URC Daily Devotions Sunday Worship for 27th June 2021 – The Revd. Paul Robinson

United Reformed Church Daily Devotion Service
Sunday 27th June 2021

The Rev’d Paul Robinson

Introduction
Hello everyone and welcome to today’s Daily Devotion Service from the United Reformed Church.  My name is Paul Robinson, and it is a joy and privilege of mine to have been asked to lead our worship today.  I serve as minister of The United Church in Rhyl on the North Wales Coast and bring you the greetings of our fellowship here.  I was asked to share a little about me… I’m married to Jo, and we have a nine year old daughter, Rachel; I enjoy music and play a few instruments and sing a bit too; I also support the best football team in the land, Manchester United.  And before we get into discussion about that, I think we should be called instead to worship God…

Call to Worship
 

We meet in the name of God, the Holy Trinity of Love
who knows our needs, hears our cries, feels our pain,
and heals our wounds.

God is our light and our salvation.
In God’s name we light this candle and are reminded of Jesus, the Light of the World, God’s own Voice who came to live with us.
May our hearts be open to you, O God, now and always. Amen.
 

Hymn       Praise to the Lord, the Almighty
Joachim Neander translated by Catherine Winkworth

 

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty,
the King of creation;
O my soul, praise Him,
for He is thy health and salvation:
All you who hear,
now to His temple draw near,
join in profound adoration.
 
2. Praise to the Lord,
above all things
so mightily reigning,
keeping us safe at His side
and so gently sustaining:
Have you not seen
All you have needed has been
met by His gracious ordaining?
 
3. Praise to the Lord,
who will prosper our work,
and defend us;
Surely His goodness and mercy
here daily attend us;
Ponder anew
what the Almighty can do,
who with His love will befriend us.
 
4: Praise to the Lord!
O let all that is in me adore Him!
All that hath life and breath,
come now with praises before Him!
Let the Amen
sound from His people again,
now as we worship before Him!

 

Prayer of Approach, Confession & Declaration of Forgiveness
 
Almighty God,
We come to worship you in this moment,
Recognising your greatness and incredible power.
You are the King of creation
Wondrously reigning over all things.
 
All your ways are true, just and right;
You are awesome in your holiness.
As we come before you in glad adoration,
And in joyful worship,
So we are made aware of our own weaknesses and faithlessness.
We rejoice that in your great mercy and perfect love
Your son, the Lord Jesus Christ, suffered and died upon the cross,
By this grace we come seeking forgiveness for our sin,
Repenting and making Jesus Lord of our lives.
 
Fill us with your Holy Spirit
And grant us the deep assurance that
All who truly repent are forgiven.
Come Holy Spirit,
Change us, renew us, and fashion us
Into the people you would have us be,
Holy and perfectly restored in you.
 
Come Holy Spirit,
May we know your presence as we worship
May we hear your voice as we listen to your word
May we experience your love and power at work in our lives today.
 
We ask these prayers in the name of Jesus Christ,
Our Saviour and Lord.
Amen

Hymn       Speak, O Lord as we come to you
Stuart Townend & Keith Getty

 

Speak, O Lord, as we come to You
to receive the food of your holy word.
Take Your truth, plant it deep in us;
shape and fashion us in Your likeness,
that the light of Christ might be seen today
in our acts of love and our deeds of faith.
Speak, O Lord, and fulfil in us
all Your purposes, for Your glory.
 
2: Teach us Lord full obedience,
holy reverence, true humility.
Test our thoughts and our attitudes
in the radiance of Your purity.
Cause our faith to rise cause our eyes to see,
Your majestic love and authority.
Words of power that can never fail;
let their truth prevail over unbelief.

 

3: Speak, O Lord, and renew our minds;
help us grasp the heights of Your plans for us.
Truths unchanged from the dawn of time,
that will echo down through eternity.
And by grace we’ll stand on Your promises;
and by faith we’ll walk as You walk with us.
Speak, O Lord, ’til your Church is built
and the earth is filled with Your glory.

Reading  Psalm 130
 
A song of ascents.
 
Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord;
    Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
    to my cry for mercy.
 
If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,
    Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
    so that we can, with reverence, serve you.
 
I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
    and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord
    more than watchmen wait for the morning,
    more than watchmen wait for the morning.
 
Israel, put your hope in the Lord,
    for with the Lord is unfailing love
    and with him is full redemption.
He himself will redeem Israel
    from all their sins.

