St. Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh
Midweek Devotion 13th August 2020
Led by Rev Douglas A O Nicol
The Psalmist wrote: ‘So teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart’ (Psalm 90: 12)
Let us worship God.
The Gospel according to St. Luke, chapter 5, verses 1-11:
Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.’ Simon answered, ‘Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.’ When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. So they signalled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!’ For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.’ When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.
In this year which has been strange in all of our lives we have now reached September, and to the promise of the beauty and fruitfulness in nature that Autumn always brings. It is another reminder, if we needed one, that time moves on even in an age dominated by Coronavirus.
A definition of time was once offered by theologian, philosopher and Bishop, St Augustine of Hippo (364AD/430AD), who wrote:
‘Time is a three-fold present: the present as we experience it, the past as a present memory, and the future as a present expectation’
Our experiences today are centred on finding a new normality for living together in society when a deadly virus is still in evidence … and for many as schools and offices reopen it is a challenging time.
Memories of the past live on in our hearts and minds, especially of months of ‘lockdown’ when movement was restricted and human contact limited. Some will reflect on the deprivation of these months, for others there will be positive memories of new projects attempted and old hobbies rediscovered. For most of us, the memories will be mixed.
But now in a new month and a new season we look to the future … to ‘a present expectation’ – and today our reading gives a focus to our thoughts. For as the fishermen on the shore of Gennesaret reflected on their fruitless night and experienced the present reality of washing their nets, so Jesus came alongside to give them an expectation of the future – displaying God’s hand at work in the world, and offering a vision of service. It was a vision they wholeheartedly embraced, as they became disciples of Jesus Christ and the foundation stones of the faith that bears His Name.
Time and money have sometimes been compared in that if money is lost it can often be recouped, whereas time lost can never again be found. Our Christian faith calls us to hallow our time, and to live with a ‘present expectation’ of who God would have us be and what He would have us do – and so find the peace, even in pandemic, that only He can give.
In the words of ‘Evensong’:
‘O God, from whom all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works do proceed; give unto thy servants that peace which the world cannot give; that both our hearts may be set to obey thy commandments, and also that by thee being defended from the fear of our enemies may pass our time in rest and quietness, through the merits of Jesus Christ our Saviour’
May we all be guided to discover, and rejoice in, our ‘present expectation’!
Let us pray:
To you, merciful God,
we commend ourselves
and all who need your help.
Where there is hatred, give love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is sadness, joy;
where there is darkness, light.
Grant that we may not seek so much
to be consoled as to console.
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love,
For in giving we receive,
in pardoning we are pardoned,
in dying we are born to eternal life.
that the resources of the world
may be gathered, distributed, and used
with unselfish motives and scientific skill
for the greatest benefit of all;
that beauty may be given
to our towns and cities,
and left untarnished in the countryside;
that children may grow up strong in body,
sound in mind, and inspired in spirit;
that there may be open ways,
and peace, and freedom,
and health and healing,
from end to end of the earth;
that those for whom we have a special concern,
whose names and places are in our hearts and minds,
may know your peace and love,
and spend their years in fulfilment and hope,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
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,
The guarding of the God of life be on you,
the guarding of the loving Christ be on you,
the guarding of the Holy Spirit be on you
to aid you and enfold you
each day and night of your lives.
Louis Vierne Légende (Pièces en style libre)