URC Daily Devotion Sunday Worship 30th October 2022

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 30th October 2022

A Service of Jubilee

 
Today’s service is led by 
The Revd Fiona Bennett, Moderator of General Assembly and Members of the Church Life Review Group, including The Revd Lindsey Sanderson and The Revd Phil Wall

 
 
Introduction 
 
Welcome to this Daily Devotions service from the United Reformed Church for Sunday 30th October.  My name is Lindsey Sanderson, I am minister of the East Kilbride and Hamilton Joint Pastorate of the URC in the National Synod of Scotland, and I am a member of the Church Life Review Group. 
And I’m Phil Wall – minister at St. David’s Uniting Church, Pontypridd and Castle Square URC Treforest and also a member of the Church Life Review Group. 
 
We are also joined in this service by Fiona Bennett, who is the Moderator of General Assembly and Fiona will introduce herself later. 
Today the theme of our service is Jubilee, and we reflect on the Biblical concept of Jubilee and what it might be saying to us as the United  
 
You can send your responses by email to: 
churchlifereview@urc.org.uk
 
or by post to:
Church Life Review
21 Crawfurd Gardens
Rutherglen
G73 4JP 
 
or use the online response form which can be accessed at: http://tinyurl.com/URCJubilee
 
Please respond by Monday 28th November.  
 
A Call to Worship 
 
With song and silence, let us praise the Creator,
For now is the time of Jubilee!
With joy and dedication let us follow the Son,
For now is the time of Jubilee!
With hope and expectation, let’s be open to the Spirit,
For now is the time of Jubilee!
With all our heart and soul, mind and strength, 
let us love God today in our worship,
For now is the time of Jubilee!
 
Hymn       Sing for God’s Glory That Colours The Dawn of Creation
Kathy Galloway (b. 1952) performed by the Cantus Firmus Trust 
and used with their kind permission
 
Sing for God’s glory 
Which patterns 
and colours creation,
makes all things new 
and roots change 
at the heart of salvation.
Both day and night,
Sound, silence, symbol and sight
offer earth’s glad adoration.
 
2 Sing for God’s power 
that shatters the chains 
that would bind us,
searing the darkness of fear 
and despair that could bind us,
touching our shame
with love that will not lay blame, 
reaching out gently to find us.
 
3  Sing for God’s justice 
disturbing each easy illusion,
tearing down tyrants and 
putting our pride 
to confusion;
lifeblood of right,
resisting evil and slight,
offering freedom’s transfusion.
 
4 Sing for God’s saints 
who have travelled 
faith’s journey before us,
who in our weariness 
give us their hope 
to restore us;
in them we see
the new creation to be,
spirit of love made flesh for us.
 

 

Prayers of Approach, Confession and Declaration of Forgiveness
 
Holy One in Three, in whom we live and move and have our being. We gather to worship acknowledging that everything belongs to you, the land and all living things. We praise you that you bless us with abundance. 
 
We join our voices in praise for you have wonderfully made us in all our diversity, the shades of our skin and textures of our hair, the loops, whorls and arches of our fingerprints and the coils of our DNA.  Each one of us is known and cherished by you, who loves us with a fiercely protective love and wills us each to flourish in life. 
We praise you for there is nowhere we can go where we are out with the limits of your love.
 
We praise you for there is nothing we can discover which is beyond the limits of your knowledge. 
 
We praise you that humankind is just one strand in the web of creation. When we look at the planet which we call home, we see your creating power and intricacy in complex eco-systems adaptive to every climate and habitat upon our common home. 
 
Gracious God, we confess that there are times when we forget the earth is yours, we treat it as our own to use and abuse it as we want. We confess our complicity in all that our common home has lost. 
 
For species lost through disappearing habitats, for biodiversity lost through deforestation and agri-business, for precious resources lost through our single-use, throw away culture, for ozone lost through our continuing reliance on fossil fuels.
 
Forgive us for forgetting what is at the heart of Jubilee, that the land has opportunity to rest and only bring forth what comes from it naturally, not what we plant, so we thank you for re-wilding, and setting aside and fallow times that allows the land to be restored so it may flourish again. 
We ask your forgiveness, we claim your love and mercy, and we ask for courage to make a new beginning for the earth and all her people trusting in the words of Scripture:
 
‘So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to Gods-self through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.’  
Thanks be to God. Amen. 
 
 
Prayer of Illumination
 
Holy Spirit, free us from all that commands our attention,
so that with hearts and minds open and attentive
we may hear God’s word for us today.  
Amen. 

ReadingLuke 4.14-21

Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country.  He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.
 
