St. Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh
Midweek Devotion 19th August 2021
Led by Rev Craig Meek
Welcome to today’s online devotion with St. Giles’ Cathedral. My name is Craig Meek; I am the Assistant Minister here at St. Giles’ and I’m delighted that you’ve joined me today for a few moments of prayer and reflection together. May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ soften our hearts and strengthen our spirits today, friends, as we listen together for a Word from our Lord.
Our lesson today is written in the 4th chapter of the Book of Exodus.
Then Moses answered, ‘But suppose they do not believe me or listen to me, but say, “The Lord did not appear to you.”’ 2 The Lord said to him, ‘What is that in your hand?’ He said, ‘A staff.’ 3 And he said, ‘Throw it on the ground.’ So he threw the staff on the ground, and it became a snake; and Moses drew back from it. 4 Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Reach out your hand, and seize it by the tail’—so he reached out his hand and grasped it, and it became a staff in his hand— 5 ‘so that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.’
6 Again, the Lord said to him, ‘Put your hand inside your cloak.’ He put his hand into his cloak; and when he took it out, his hand was leprous, as white as snow. 7 Then God said, ‘Put your hand back into your cloak’—so he put his hand back into his cloak, and when he took it out, it was restored like the rest of his body— 8 ‘If they will not believe you or heed the first sign, they may believe the second sign. 9 If they will not believe even these two signs or heed you, you shall take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground; and the water that you shall take from the Nile will become blood on the dry ground.’
10 But Moses said to the Lord, ‘O my Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor even now that you have spoken to your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.’ 11 Then the Lord said to him, ‘Who gives speech to mortals? Who makes them mute or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? 12 Now go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you are to speak.’ 13 But he said, ‘O my Lord, please send someone else.’ 14 Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses and he said, ‘What of your brother Aaron the Levite? I know that he can speak fluently; even now he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you his heart will be glad. 15 You shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth; and I will be with your mouth and with his mouth, and will teach you what you shall do. 16 He indeed shall speak for you to the people; he shall serve as a mouth for you, and you shall serve as God for him. 17 Take in your hand this staff, with which you shall perform the signs.’
18 Moses went back to his father-in-law Jethro and said to him, ‘Please let me go back to my kindred in Egypt and see whether they are still living.’ And Jethro said to Moses, ‘Go in peace.’ 19 The Lord said to Moses in Midian, ‘Go back to Egypt; for all those who were seeking your life are dead.’ 20 So Moses took his wife and his sons, put them on a donkey, and went back to the land of Egypt; and Moses carried the staff of God in his hand.
Why is that we need to be coaxed into trusting the Living God sometimes? I think this is an interesting part of being human; for though we know what we ought to believe – or perhaps want to believe – and yet more often than we fall short believing it; moreover, we fall short of living as if we do – in fact – believe whatever it is we attempt to affirm with our words. Like Moses, God’s given us countless reasons to trust in God’s ways – but also like Moses, we’re more prone to make excuses or chase after our own way of being rather than follow wherever it is that we’re called. For some of us, this might stem from a lack of self-confidence; for others, perhaps it stems from a fear of the unknown or an innate stubbornness. In any event, I’m fascinated by the question: why is it that we need to be coaxed into trusting a God who has given God’s to us in Jesus Christ? – committed God’s self to us in love and mercy, and not because we’ve deserved or earned such a thing but simply because this God delights in our lives?
I think I like Moses’ story here because it resonates with me. I have to be convinced sometimes in order to follow in the ways of our Lord, even as a minister. I don’t like not knowing what to do; I don’t like having to trust things – or someone – beyond my control. And perhaps it is because of this that I’m drawn to the end of our passage, where we read that ‘Moses carried the staff of God in his hand’ – or in Eugene Peter’s translation, The Message: ‘He had a firm grip on the staff of God’.
It seems to me that from time to time God gives us a few little gifts to help encourage us along life’s many paths. For though we might not be called to go and confront a powerful ruler, perhaps some days we need a little help and encouragement to keep our paths straight in the way of our Lord, especially when it comes to the more mundane aspects of our lives. And for those days, I like to think that God provides: maybe in the form of a friend – maybe in the form of a prayer that strengthens our heart – or maybe it’s simply in the form of scripture, where we find these stories about God’s faithfulness even amidst human ambivalence and complacency. Whatever it is: God never leaves us shut up within ourselves, but is always inviting us out into more – calling us to faithfulness in both word and deed amidst a world that would rather us be hesitant and make excuses. My encouragement to you today, friends, is to grasp that staff tightly – whatever that blessed staff might look like in your own life; to cling to those mercies by which the Lord gives us strength, no matter what you might face in the days ahead. For the lord is faithful – forever and always. Thanks be to God.
Holy and Almighty God, the one who gives us all we need for the journey of life and faith – no matter its ups and downs – have mercy on your world and the people who live within it, we pray. For she has had more than enough contempt, disaster, and hardship. Hear our prayers, Lord, for Afghanistan; for women and children and others, whose lives are at risk in places where chaos and unrest appear to reign. Hear our prayers, Lord, for our leaders and give them wisdom in the days lying ahead. We pray also for those whose lives have been changed and threatened by disasters across the world – earthquakes, fires, and flooding. Let aid be swift in reaching those in need and may your peace reach all the more quickly those who are devasted and grieving.
Lord God, hear our prayers for those whom we love, for we commit them to your care and plead your love for them in days ahead. For all the strangeness and tragedy of our world, Lord, remind us again of your goodness – remind us again of your faithfulness, Lord, even in those moments when the most faithful response we might have is contempt and grief, questions and sorrow. For these need not nullify your loving kindness and mercy but rather make such realities perhaps a bit more bearable than might have otherwise been.
For these things, and for all that we’ve left unsaid, 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.
Nicolas de Grigny Duo – Ave Maris Stella