So what does he do? does he bemoan his fate?  Lament that his mission has come to an end? Despair?  No, there is no time to waste.  He prays to God.   He prays to God with intense concentration. He prays to God not for himself but for his disciples and for those who “will believe in [him] through their word.” And his prayer is as challenging as it is intense. For he is placing in God’s hands the future of the Church.
So when Jesus prays with such tenderness for his disciples, he also prays for those who come after them, those who have heard their testimony and carry the flame of faith forward to the next generation.  Like the Olympic flame.  It is now ten years since a gold-coloured plane landed at Culdrose Royal Naval Station in Cornwall.  Named appropriately The Firefly, it brought the Olympic flame from Athens to Britain.  From Culdrose that flame made an 8,000 mile journey around the UK by bearers, boat, bicycle, tram and train.  In all, 8,000 specially chosen men, women and children carried the torch in one vast relay, keeping the flame alive as they went.
So it is with the Gospel.  Those first followers of Jesus witnessed to his power and his love.  And their hearers in their turn transmitted the message down the centuries like one vast relay of the Olympic torch.  And now it has reached us.  What a thought that is for our Jubilee year!  As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the United Reformed Church we praise God that we have been chosen to be his witnesses.
But what does that involve?  First of all, in the way we behave, we will show that our identity is in Christ.  And that transcends differences of race, political affiliation or creed.  It unites us as Christians in one common vision of peace and love and well-being.  Faith in Christ cannot fail to have ethical implications – the only commandment imposed on Christians is the command to love.  Love must be shown by followers of Jesus Christ not just because that is good in itself but because it manifests God’s life in the world; love comes from God, love patterns Christian society.  So in a time of war, followers of Christ are called to attend to human need; we can and will offer food, shelter, warmth and care to those who have fled their homes.  Those who flee with their children across the western borders of Ukraine testify that despite the darkness that is engulfing their country, their faith is kept alive by the kindness, generosity and love they receive in Moldova, Poland and other neighbouring countries.  And congregations in the UK are making generous contributions to humanitarian relief.  This is Gospel discipleship.
But the vision which motivates us to provide relief for refugees from Ukraine also calls us to interrogate our policies to refugees more generally.  And as we do, we will call our politicians to account for measures that are designed to debase and dehumanise so many of those who are seeking asylum among us, and we will ask probing questions as to why thousands of people in the UK are being increasingly driven into destitution.   In doing so, we are in the name of Christ proclaiming the power of love over cruelty, callousness and disregard.  This too is Gospel discipleship.
But is it enough? in all this, are we not seeking to alleviate human need along with thousands of other people of good-will, of all faiths and none? What more is required of a follower of Christ?
There has to be something more if our sharing in God’s love is to induce the world to believe.  But what?  Just this. If we return to Jesus’s prayer, we see that love is intimately tied up with glory.   The words are interwoven throughout these verses like braids in a girl’s hair.   But what is meant by glory?  It is certainly not the imperialist glory of a Roman emperor, or a Russian tyrant, that’s for sure.  Quite the contrary, for discipleship is costly, the way to glory is through self-sacrifice. The glory of Christ is seen in his death on the Cross and his rising from the dead. 
This is the glory that we share.  The church receives it in faith and expresses it in love.  This is the glory we share, this is the faith we proclaim, this is our witness to the ends of the earth.
Ten years ago, I took two little grandsons to see The Queen. It was her Golden Jubilee and they had been given an afternoon off school for the occasion. They were wildly excited.  The only snag was that there were huge crowds of people, Richmond Park was ankle deep in mud and I didn’t know where to go.  Where, I asked a clutch of friendly policemen, where would be the best place for us to see The Queen?  They answered courteously telling us the route she was likely to take through the park.  She would come in by the same road as ourselves.  We decided to stand near the main VIP enclosure and wait.  Forty minutes later, excitement mounted, the Jubilee song echoed through the stadium and we knew she was coming!  But just at that moment, a line of tall, burly military men in uniform stood in front of us blocking our view.  We could see nothing, nothing at all.  In resignation we decided to retrace our steps to the bus stop.   There was no-one else there.  We stood and shivered in a storm of hail.  But then to our astonished delight, a black limousine with the royal standard swung into sight, the royal passenger rolled down her window, gave us a bright smile and a cheerful wave.  We had a splendid view of The Queen!  Those policemen had shown us the way.
We sometimes feel we are ankle deep in the mud of the world.  But we are not bogged down.  For we are the Body of Christ. Through God’s grace, we are called to help men, women and children, searching for the way and shivering in the storms of life, to see the glory of the risen Christ.   Then future generations will know the love of God and they too will be richly blessed.
Hymn       The Head That Once Was Crowned With Thorns
Thomas Kelly (1769-1855)
The Head that once
was crowned with thorns
is crowned with glory now;
a royal diadem adorns
the mighty Victor’s brow.
2  The highest place
that heaven affords
is his, is his by right,
the King of kings, and Lord of lords,
and heaven’s eternal Light;
3  The joy of all who dwell above,
the joy of all below
to whom he manifests his love,
and grants his name to know:
4  To them the cross,
with all its shame,
with all its grace, is given;
their name an everlasting name,
their joy the joy of heaven.
5  They suffer with their Lord below,
they reign with him above,
their profit and their joy to know
the mystery of his love.
6  The cross he bore
is life and health,
though shame and death to him,
his people’s hope,
his people’s wealth,
their everlasting theme.