When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read,  and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
 
‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
        to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
    and recovery of sight to the blind,
        to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’
 
And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’
 
Hymn:      The Earth Is Yours O Lord our God
© The Rev’d Dominic Grant, used with permission sung by the Rev’d Adam, and Gillian Earle
 

The earth is yours, 
O Lord our God,
and everything that’s in it;
mere aliens and tenants we,
yet still we strive to win it.
So easily seduced and swayed
by Empire’s brash occlusion,
we overlook your leasehold-terms:
“enjoyment, not exclusion”.
 
2: And on this cusp of Jubilee
we’ve recognised temptation
to seek to ‘wow’ a fickle crowd,
sidestepping true vocation.
But we believe 
you’ve brought us here
to strengthen and re-wild us,
to hear afresh and trust anew
the call that once beguiled us.

3: Therefore with thanks 
for all that’s past,
we hold firm in the present,
anticipating future hope
unceasing, incandescent –
a hope that shapes and changes us,
a free space that we enter,
a rule of hospitality
with Jesus at the centre.
 
4: And till that final Jubilee
of reset and redemption,
we’ll pledge to live in faithfulness
to your declared intention.
Refreshed and 
reconditioned here,
you send us now in mission:
to give the Church a mighty shake,
for such is our tradition!

 

 
Sermon
 
Hello! I am Fiona Bennett; minister at Augustine United URC in Edinburgh and currently the URC’s General Assembly Moderator.
 
I happened to turn 50 during the second lockdown at the start of 2021. A party was not an option, so what to do? I live in Edinburgh which is known as the Rome of the north because it has 7 hills. Some very fit people, run the hills in a day. I considered that… for about 5 seconds… and then thought, not run but walk – I could walk the 7 hills in a day. On the day however, there was significant snow, so we managed the 7 hills but our photos look like we were in Alaska! How to mark a 50th in snowy Edinburgh in lockdown…
This year the URC is 50 years old. How do we mark our 50th as a community of faith, a denomination, a people of God, emerging from lockdown?
 
Well the Bible offers some helpful about how to celebrate a 50th , and it is called Jubilee.
 
The reading we heard from Luke 4 is sometime described as Jesus’ manifesto. This passage tells us what Jesus was about; what he believed God wanted to say and do in the world -Salvation!
 
Jesus is reading from what we identify as Isaiah 61:1-2. 
 
Isaiah was speaking to people who were returned or returning from being held in exile in Babylon. They were the poor, the captives, the broken hearted… To these broken people Isaiah was speaking words of comfort and hope that things were going to be different for them; that from being oppressed they were going to be liberated…
 
Jesus, was also speaking to people who were oppressed under the occupation of the Roman Empire, with the Empire’s culture of domination which shaped their world. Jesus was proclaiming that: the Kingdom of God is present on earth and is greater than the empire of Rome (or any other empire). Jesus invited people to awaken to God’s Realm around them and to allow its culture of love to shape their lives, institutions, culture, world…
 
The Spirit spoke these words through Isaiah to a community of faith, emerging from exile. 
 
The Spirit spoke these words through Jesus to a community of faith, inviting them to emerge from empire. 
 
How is the Spirit speaking through these words today, to us, a 50 years old URC, as we emerge from the Pandemic? 
Within the words of Luke and Isaiah, there is this line: to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord / to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.
 
I believe, it’s a bit unclear as to exactly what the Year of the Lord, or the Year of the Lord’s favour means, as these are the only direct uses of these phrases in scripture, but they seem to be about the Year of Jubilee which we can read about principally around Lev 25. Here we find teaching for the community of faith on how to celebrate their king through re-setting their economy.
 
The first thing to notice from Leviticus is that it understands all land, all property, all life, belongs to God. Humans are guests, only guests, in God’s land. God would like the land to be care for, as well as caring for the guests.
 
There was a law that every 7th year the land was not be farmed, but allowed to rest.
 
And after 7 cycles of 7 years, there was to be a special celebration year, a 50th Jubilee Celebration Year, in which not only would the land rest (ie not be farmed) but there would be a re-set of the economy in that people who had sold land, or sold themselves into slavery (and you would only sell land or sell yourselves if you were utterly desperate) would have their land returned and their liberty restored.
 
Now the idea for this came from ancient Mesopotamian kings, who had a tradition of marking celebrations of their kingly greatness, by releasing prisoners and gifting land – it demonstrated their abundance and generosity. The Jubilee tradition is based on this idea and the understanding that God is King; the land and people are God’s to do what God likes with. The way God celebrates as King, is to rest the land, and restore tenancy & liberty to those who have lost it.
 
