St. Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh
Midweek Devotion 18th June 2020
Led by Rev Douglas A O Nicol
The Psalmist wrote: ‘Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain.’ (Psalm 127)
Let us worship God.
The Gospel according to St. Matthew, chapter 7, verses 21 to 29:
‘Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord”, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me. “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?” Then I will declare to them, “I never knew you, go away from me, you evildoers.”
‘Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the wind blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the wind blew and beat against that house, and it fell – and great was its fall!’
Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowd were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.
Many listeners of this Midweek Reflection will know how much before the lockdown I enjoyed conducting the Daily Service in St. Giles’s Cathedral, when at Noon local residents and tourists from around the world are given the opportunity of pausing in the busyness of life for a time of worship. When invited to prepare today’s Reflection on our website, I instinctively turned to the Lectionary we use for our Daily Service … and found that today’s Gospel passage which we have just read is very appropriate for our time. The imagery of Jesus’ parable about the wise man and the foolish man is vivid, and a house built on rock and a house built on sand are easily pictured – as indeed are the likely results when the storm comes.
We live today through times we have never experienced before, and as we gradually move from months of forced lockdown to a new as yet unimagined ‘normal’ we have time to reflect on what the future holds. Such a time is as good as any – and indeed better than most – to ask about the foundations on which we are building our lives for the years to come. Teaching with the authority noted by his first followers, Jesus reminds both them and us of the value of listening to his teaching and acting on it. His ways of peace and justice offer a route map to a fulfilled life … one in which we find strength to weather whatever storms life places before us.
William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury in the 1940’s, was an Anglican priest who combined inspirational teaching and preaching, and scholarly writing, with a deep concern for those in need or under persecution. In all his ministry he sought to follow His Master’s words and example, and he summed up his experience in these words: ‘Every revelation of God is a demand, and the way to knowledge of God is by obedience’.
The hymnwriter, George Mathieson, offered a similar thought in words we often sing:
‘My will is not my own
till thou hast made it thine;
if it would reach a monarch’s throne
it must its crown resign;
it only stands unbent,
amid the clashing strife,
when on thy bosom it has leant
and found in thee its life.’
As we together enter this ‘new normal’ let us seek to build our lives on the foundations of obedience to the teachings of Jesus!
Let us pray:
God of grace and glory,
you have called us to take hold of eternal life.
Help us to run with resolution
the race that lies before us,
our eyes fixed on Jesus,
the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
May he always be to us
the pattern we follow,
the redeemer we trust,
the master we serve,
and the friend to whom we turn.
Keep us faithful till death,
and bring us at the last
into your eternal presence
to receive the crown of life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
We pray for our community, our country,
and the nations of the world,
that, following the ways of truth and justice,
they may be free from bitterness and strife,
and by the power of your love, live in peace.
Most merciful God,
we pray for your guidance and strength
for all working for others
at this time of coronavirus crisis:
medical, care and social work staff,
scientists seeking cures and vaccines,
those who serve others in shops and public services,
all who volunteer to help their neighbours,
and politicians and advisers making decisions on future policy
to combat the virus and restore some normality to life.
Most gracious God,
we remember all for whom this day we have a special concern,
and we name them now in quietness,
and commend them to your care.
We ask all these prayers in Jesus’ Name.
The Lord’s Prayer
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, and the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever,
May the love of the Lord Jesus
draw us to himself;
May the power of the Lord Jesus
strengthen us in his service;
May the joy of the Lord Jesus
fill our souls.
May the blessing of God almighty.
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost,
be amongst you
and remain with you
(William Temple, 1881-1944)
Friends, my closing thought is to say that as a retired Minister who enjoys sharing in the life and worship of St. Giles’ Cathedral it has been my privilege to have you with us at Midweek Devotion today. I’d like to take this opportunity of explaining that St. Giles’ has taken the decision to keep a number of its paid staff working off-site during the Cathedral’s closure amidst these strange and uncertain days. If today you have enjoyed your time with us I’d encourage you to consider making a donation through our webpage. Your giving will assist us in contributing all that we can to God’s mission of bringing His love to the world and its people. May I thank you in anticipation of your response!
Felix Mendelssohn Prelude in G Op 37 No 2