St. Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh
Midweek Devotion 23rd July 2020
Led by Rev Professor Kenneth M Boyd
Welcome and opening Sentences
Welcome to online devotion with St Giles’ Cathedral, today, Thursday the 23rd of July 2020.
Let me hear of your steadfast love in the morning. Teach me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.
Psalm 143: 1-8
Hear my prayer, O Lord; give ear to my supplications in your faithfulness; answer me in your righteousness. 2 Do not enter into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you. 3 For the enemy has pursued me, crushing my life to the ground, making me sit in darkness like those long dead. 4 Therefore my spirit faints within me; my heart within me is appalled. 5 I remember the days of old, I think about all your deeds, I meditate on the works of your hands. 6 I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.
Answer me quickly, O Lord; my spirit fails. Do not hide your face from me, or I shall be like those who go down to the Pit. 8 Let me hear of your steadfast love in the morning, for in you I put my trust. Teach me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.
The Blue Notes were a highly innovative jazz sextet in 1960s South Africa. They were of mixed races and they openly opposed apartheid. As a result, they were oppressed by the regime and often harassed by the state police: eventually they exiled themselves to Europe, where they became one of the great jazz bands of the era. Reflecting on his people’s experience, the band’s drummer, Moholo Moholo, made this profound observation: “When people are oppressed, they sing. You see it all over the world and through history. They may be sad, but they sing.’
‘When people are oppressed, they sing. You see it all over the world and through history’. The author of psalm 143 is sad, but he sings: for a psalm is a song; and songs have many different moods. The mood of some psalms is pure praise: but the mood of this psalm, as it begins, is lament: ‘my spirit faints within me; my heart is appalled. I remember the days of old’. The happiness of long ago is lamented – lamented with the keen grief, heard so often again centuries later, in Gaelic music and poetry; and as with that music and poetry, the psalmist’s raw emotions are crafted and transfigured by his faithful imagination. The words with which the psalmist sings, seek for meaning, for profound music, in the midst of his grief; and he is not disappointed.
The reason why oppressed people sing, all over the world and through history, is because they know, deep within themselves, and despite all the apparent evidence to the contrary, that their lives matter, that their lives are not meaningless. How they know this, they may not be able to explain, or they may explain it through myths or philosophies that are meaningful only within their own cultural traditions. The cultural tradition to which the psalmist belongs, was inspired to explain this universal intuition in a more universal way. The experience of the Hebrew people taught them that their lives mattered and were meaningful because they were made in the image of their loving Creator and precious in their Creator’s eyes; and not that only, for it was their destiny to be a light to enlighten all people that this was true of them also. History and events even still today suggest that people are often reluctant to learn this most liberating truth about themselves: but it is the lesson most essential to learn; and so our song, like the psalmist’s, must also be a prayer: ‘Let me hear of your steadfast love in the morning, for in you I put my trust. Teach me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.’
Let us give thanks to God our Creator
Almighty God, whose glory the heavens are telling,
who art the breath of life of all things living:
To thee be praise from all thy creatures,
and from men and women, made in thine own image,
redeemed and restored by Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord.
Let us pray for others who suffer and seek meaning in a time of coronavirus
O God of goodness, in the mystery of natural disasters we look to thee,
trusting that there is an explanation that will satisfy our minds and hearts:
Move our minds and hearts to compassion for our fellow men, women and children,
make our desire for their relief find effective ways to help them,
and knowledge to control the forces of nature.
Help us to help thee complete thy universe, O creator Father,
in the kingdom of thy love in Jesus Christ. Amen
And let us pray for ourselves
O God our Father, who hast created us in thine own image,
with a mind to understand thy works, a heart to love thee, and a will to serve thee:
Increase in us that knowledge, love and obedience, that we may grow daily in thy likeness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
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 in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them 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
And now may the love of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
bless, preserve and keep us and all God’s children,
in the joy, simplicity, and compassion of the gospel. Amen
Dieterich Buxtehude Ciacona in G