St. Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh
Midweek Devotion 11th March 2021
Led by Rev Craig Meek
Welcome to today’s online devotion with St. Giles’ Cathedral. My name is Craig Meek and I am the Assistant Minister here at the Cathedral, and I am delighted that you’ve joined us today for a short time of reflection and prayer together. May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ soften our hearts and strengthen our spirits, friends. Let us listen together for a Word from our Lord.
A Reading from Genesis 9:8-17
8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, 9 ‘As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, 10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. 11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.’ 12 God said, ‘This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: 13 I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.’ 17 God said to Noah, ‘This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.’
I remember sitting in a classroom as an undergraduate student, listening to my Professor talk about the Book of Genesis. He was careful with his words, mostly because he didn’t want to upset the rather conservative and Evangelical contingency of students who sat waiting to hear if he would deny a literal interpretation of the creation stories found in the opening chapters of the book. In an attempt to avoid the trap, the Professor turned us to the Book of Exodus, and we read about how God’s people escaped from Egyptian slavery only to embark on a journey through the wilderness. At that point, the Professor invited us to imagine for a moment that we were children traveling with the Israelites through the wilderness, setting up camp at various intervals. He said, ‘imagine that you’re a child sitting around the campfire; imagine the stories your elders would tell you about your ancestors and those who had gone before you. What kind of stories do you think they might tell?’ he asked. A brave soul raised her hand and answer, ‘probably stories that look a lot like the opening chapters of Genesis’ – and the Professor replied: ‘Exactly!’
To be fair, I’m not entirely sure whether our Professor was making a real historical assertion or trying merely to help us think a little less-literally about the Genesis story and texts; I suspect the latter is probably the case. But in any event, I’ve always found it helpful to think about the Genesis stories – and perhaps others within the Pentateuch as well – as ‘campfire stories’; that is, the stories that God’s people shared with one another as they travelled through the wilderness or faced the prospects of Exile many years later. They are stories that reminded them of God’s faithfulness amidst trials and tribulations; of God’s goodness and mercy; that even though we as human beings are nothing in ourselves, our lives have value and meaning in the eyes of God.
It seems to me that our text from Genesis today moves in precisely this direction; it a story about a sign that God gives to God’s people in order to remind them of God’s faithfulness – of God’s promises. The Living God is the God of life rather than destruction; of mercy amidst judgment; a God who is faithful even when we are not. The bow in the sky is a sign of these things. It is a sign that reminds us of how the earth is filled with the glory of God, a place fit for God’s people to dwell and to learn the rhythms of grace by which we live and move and have our being. It is a sign that God loves and cares for God’s creation and the creatures that fill it, and perhaps also an invitation for us to love and to care for it too.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Together in Prayer
Holy and Almighty God, the great lover of humankind and all of creation, teach us Lord to better love and care for the world and its inhabitants. Teach us to enjoy the rhythms of the days and seasons; to enjoy and marvel at creatures that creep along the ground and fill the seas. Teach us, Lord, to see the bow in the sky and remember your faithfulness to both the earth and its people; remind us again that you are not a God of destruction but of life and love.
We pray, Lord, for any and all whose lives have been taken from them; for those whose lives are oppressed, burdened, or plagued by inequality. May all who find themselves stuck in throws of injustice know something of your faithfulness, and may you deliver them from those things that keep them from being who you’ve created and called them to be.
Lord God, hear our prayers for those whom we love and commit to your care. Draw near to those who are sick and who grieve and those who are lonely. May they, too, know your faithfulness and your abiding presence in the days and hours ahead. For these things we pray in the name of Christ Jesus, who taught his friends to say together:
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven. Hallowed be thy name. Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is heaven. Given us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the Kingdom, the power, and the glory for ever. Amen.
Friends, I hope that this brief devotion has been an encouragement to your today, and that you’ll join us again another time. Until then, may the Lord bless you and keep you; may the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; may the Lord lift his countenance upon you and give you peace, both this day and for evermore. Amen.
François Couperin Récit de tierce en taille