St. Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh
Midweek Devotion 16th July 2020
Led by Rev Douglas A O Nicol
The Psalmist wrote: ‘There are many who say, ‘If only we might see good times! Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord’ (Psalm 4:6)
Let us worship God.
The Gospel according to St. John, chapter 4, verses 1 to 26:
Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard, ‘Jesus is making and baptizing more disciples than John’ – although it was not Jesus himself but his disciples who baptised – he left Judea and started back to Galilee. But he had to go through Samaria. So he came to the Samaritan city of Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about Noon.
A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink’. (His disciples had gone into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria? (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you ”Give me a drink”, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?’ Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.’
Jesus said to her, ‘Go, call your husband, and come back.’ The woman answered him, ‘I have no husband.’ Jesus said to her, ‘You are right in saying, “I have no husband, for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming’ (who is called Christ). ‘When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am he, the one who is speaking to you.’
Just then the disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking to a woman, but no one said, ‘What do you want?’ or ‘Why are you speaking with her?’ Then the woman left her water-jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, ‘Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?’
Since the month of March we have all been on a journey made necessary by Covid-19, and over the days of this week we have entered into a new phase of the journey as hotels and restaurants open … and as we can all book a much needed haircut!
In our reading today we found Jesus on a different journey – taking a short cut from Jerusalem to Jericho, a route often avoided because it passed through the country of the Samaritans, with whom the Jews had centuries of dispute. Understandably Jesus was tired and thirsty from his journey, and he was waiting at a well for his disciples to return. When a Samaritan woman approached the well, Jesus surprised her by asking for water – normally a Jew would not have spoken to a Samaritan woman. The conversation that followed showed that even in his tiredness Jesus could never ignore human need, and as the conversation developed Jesus made it clear that the need of the woman at the well was spiritual rather than physical, moral rather than theological – and he affirmed that our worship should be genuine and spiritual. In the Bible verses that follow our passage we read that it was an encounter that led many others to believe in Jesus, the Messiah.
As we continue on our Covid-19 journey, many as Jesus of old are tired and thirsty for an end to both the restrictions to life today and for some certainty for the future. In our tiredness and in our thirst let us seek wisdom both to see and support those in need around us, and also to find in Jesus – who offers us ‘living water’- the inspiration to rise above the challenges of the present and look with confidence on the months and years to come.
In doing so may we find in these verses of Sydney Carter’s hymn our encouragement:
‘One more step along the world I go,
one more step along the world I go;
from the old things to the new
keep me travelling along with you:
And it’s from the old I travel to the new;
keep me travelling along with you.
Give me courage when the world is rough.
keep me loving though the world is tough;
leap and sing in all I do,
keep me travelling along with you:
And it’s from the old I travel to the new;
keep me travelling along with you.’
Let us pray:
God of light and love,
in your tender compassion you sent your Son
to shine on those who sit in darkness
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.
Grant us, in our doubts and uncertainties,
the grace to ask what you would have us do.
By your Spirit of wisdom,
save us from false choices
And since it is by your light
that we are enlightened
lead us and protect us,
and give us a straight path to follow,
that we may neither stumble not fall;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Gracious God, we pray today for all touched by the Coronavirus pandemic:
– scientists seeking vaccines
– politicians and advisers making decisions about policy
– medical staff caring for the sick
– all involved in testing and prevention of the spread of the virus
– families grieving for lost ones
– women and men who find themselves without work
– children facing poverty and hunger
Give, we pray, to people of faith the wisdom and the will to respond to human need.
Loving God, we pray for those
In the circle of friendship and love around us:
children and parents;
sisters and brothers;
friends and neighbours;
and for those especially in our thoughts today …
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,
Benediction (Romans 15:13)
May God, who is the ground of hope,
fill you with all joy and peace
as you lead the life of faith
until, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
you overflow with hope.
And the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit
be among you and remain with you.
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 His love to the world and its people. May I thank you in anticipation of your response!
Louis Vierne Berceuse (Pièces en style libre)