St. Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh
Midweek Devotion 14 May 2020
Led by Rev Douglas A O Nicol
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4: 7)
Let us worship God.
St. Mark 4: 35-41
On that day, when evening had come, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Let us go across to the other side’. And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great gale arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’. He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’. Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’. And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and sea obey him?’.
One of the many stained glass windows to be enjoyed in St. Giles’ Cathedral is the North Window, designed by Scottish artist Douglas Strachan in 1922, and gifted by merchant navy captain, Charles Taylor. The magnificent work of art portrays Jesus stilling the tempest – the subject of our Gospel reading today.
Having been teaching all day, we can imagine an exhausted Jesus inviting his disciples into the boat he had been using as his pulpit and encouraging them to go with him to a peaceful spot for a rest. Jesus was so tired that he fell asleep on the journey and failed to notice the sudden storm which threatened to engulf the boat. It was when Jesus was woken by his disciples that the miracle occurred – one that astonished his followers then and which has astonished Christian believers over the centuries.
In the midst of the storm Jesus offered peace – a practical outworking of the inner peace that Jesus offers to all. Today the world is challenged by the coronavirus crisis which left unchecked would threaten millions worldwide. In the midst of this storm the Christian Church invites all to discover a peace that surpasses all understanding – an inner peace that offers calm in the midst of the tempest.
And there we could close … were it not for noticing a five word sentence in our text: ‘Other boats were with him’. Here we have a little detail of the scene undoubtably noted by the young John Mark as he listened years later to an eyewitness account from Simon Peter. And in the seemingly insignificant detail lies a challenging reflection – for I cannot imagine that the storm abated around Jesus’ boat alone. The other boats would be drawn into the peace and calm he offered. So too as we experience that peace that surpasses all understanding it is our Christian responsibility to offer it to others – the boats around us in life. The cheery greeting, the encouraging word, the helping hand all go a long way in sharing the peace we enjoy … and in making the world a better place. In the words of the hymnwriter, Cecil Frances Alexander:
‘Jesus calls us! O’er the tumult
of our life’s wild restless sea,
day by day his voice is sounding,
saying, ‘Christian, follow me’.
Let us pray
Set free, O Lord, the souls of your servants
from all restlessness and anxiety.
Give us your peace and power,
and so keep us that,
in all perplexity and distress,
we may abide in you,
upheld by your strength
and stayed on the rock of your faithfulness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Most merciful God,
we pray for inner peace for all working for others at this time of coronavirus crisis:
medical, care and social work staff,
scientists seeking cures and vaccines,
those who serve others in shops and public services,
all who volunteer to help their neighbours,
and politicians and advisers making decisions on future policy to combat the virus and restore some normality to life.
Most gracious God,
today we remember all who are ill with Covid-19 in hospitals and care homes, and all those who are grieving the loss of ones they loved dearly. We name now in quietness any known to us.
We ask all these prayers in Jesus’ Name.
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, 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,
May the Lord of peace himself
give you peace at all times and in all ways.
The Lord be with you all.
(2 Thessalonians 3:16)
Friends, my closing thought is to say that as a retired Minister who enjoys sharing in the life and worship of St. Giles’ Cathedral it has been my privilege to have you with us at Midweek Devotion today. I’d like to take this opportunity of explaining that St. Giles’ has taken the decision to keep a number of its paid staff working off-site during the Cathedral’s closure amidst these strange and uncertain days. If today you have enjoyed your time with us I’d encourage you to consider making a donation through our webpage. Your giving will assist us in contributing all that we can to God’s mission of bringing peace to the world and its people. May I thank you in anticipation of your response!
Louis-Nicolas Clérambault Flütes (Suite du Deuxième Ton)