It meant every 50 years there was to be a re-sent button pressed on the economy and the culture. 
People who had made a lot of wealth from land did not lose the wealth, but they did lose the land which they had gained through other people’s poverty. And those who had found themselves trapped in poverty have chance to begin again, because land was the basic key to survival.
What a generous King God is to shape laws so that the land could rest and none of their citizens are trapped in poverty forever!
 
Amazing! 
 
However, it is important to realize that the reality of the past is not as rosy or simple as we might want to think…
 
When we think of slavery today, we often tend to think first of Trans Atlantic slavery, where people’s skin colour defined them as slaves (ie Slaves were black) But in slavery throughout history, people of any colour or culture could find themselves as slaves in many parts of the world, if they or their family had been poor or had got into debt. 
 
Today, I feel repelled at the thought that any human being could be owned as property. I do not believe, however that many of the writers or editors of Scripture looked at things that way. Although some will have.
I was reminded recently that even within my own city, Edinburgh, (which benefited hugely from the transatlantic slave trad), there have always, always been people who opposed and spoke out against slavery, and in particular in the 17th C, people who opposed spoke out against the idea that those with black skin were any less human. God’s Spirit has always been at work in our world!
 
However, in this Jubilee celebration where the children of Abraham and Sarah are released from slavery, the same generous liberation does not seem to have been applied to foreigners who found themselves in slavery in the same land. 
 
I wonder if Jesus who share the gospel with Syrophoenicians and honoured Samaritans, and whose church was built our of Gentiles and Jews, slave and free, would have intended the same limitations? I do not believe so.
 
The other rather sad challenge in looking at this idea of Jubilee, is that there is little evidence that it was actually ever fully implemented as is laid out in Leviticus, but it did shape thinking as we see in Isaiah, perhaps also Ezekiel, and in Luke. 
 
In Luke, using the image of Kingdom, Jesus is inviting humanity to awaken to the reality that the earth is God’s Kingdom and that God is King; a King who is entitled to govern as they choose, and God chooses a way in which the earth is given regular rest and the poor, indebted and vulnerable are not trapped forever.
 
That is how God the King chooses to celebrate 50 years of reign; these are the heart of God’s Jubilee celebrations; the Year of the Lord’s favour.
So how might this Jubilee inform the URC’s 50th year?
 
How could the Spirit be speaking through the idea of Jubilee to us a 50 years old URC, as we emerge from the Pandemic? 
 
Well it might remind us that all that we have, all that we are, is God’s; who is the source and shaper and lover of everything which exists. Gifts to be used to God’s glory.
 
It might point out to us that, Our God is abundant and generous and just, and asks us to be the same;
 
Our God asks us to good gardeners to tend the earth, which we are part of, encouraging growth and fruit, but also gifting rest and health for all.
Our generous and abundant God asks us to design and build justice and wholeness into the patterns and frameworks of the garden of the world, so that vulnerability is not exploited, so that no one is trapped in debt or poverty.
The year of Jubilee was a year both of celebration of the Holy One, and a re-set button on society.
 
This is Reformation Sunday, the day on which we remember the beginning of the Christian Reformation. It seems very appropriate on this day in this the URC’s 50th year to be asking ourselves about reform in light of the Jubilee and asking:
 

  • The Jubilee year was a time of celebration.  So, what do we celebrate about what God has done in the URC over the last 50 years?
  • The Jubilee year was a time of liberation.  Are there any church burdens that, if freed of, would liberate us to flourish?
  • The Jubilee year was a time of economic transformation and hope for the poorest.  If money was no object, what could we invest in to make our local church more effective in recognizing God’s Kingdom in our local communities?

 
Celebration, Liberation, Transformation
 
All the we have, all that we are, is God’s.
 
God is good – irrepressible in love, justice, creativity and hope.  How is God beckoning us to emerge out the pandemic and our last 50 years, that the God who decreed Jubilee will be glorified in the URC and in God’s world in the years to come?
 
Hymn       The Kingdom of God
Bryn Rees 1973 © Alexander Scott sung by the Rev’d Paul Robinson
 

The Kingdom of God is justice and joy;
For Jesus restores what sin would destroy.
God’s power and glory in Jesus we know;
and here and hereafter the Kingdom shall grow.

2 The Kingdom of God 
is mercy and grace;
the prisoners are freed, 
the sinners find place,
the outcast are welcomed 
God’s banquet to share;
and hope is awakened 
in place of despair.
 
3 The Kingdom of God 
is challenge and choice:
believe the good news, 
repent and rejoice!
His love for us sinners 
brought Christ to His cross:
our crisis of judgement 
for gain or for loss.
 

