St. Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh
Midweek Devotion 20th August 2020
Led by Rev Calum I MacLeod
I lift up my eyes to the hills –
from where will my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
Let us worship God.
The lesson is written in the letter to the Hebrews in the 7th chapter.
This ‘King Melchizedek of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham as he was returning from defeating the kings and blessed him’; 2and to him Abraham apportioned ‘one-tenth of everything’. His name, in the first place, means ‘king of righteousness’; next he is also king of Salem, that is, ‘king of peace’.
15It is even more obvious when another priest arises, resembling Melchizedek, 16one who has become a priest, not through a legal requirement concerning physical descent, but through the power of an indestructible life. 17For it is attested of him,
‘You are a priest for ever,
according to the order of Melchizedek.’
18There is, on the one hand, the abrogation of an earlier commandment because it was weak and ineffectual 19(for the law made nothing perfect); there is, on the other hand, the introduction of a better hope, through which we approach God. 20 This was confirmed with an oath; for others who became priests took their office without an oath, 21but this one became a priest with an oath, because of the one who said to him,
‘The Lord has sworn
and will not change his mind,
“You are a priest for ever” ’—
22accordingly Jesus has also become the guarantee of a better covenant.
The Word of the Lord; thanks be to God.
The writer of the letter to the Hebrews reaches deep into the sacred Jewish scriptures to construct interpretations of the nature of Jesus. The nature of priesthood in the Judaism of that time was that it was inherited through the branch of the family of Levi. Jesus was not of this family yet the writer finds in Genesis the story of Melchizedek, one known as a high priest but not of the Levite branch. Jesus, the writer says, is of such a situation – priest but not Levite.
The argument may seem complex but it lifts up the New Testament understanding of Jesus’ three functions; Prophet, Priest and King.
When we read this in the light of another ‘priesthood passage’ 1 Peter 2 we hear the proclamation to the church that “you are a royal priesthood, God’s own people.”
It is from such passages that the Reformers developed the concept that the church did not need individuals set apart as ‘priests’ to intercede with God and preside at the ‘sacrifice of the mass.’
Rather they spoke of the priesthood of all believers – what we might call today, the ministry of all of God’s people.
Not by birth family or by special training are we called to be servants of God and each other, but by our baptism, as God claims us for God’s own.
Let us pray.
God of compassion,
we remember before you all people who struggle with poverty of means
and poverty of opportunity,
the sick and the dying,
all who are lonely, homebound and isolated;
victims of war, injustice and inhumanity,
all who know suffering in their daily lives.
We pray for all nations and peoples.
Take away the mistrust and lack of understanding
that divides your children,
and increase in us the recognition that we are all your children.
Grant that the sick and lonely would know something of your loving presence – comfort those who are close to death.
Endow fortitude and wisdom on those at the front lines of dealing with the pandemic we face.
Author of grace and God of love,
send your Holy Spirit’s blessing on your children
that we may live your gospel of love,
grace and hope in your world.
O Lord hear our prayers for ourselves and others as we join together in the Lord’s Prayer:
which 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 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,
the power and the glory
for ever and ever, Amen.
Be of good courage, render no-one evil for evil,
but hold fast to the good; honour all of God’s people,
and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the love of God,
and the Communion of the Holy Spirit
be with you
and all whom you love
this day and for ever.
J.S. Bach Vater unser im Himmelreich BWV 737