Sermon
 
One evening in May, 1738, the Anglican clergyman, John Wesley, heard someone at Aldersgate Street Chapel read aloud Martin Luther’s introduction to his commentary on the book of Romans.  Wesley wrote that as he heard those words his ‘heart was strangely warmed’ as he experienced a great assurance that his sins were forgiven and that he was a child of God.  That moment was an answer to a prayer that Wesley had offered earlier on that same day, in St. Paul’s Cathedral.  That
morning Wesley sat in St Paul’s as the choir sang the words we have just heard read – Psalm 130.  To try and reflect on what was in Psalm 130 that brought Wesley to his knees in prayer and begin the transformation that would eventually lead to the emergence of the Methodist Church, well that would require some speculation on our part.  But I can see several points in Psalm 130 that could contend for providing that special moment.  And come to think of it, those points may well help us hear what God is saying to us today in our journey with him.  There are four sections to the psalm, each two verses long.  We’ll touch on each briefly.
 
In the first couple of verses, then, the Psalmist is crying out to God, “Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord; Lord, hear my voice.  Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.”  The psalmist is obviously in some distress.  We’re not quite sure what may be the cause of that, and why they feel as though they are in the depths.  Several commentators, though, suggest that Psalms 129, 130 and 131 were written together as a little trio and the events and emotions described in Psalm 129 might well give some context to the depths from which the psalmist is now crying out to God.  Whilst the exact details of their despair may allude us, what they do in that moment is there clearly before us – they cry out to God.  They don’t give themselves a little pep talk, ‘Come on, Paul, you can do this, pull your socks up and get on with it’.  Nor do they give up trying to do anything and let the despair have it’s way, ‘Oh it’s all too much, what can I do?’  No, instead they cry out – they cry out to God who is far bigger than their current circumstances, and who has far more resources to hand than they themselves have.
 
Perhaps it was this that spoke to Wesley that day as he sat in St Paul’s cathedral.  He had been in some distress himself because nothing he did was able to resolve the sense of guilt and shame that he felt because of his own sin and short-comings.  Perhaps he realised that day that he had to stop searching for the answer and resolution within himself, but had to cry out to God. 
And perhaps God’ Spirit is saying something to you and I today too: an encouragement to cry out to him and to look to him.  It’s so easy to get drawn in to a line of thought that says, “I should be able to get through this, if I just do this, if I just work harder, search deeper in my soul, if I cling on for longer, yes, really, I will be able to do this.”  If the last 18 months has taught us anything perhaps it should be that the depths we can find ourselves in are bigger than that which we are supposed to be able to cope with, and instead we should join the Psalmist, “Lord hear my voice.  Listen to me.”  I saw a little cartoon drawing recently of piglet and pooh bear.  Piglet asks Pooh, “What is the most difficult thing to ask for?”  Pooh replies, “Help.”  Whatever is going on in your life today – you can, right now, stop looking inward for the resources to help, and look outward and upward to the God who is over all.
 
In the second section of the psalm we read (v.3 & 4), ‘If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you.’  Alec Motyer in his devotional commentary on these verses talks of how the psalmist may have cried out to God with one thing on his heart and mind, only for them to be led to see the underlying issues that God wishes to address.  Another example of this happening would be in Mark 2 when some people bring their paralyzed friend to Jesus.  They’re so keen that he is healed that they have to lower him through the roof of the house.  But then Jesus forgives their friend’s sin rather than immediately addressing the obvious need.  God wants to deal with the real issues in our lives.  I’m really aware of this just at the moment, as a white British male.  I can speak against the injustices I see in our world, and I can pray that God would bring the justice of Christ’s Kingdom here today in our society.  As I do I’m led to search my own heart for the deep rooted vestiges of privilege, racism and sexism within; and the inconsistency of my desire for society to be fairer, safer, more just when I lack the desire to recognise my own short-comings.  I’ve cried out to God, and as I do so he sheds light on the real issue and cause, the sinfulness that lingers in my own heart. 
But if the psalmist is led to see the real issues in the depths, then they also find a real solution.  ‘But with you there is forgiveness’, says v.4.  This reads well in our English translations, but glosses over the emphasis the psalmist puts on the uniqueness of this forgives – literally- but with you there is the forgiveness, the real thing, the genuine article.  Not a sacrifice that shows you the seriousness of sin and the cost of forgiveness; not a prayer that tells you what to say to receive forgiveness; not an apology or metaphor that helps you explore what forgiveness is like.  But real, actual, life-changing forgiveness.  A real solution for a real issue.  And not just real forgiveness, but as v.7 tells us, also real love, a true unfailing love, and full complete redemption.
Perhaps this is what struck Wesley all those years ago – that God had the only true, unfailing love, forgiveness and redemption he longed for.  And I wonder, for us, as we look to God today, what aspect of his unfailing love, his real love do you need?  A real peace to come over your heart, mind and soul; a real true and lasting healing of your body, or of your relationships; a real hope, encouragement and perserverence for the days ahead; perhaps even, real forgiveness and full redemption for sin and shame that haunts, and if you’re like me, that has laid unnoticed until these days.  As we turn to God and cry out to him, so we know he has what we desperately need: true, tangible, grace.
 
