St. Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh
Midweek Devotion 5th August 2021
Led by Rev Sigrid Marten
Welcome to our Midweek Devotions at St Giles’ Cathedral.
In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says,
“Blessed are the merciful,
for they will receive mercy.”
In this time of reflection and prayer let us open our hearts for God’s word for us.
Our scripture reading for today is found in Paul’s letter to the Romans, chapter 15 (verses 1-6).
Many people talk about not suffering fools gladly, so it may be quite hard for us to hear Paul’s words, “We who are strong ought to put up with the failings of the weak…”
This short passage is part of a longer text in Paul’s letter where he is encouraging his friends in Rome to live in unity with one another. Early Christians were in serious dispute over whether it was okay to eat meat that had been sacrificed in pagan temples. For some that was not a problem because as Christians they felt free from the superstitions of the world around them; for others this was sacrilege. Interestingly, Paul does not really enter into the rights and wrongs of this. Instead, he discourages those who feel strong in their new-found freedom in Christ from ignoring the feelings of those who hold a different view. Paul is much more concerned with the unity of the Christian community, with everyone looking out for each other and with building each other up, so that faith will be strengthened.
That can be a tough message to hear when we are full of relief and delight that we have been been liberated from the many constraints that human society puts upon us. When we have found new freedom in Jesus Christ, we might not want immediately to be restrained again, bound by rules and considerations for other people. But Paul reminds the Roman Christians, and us today, that my freedom can never be an absolute right if it impinges on the lives and freedom of others. For Paul, the life of the community matters at least as much, especially the lives of those whom he calls weak.
As Christians we follow in the footsteps of Jesus who practised amazing gentleness with those whose hearts were broken and whose needs were great. So, even when we think we are among the strong ones, even if we think we are on the side of right, we are challenged by Paul to take care to build each other up, rather than bask in our sense of superiority; to live in harmony, rather than insist on being right; to “please our neighbour for the good purpose of building up our neighbour”.
If you are anything like me, that will be a work in progress: learning to overcome our impatience with each other, letting go of the false ego that just wants to win, and truly living with each other out of that great love that Christ offers us.
Let us pray.
You love us with a love
greater than anything we can imagine.
Your mercy and forgiveness
heal all our brokenness.
You offer us freedom
from all that holds us back,
cripples us, denies our humanity.
Your grace allows us to become the people
that you envision us to be.
Help us to trust in that love and grace,
to unfold our wings and learn to fly.
Show us how we can be true to who we are,
precious children of the living God,
made in your image,
and at the same time allow others
to do the same.
Teach us your way of gentleness
in our dealings with each other.
Help us not to feel threatened by difference,
but to celebrate diversity.
Fill us with your grace,
so that together we can be
the body of Christ,
honouring each member,
building each other up,
so that faith can grow,
and our witness to the love we share
in Jesus Christ.
We pray for all who are feeling vulnerable just now.
We remember those who are in pain,
those who can see
no light at the end of the tunnel,
those who are afraid to face the new day.
We pray that justice and peace may come
in the many places where there is war,
violence and oppression.
We ask your blessing on all your children
whose lives are in danger,
through natural disasters, climate change,
disease or human-made suffering.
All our prayers we sum up in Jesus’ words who taught us to pray together:
which art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever,
the peace of God
which passes all understanding,
keep your hearts and minds
in the knowledge and love of God,
and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
Joseph Jongen Petit Prélude