St. Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh
Midweek Devotion 23rd September 2021
Led by Rev Sigrid Marten
Welcome to our Midweek Devotions from St. Giles Cathedral.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled,
and do not let them be afraid.”
In this time of reflection and prayer let us take time to listen for God’s word for us.
Our lesson for today is found in the book of Ecclesiastes, chapter 3 (verses 1-8,11-14).
Just last week I spotted the first items of Christmas food in my local supermarket. It shocks me every time how early those so-called ‘seasonal’ products appear on the shelves: Easter eggs on the 26th of December, and mince pies in September.
Schools have only been back for a few weeks, and we haven’t even had Halloween and Bonfire Night, or the season of Remembrance yet, but here we are, looking forward to Christmas. I realise that some things need preparation, and it’s good to plan ahead for big events in order to reduce the stresses of the last-minute rush, but this fast-forward movement into the next season for celebration also worries me a little.
It almost feels as if we are wishing time away: rather than savouring the last weeks of warmth, and enjoying the autumn colours of leaves and fruits, we seem to be avoiding them, trying to skip autumn and to go straight for the sparkly Christmas lights.
Do we actually believe with the writer of Ecclesiastes that “for everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven”, and do we think that’s a good thing? Do we maybe experience autumn mostly as a depressing time of endings, rather than a time of paring back and slowing down, of cherishing the harvest of the year past?
For many of us it is not easy to live in the moment and to stay with everything which that moment brings. We may still have a tendency to want to pick and choose. But I wonder whether there is something for us to learn from our scripture reading when we hear that, God “…has made everything suitable for its time…”?
So much can be gained from living in the moment, from being mindful of what is around us and appreciating the subtle changes. That can be one way to become aware of God’s presence in all creation and to celebrate the wonder and richness of God’s world.
for the still, quiet woods of autumn,
carpets of shed acorns crunching underfoot,
mushrooms newly grown since yesterday,
squatting among the gently shifting mosaic
of fallen leaves.
For brown fields turned golden by the setting sun,
the cautious stare and stamping hooves
of wary sheep,
the dapper magpie’s raucous, laughing cry.
For hedgerows decorated purple, crimson, pink
by berries of bramble, bryony and spindle,
clusters of fluffy seeds released by willow herbs.
For all that has been grown, created
and achieved this year,
as life settles to see out
the winter’s cold and storms
and waits to break out in new glories next year.
Lord of all time and seasons,
as autumn approaches
we pray for all
who dread the dark and cold months:
for all who expect to be lonely and isolated;
for those who worry about rising heating bills;
for those whose health suffers in the cold;
for many among us who are concerned
about slipping on leaves and icy pavements,
or being blown over by blustery winds;
for all who live in damp housing;
for the homeless folk among us,
looking for shelter in chilly nights and driving rain;
for refugees in flimsy tents
in freezing mountain camps –
for all who long for light and warmth
and a loving embrace.
We pray for ourselves
when we are tempted
to try to avoid the discomfort and sadness
of darker and quieter days,
of endings, of letting go;
tempted to rush ahead, skip the hard bits,
and feast on the sparkle of Christmas.
We know we may be missing out
on the gifts you offer in this moment.
Teach us to wait with wonder
for new shoots of your love
in the here and now.
All our prayers we sum up in Jesus’ words
who taught us to pray together:
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, the power,
and the glory, for ever and ever.
God bless to us the time that is ours.
God bless to us the time that is now.
God bless to us the time that God has given.
God bless to us each day,
each passing moment,
that we may pass it in God’s presence
and find God in it.
François Couperin Récit de tierce en taille (Messe pour les Paroisses)