In the third section then, we read, in v.5, ‘I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.’  What then is the psalmist’s response?  They have cried out to God, they know God has the real resources to meet their need, and now, now, he waits.  His whole being waits – heart, mind and soul.  Not chasing after what God will give them, not trying to make it all happen, not giving up on God after 30 seconds when it doesn’t happen right there and then in the way expected.  He waits.  Waits for God.  Recognising their dependency on God and his grace.  The psalmist has come to know that they can do no other, they are in God’s hands.  But this wait is no blind optimism or crazy dream into the unknown, it is, instead, a hopeful, confident faith in God.  Verse 6 reads, ‘I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.’  You see the watchman knows the morning is coming.  The night might seem particularly long, or tough.  They might struggle to keep awake with the passing time dragging on and on like a sleepless night; or it might be a busy night with unexpected tasks and without a moment to rest.  Regardless dawn will come, and with it the end of the night shift and the start of a new day; the passing of the night and the beginning of new possibilities.  The watchmen know that dawn will come.  No-one can stop it arriving at its allotted time.  So the psalmist waits with that confident assurance that at some moment, quite soon, that real grace, that unfailing love will come as God brings his new day.
 
Perhaps it was this that struck Wesley on that May Day in St Paul’s cathedral.  As he left that recently finished grand building, he was waiting with an assurance that the unfailing love he needed would come to him.  It was such that when his heart was strangely warmed that evening, he knew the wait was over – love was his, forgiveness his, grace was his – oh what joy, his heart was free!
 
You and I, we are encouraged too, to wait, confident, and in hope.  Our eyes straining to see the first glimmer of dawn on the horizon.  The first sign of that grace, that love, that hope we have sought, longed for, needed.  A new day will dawn.
 
In the fourth section the Psalmist turns from agonising pray-er into an exhorting preacher.  Verse 7 begins, ‘Israel, put your hope in the Lord…’. The psalmist turns to address others, ‘I’ve put my hope in the LORD, I have cried out to him, he has heard my cry, I’ve found in him true grace and unfailing love, I’ve waited on him and he has responded.  You can hope in him too.’
Perhaps it was this that sparked in Wesley that passion to preach throughout the land.  I’ve put my hope in the LORD and he hasn’t failed me.  You should too.
 
That leaves you and I with a question.  Who will you share your experience of the love and grace of God with today?

Hymn       I will wait for you
Keith & Kristyn Getty

 

Lord, from the depths I call to You
Lord, hear me from on high
And give attention to my voice
When I for mercy cry
 
Out of the depths I cry to You
In darkest places I will call
Incline Your ear to me anew
And hear my cry for mercy, Lord
 
Were You to count my sinful ways
How could I come before Your throne
Yet full forgiveness meets my gaze
I stand redeemed by grace alone
 
I will wait for You
I will wait for You
On Your word, I will rely
I will wait for You
Surely wait for You
Till my soul is satisfied
 
So put your hope in God alone
Take courage in His power to save
Completely and forever won
By Christ emerging from the grave
 
I will wait for You
 
Now He has come to make a way
And God Himself has paid the price
That all who trust in Him today
Find healing in His sacrifice
 
I will wait for You
 
I pray my soul waits for the Lord
My hope is in His word
More than the watchman waits for dawn
My soul waits for the Lord

  

Affirmation of Faith
 
We believe in God.
Despite His silence and His secrets we believe that He lives.
Despite evil and suffering we believe that He made the world
so that all would be happy in life.
Despite the limitations of our reason
and the revolts of our hearts,
we believe in God.
 