A Statement of Faith With Room for Creation
We trust in God beyond us  before us and after us;
Creator and Companion of All: decisive, collaborative,
Shaper of Earth, Breather of Life at work from the Beginning;
By choice, for justice,  assigning work for Creatures too.
We trust in Christ our God who shares our being;
God who Spoke Flesh
befriending us in Jesus;
Flesh, blood, and birth
in common with all life.
Jesus loved, healed, warned
turned tables, spoke for the poor
saw Wisdom in Creatures.
Welcomed with branches but nailed to the Tree.
Abandoned to Death,  Earth alone received him.
On the third Day he rose to New Life
to be with us as the Sky above us;
constant, present, Companion still.
We trust the Breath of Life, our God
The Wind that blows where they will;
Interpreter of Scriptures
Gifted like fire to the Church
seen in healing, peace, forgiveness
God in us and beyond us too.
Living Lord God, the blood of the people of Ukraine is crying out from the ground, crying to you, crying to us.  And so we too cry to you in the name of our crucified and risen Lord.
We pray for all who are living in grief, danger or fear, urging that in these dark times they may not lose hope.
We pray for all those who have been forced to flee from their homes,
and for countries who make them welcome.
We pray especially this morning for Moldova: as local churches struggle to minister to the needs of refugees, may they find strength in their weariness, from the knowledge that you will never leave them or forsake them.
We pray for world leaders that they may have courage and faith, wisdom and discernment, to stand for truth and justice; that in the face of unbridled power, violence may cease.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
We give you thanks in this Jubilee week of celebration for the faithful witness of Elizabeth, our Queen, for her devotion and joy in service, for her steadfastness in times of trouble. Grant that she may be to others a source of hope, that they may come to know more fully your Son Jesus Christ, who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
And for ourselves, we pray, singing:
Lord of life, We Come To You
Catherine Walker (b. 1958)
Lord of life, we come to you.
Lord of all, our Saviour be,
come to bless and to heal
with the light of your love.
2 Through the days of doubt & toil,
in our joy and in our pain,
guide our steps in your way,
make us one in your love.


through our Lord Jesus Christ who taught his disciples to say:
Our Father…
We now offer ourselves and our resources to God and so we pray:
Gracious God,
you are the giver of all good gifts,
as we bring our offering today
may it be a blessing to many,
through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
Hymn       Son of God, Eternal Saviour
Somerset Corry Lowry (1855-1932)


Son of God, eternal Saviour,
source of life and truth and grace,
Son of Man, whose birth among us
hallows all our human race;
great High Priest who,
throned in glory,
for thine own must ever plead,
fill us with your love and pity, heal our wrongs, & help our need.

2  As thou, Lord, hast lived for others,
so may we for others live;
Freely have thy gifts been granted,
freely may thy servants give.
Thine the gold & Thine the silver,
Thine the wealth of land and sea,
we but stewards of Thy bounty
held in solemn trust for thee.

3  Come, O Christ, and reign among us, King of love, and Prince of peace;
hush the storm of strife and passion, bid its cruel discords cease;
by thy patient years of toiling, by thy silent hours of pain,
quench our fevered thirst of pleasure, shame our selfish greed of gain.
Repeat v 1

May the risen Christ enfold you with love,
fill you with peace, and lead you in hope.
And may the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
be with you and all whom you love,
today and for ever more.  Amen.
Call to Worship adapted from the Exultset by Andy Braunston, Affirmation of Faith by David Coleman all other liturgical material by Fleur Houston.
The Saviour Died But Rose Again – Scottish Paraphrases,1781 Romans 8:  34-end  Sung by the Virtual Choir of Troon Old Parish Church used with their kind permission
O Jesus, I Have Promised – John Ernest Bode (1816-1874) (alt.) sung by a Virtual Choir organised by Collins Pratt of singers in the UK and Sierra Leone. Used with their kind permission.
The Head That Once Was Crowned With Thorns – Thomas Kelly (1769-1855) Played and Sung by Gareth Moore of the Isle of Man Methodist Church and used with his kind permission
Lord of life, We Come To You – Catherine Walker (b. 1958)  © Catherine Walker / St Mungo Music, Presbytery of St Leo the Great, 5 Beech Avenue, Glasgow.  G41 5BY. Sung by Aileen Sim accompanied by Morven McNMeil and Rebecca Barnard, Macduff Parish Church.
Son of God, Eternal Saviour – Somerset Corry Lowry (1855-1932) (alt.) The Choir of Kings College Cambridge
Opening Organ Piece – Liturgical Prelude by George Oldroyd (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)
Both pieces played by and received, with thanks, from Brian Cotterill http://briancotterill.webs.com
Thanks to Mandy Hibbert, John Young, Richard Church and John Wilcox for reading various spoken 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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