St Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh
Midweek Devotion 24th February 2022
Led by Rev Craig Meek
Welcome everyone to another online Devotion with St. Giles’ Cathedral. My name is Craig Meek, I’m one of the Assistant Ministers at St. Giles’, and I’m delighted that you’ve joined me today for a few moments of reflection and prayer together. May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you today, friends, and with all whom you love. Let us pray.
Most loving God, the one whose will it is for us to give thanks for all things, to fear nothing but the loss of you, and to cast all that disrupts our lives upon your strength mercy: Preserve us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, Lord, that nothing in this life may separate us from that love which is immortal and manifest in the eternal Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, and through whom we pray. Amen.
Our Lesson today is written in the 5th chapter of the Book of James and begins at the first verse. Friends, listen for a word from our Lord:
Come now, you rich people, weep and wail for the miseries that are coming to you. 2 Your riches have rotted, and your clothes are moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you, and it will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasurefor the last days. 4 Listen! The wages of the labourers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. 5 You have lived on the earth in luxury and in pleasure; you have fattened your hearts on a day of slaughter
What a strange and colorful passage the lectionary provides us today! Rich people weeping and wailing – Mutant moths eating their clothes – earthly treasures decaying away with rust. In a strange way, it reminds me yet again of how this life is such a bizarre and fleeting thing.
It is perhaps noteworthy that our text today comes just after another wherein the book’s author admonishes those who assume the future is guaranteed. That is, they go about making plans for travel and lucrative business – seemingly ignoring the present-day as a gift; ignoring the will of God for their life in the present-moment. And as the passage gives way to our reading for today, the book’s author doubles down on a few words directed towards those who have become rich by acting deceitfully towards others – especially those over whom they wield a certain kind of power.
What should we make of such a passage? I suppose it would be easy for us to side-step its sharpness by refusing to see ourselves alongside those who have acted deceitfully or unjustly. But then again, maybe we don’t need to consciously deceive someone out of their wages in order to heed James’ warning. Perhaps, on a broader level, the question for us might be more about how we go about living our lives: Do we take today for granted in planning and scheming for tomorrow? – Are we more concerned with accumulating comfort rather than making others comfortable? – Do we love stuff more than we love blessing others?
To be sure, none of these are novel questions. But when was the last time we reflected upon matters of this sort? When was the last time we took inventory and considered whether our lives are patterned after Jesus in such a way as to be a blessing towards others rather than to ourselves? I think these are hard and uncomfortable questions when we’re honest about them. But then again, following Jesus was never supposed to be easy or comfortable. For the grace of God is always disruptive – to borrow a line from the Biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann; it’s supposed to make us better – not content. And my hope today is that you might be encouraged to lean into that grace just a little bit more in the days ahead – no matter how uncomfortable it might be. Let us pray.
Holy and Almighty God, teach us to love the things that you love, and teach us also to love the people that you love, especially those whom our world deems unloveable. Soften our hearts, Lord, and direct our affections towards those things that matter most in this life, that we might better learn how to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly – both with you and with one another.
We pray Lord for peace in Eastern Europe, as well as in all those places where violence and injustice rules the day. We pray for those who have little, and both acknowledge and lament our complicity in the world’s inequality and disproportionate wealth. Have mercy on us, Lord; Have mercy on us all – and especially the least of these – we pray in the name of Christ Jesus. 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 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.
J.S.Bach Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten BWV 647