4 God’s Kingdom is come, the gift and the goal;
in Jesus begun, in heaven made whole.
The heirs of the Kingdom shall answer His call;
and all things cry “Glory!” to God all in all.
Affirmation of Faith 
 
With the whole Church,
we affirm our calling to live out the gospel.
With people everywhere,
we affirm that we are made in God’s image and held in God’s love.
With all creation, 
we affirm the Jubilee way of celebration, liberation, and transformation. 

Prayers of the People 
 
Let’s spend a few moments looking back over the past week. Think about all that was good – those places where God’s grace was strewn across our path; for all that we want to give thanks for, in our lives and the life of our world…
 
(a time of silence)
 
For the beauty of misty mornings, shiny conkers, and the hush of evening light…
 
For the comfort of Strictly and Bake Off, the wonder of a new day, the indulgence of an extra hour in bed…
 
For the kindness of strangers, the familiarity of friends, the love of family… 
 
Gracious God, in all that is good and beautiful and life giving we encounter you and we give you thanks.
 
Now let’s look again at the past week, because woven in amongst the good stuff will have been events and experiences- in our lives, the lives of others, or in the life of our world – that have been difficult and challenging, or sad and frightening…and in God’s presence let’s remember them…
 
(a time of stillness)
 
For those who suffer in mind, body, or spirit…(pause)
 
For the dying and bereaved…(pause)
 
For those who have little to celebrate…(pause)
 
For those longing to be liberated from debt, unjust systems, modern-day slavery…(pause)
 
For those striving for the transformation of the world…(pause)
 
For the people and places on our hearts and minds today…(pause)
 
Living God, we pray for justice and healing; for good news and good stewardship; for celebration, liberation and transformation – that they may be sown amongst us in our daily living. 
 
And in this year of the United Reformed Church’s Jubilee, we pray for your Church – both local and global; united and uniting; Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox. Refresh our ecumenical vision. Remind us of the wonder of the gospel. Reform us in your love. 
 
God of the Jubilee – of parties and picnics, festivities and freedom, of love beyond all measure – may we be open to the work of your Spirit amongst us once again, that we, and all your children, may be free. All this we pray in the name of our brother and saviour – Jesus the Christ – who taught us a pattern of prayer, saying …
 
The Lord’s Prayer

Offertory 
 
We continue our worship now with the offertory. For some of us, this can be a time to look at our shoes, fumble in our pockets for a bit of loose change, or hope – as the plate passes us again – that others will know that we give by direct debit! In short, it can often be a little awkward – especially if there are guests in the congregation. So it might be helpful to remember, that this is not a collection for the church…or a way to show what we think about the quality of the sermon! Instead, it’s a way of living out God’s Jubilee. It’s about declaring that all we have, are, and own, belong to God. So we’re thanking God for all our many blessings and gladly giving our time, our energy, our money to share God’s joy and justice with others. With that in mind, let’s give as we are able…
 
Gracious God,
Source of all life and love,
With deep thanks we offer to you:
our fumbled change, church envelopes, and direct debits; 
our energy, talents, and time;
our prayers, our hopes, our lives.
Receive and grace these offerings, 
That they may be used to bless your church, 
your people, your creation.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Hymn:      God’s Spirit Is Deep In My Heart 
Hubert J Richards & Alan Dale © 1982 Kevin Mayhew Ltd.  Recording produced by the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, Assumption Province.  Permission for use sought.
 

 

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 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.
 
4:  God’s Spirit is in our hearts,
He has called us and set us apart.
This is what we have to do,
what we have to do.


 
Blessing 
 
Let us go from this time of worship as people of the Jubilee.
Celebrating the Source of life who blesses us with abundance,
Living the liberated life offered 
through the reconciling work of Jesus the Christ
transformed through the power of the Spirit, 
who inspires us to work for transformation in our world
And in all things held and sustained 
by the love and grace 
of the Holy Three in One.  
Amen. 
 
Sources
 
Opening music: Lobt Gott Ihr Christen (“Praise God ye Christians”) by Johann Gottfried Walther (organ of The Spire Church, Farnham – 2020)
 
Closing music: Trumpet Voluntary in D by John Baston (organ of Basilica Santo Spirito, Florence, Italy – 2016)
 
Thanks to Graham Handscomb, Anne Hewling, Christopher Whitehead, Sarah Wilmott, Kathleen Haynes, Hilary Eveleigh and Pam Carpenter for recording the spoken parts of the service. 
 

Hymn lyrics are public domain, the music in the podcast is delivered subject to the terms of the URC’s licence.

Where words are copyright reproduced under the terms of Barrhead URC’s CCLI licence number 1064776,
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