St. Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh
Midweek Devotion 15th October 2020
Led by Rev Craig Meek
Welcome and Opening Sentences
Welcome to worship online with St. Giles’ Cathedral. Today is Thursday, the 15th of October, and my name is Craig Meek; I am the Assistant Minister here at the Cathedral and I’m delighted that you’ve joined us for this short time of reflection together. The Psalmist tells us that heavens proclaim the glory of our God; that the law of the Lord is perfect and revives the soul. For the Lord delights in our lives and in the life of the world. Reminded of this and grateful for the divine love which never lets us go, may we listen together for a word for the Lord today.
A Reading from Luke 11:37-54
37 While he was speaking, a Pharisee invited him to dine with him; so he went in and took his place at the table. 38 The Pharisee was amazed to see that he did not first wash before dinner. 39 Then the Lord said to him, ‘Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. 40 You fools! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? 41 So give for alms those things that are within; and see, everything will be clean for you.
42 ‘But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God; it is these you ought to have practised, without neglecting the others. 43 Woe to you Pharisees! For you love to have the seat of honour in the synagogues and to be greeted with respect in the market-places. 44 Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without realizing it.’
45 One of the lawyers answered him, ‘Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us too.’ 46 And he said, ‘Woe also to you lawyers! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not lift a finger to ease them. 47 Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your ancestors killed. 48 So you are witnesses and approve of the deeds of your ancestors; for they killed them, and you build their tombs. 49 Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, “I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute”, 50 so that this generation may be charged with the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world, 51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be charged against this generation. 52 Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.’
53 When he went outside, the scribes and the Pharisees began to be very hostile towards him and to cross-examine him about many things, 54 lying in wait for him, to catch him in something he might say.
What a fascinating text we have today! An irritated and incensed Jesus is an interesting Jesus, often reminding us that our romanticized caricatures of a gentle, soft, and kind Jesus fail to give us a full window into his personality and being. You Fools! – He says to the Pharisees. Woe to the Lawyers! – who seem to be guilty by association as much as they are condemned by their lack of interest in the righteousness and justice of the Kingdom of God.
But all of this raises an important question for us: Why is it that Jesus is angry and irritated with these people? Why is it that Jesus suddenly unleashes a fury against his dinner hosts, perhaps not unlike that which we see elsewhere when he turns over the tables of the money changers in the temple. Why is he upset? What can we learn from his righteous anger?
Perhaps just this: That our minds are to be set upon things above rather than upon the things and the ways of the world. Notice how the religious leaders – and piously so – concern themselves with the letter of the religious law rather than its divine meaning. Notice, too, how the lawyers concern themselves with a righteousness unfit for a divine Kingdom; a righteousness in which people get what they deserve – and perhaps more – rather than their burdens eased and their lives helped to restoration. It seems to me that both the religious leaders and the lawyers are content with a world in which they hold power and authority; a world in which religion itself is a matter of keeping rituals and laws rather than a matter of the heart.
How easy it is for any one of us to fall into the trap in our story today! More often than not, it is much easier for us to become content with our world and its distorted conceptions of righteousness and life than it is for us to struggle for the realization of the sort of world that Jesus announces and demonstrates; a world where debts are forgiven rather than punished and religion is life-giving rather than life-burdening. Friends, I want to live in the sort of world that Jesus came to announce and realize, even if it means that I have to see things a bit differently; even if it means that I have to struggle to keep my focus and help realize its rhythms among a world seemingly indifferent to them. I want to live within and see that Kingdom, even when it’s easier to settle for a lesser one. May each of us resist that temptation in the days ahead and set our minds on things above, seeing the world through eyes of Jesus and refusing to settle for anything less than his Kingdom.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Together in Prayer
Holy and Almighty God, the one who chooses to love the world and its people even in spite of our faults and distorted ways, hear our prayers today as we cling to the mercy and goodness of Jesus Christ, your only Son and our Lord, as he mediates our prayers and makes us faithful ever again.
Lord God, hear our prayers for a world tired and increasingly indifferent. We pray for our leaders, that they would wield their powers responsibly and justly, remembering those who continue to suffer on the margins of our societies everywhere. We pray for the refugee, the migrant, the poor, and the oppressed, that you would protect, guide, and empower them in the days ahead. Remembering our own privileges, burden our consciences and soften our hearts that we might not settle for the world we see but struggle for that world that remains real yet unseen; a world where hardship and oppression have no place and where lives are free to flourish.
Hear our prayers, Lord, also, for those whom we love as we commitment them to your care. Give our friends and family members peace and keep them safe as they go about their lives. Bless and encourage those who face loneliness or difficulties and draw near to anyone who needs to know again your presence. Have mercy on us, Lord; have mercy on your people, wherever they may be found, and hear us as we pray together that which Jesus taught his friends to say:
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on 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. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the Kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
Friends, I hope that you’ve enjoyed this devotion 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.
Dieterich Buxtehude Vater unser im Himmelreich