We believe in Jesus Christ.
Despite the centuries which separate us
from the time when he came to earth, we believe in His word.
Despite our incomprehension and our doubt,
we believe in His resurrection.
Despite his weakness and poverty, we believe in his reign.
 
We believe in the Holy Spirit.
Despite appearances we believe He guides the Church;
despite death we believe in eternal life;
despite ignorance and disbelief,
we believe that the Kingdom of God is promised to all.  Amen.

Prayer of Intercessions
 
Almighty God,
Maker and Lover of all,
We know that your way is not easy;
That peace is not given lightly,
That sometimes justice comes only through struggle.
 
We pray for the places in your world
Where we long to see justice and dream of peace.
We lift up to you places where conflicts seem
so long-standing and complex
That we cannot imagine resolution.
We pray for wisdom and reconciliation,
Knowing that you have real peace to bring.
 
We remember communities divided by poverty and racism,
Where the gaps between privilege and powerlessness
seem to grow wider;
We pray for justice and healing,
Knowing that you have real righteousness to bring.
 
We remember your Church,
Sometimes fragmented and confused,
Where in spite of division,
Your people seek to live out the Gospel;
And we pray for joy and a new sense of the Spirit’s power,
Knowing that you have real truth to bring.
 
We remember our friends, neighbours and in the quiet now we lift up to you those whom you have placed in our hearts this day, knowing that you have real healing and comfort to bring.
 
-A moment of quiet-
 
We pray for ourselves and those areas of our lives where we struggle
To be true to what we have learned of you,
And we pray for faithfulness and courage,
Knowing that you have real unfailing love for us.
 
God, Maker and Lover of us all,
Who summons us in Jesus to the way of the cross,
And empowers us to live by your Spirit, hear our prayer.  Amen.

Offertory

In grateful thanks and in worship of God I invite you to spend a moment reflecting on the ways you do and are being led to serve with your time, energy and money.
 
-a brief pause-
 
Lord God,
We have read in Psalm 130 today that ‘with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you.’  We come before you now offering once more our time, energy and resources in reverence and in grateful thanks.  Use us for your glory and praise.  This we ask in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Hymn       Love Divine All Loves Excelling
                Charles Wesley 1747 Sung on BBC’s Songs of Praise
 

Love divine, all loves excelling,
joy of heaven to earth come down:
fix in us thy humble dwelling,
all thy faithful mercies crown:
Jesu, thou art all compassion,
pure, unbounded love thou art;
visit us with thy salvation,
enter every trembling heart.
 
2: Come, Almighty to deliver,
let us all thy life receive;
suddenly return, and never,
nevermore thy temples leave.
Thee we would be always blessing,
serve thee as thy hosts above,
pray & praise thee without ceasing
glory in thy perfect love.



3: Finish, then, thy new creation;
pure and spotless let us be:
let us see thy great salvation
perfectly restored in thee;
changed from glory into glory,
’til in heaven we take our place,
’til we cast our crowns before thee,
lost in wonder, love, and praise.

Blessing  

May the blessing of Almighty God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit
Be with each one of us this day and always.  Amen
 
Sources and thanks
 
Intercessions slightly altered version of those in Worship: from the United Reformed Church, p.93

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty – Joachim Neander translated by Catherine Winkworth – Sung at Westminster Abbey on the occasion of HM Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Celebration Service.

Speak, O Lord as we come to you – Stuart Townend & Keith Getty Copyright © 2005 Thankyou Music (Adm. by CapitolCMGPublishing.com excl. UK & Europe, adm. by Integrity Music, part of the David C Cook family, songs@integritymusic.com)  Sung by Keith and Kristyn Getty.

I will wait for you – ©2018 Getty Music Publishing (BMI) / Intro/Outro – Words: “Lord, from the Depths I Call to You” Psalter, Free Church of Scotland, Music: “Martyrdom” by Hugh Wilson – Performed by the Rev’d Paul Robinson

Love Divine All Loves Excelling – Charles Wesley 1747 Sung on BBC’s Songs of Praise  

Organ Pieces
 
Opening: Prelude in E Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach (organ of The Spire Church, Farnham – 2020)
Closing: Songs of Praise Toccata by Robert Prizeman (organ of St Andrew’s, Farnham – 2019)
 
Both pieces played by and received, with thanks, from Brian Cotterill http://briancotterill.webs.com

Thanks to Mandy Hibbert, Marion Thomas, Geoffrey Roper and Anthony Denman for reading various spoken parts of the service.
 

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