St Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh
Midweek Devotion 31st March 2022
Led by Rev Craig Meek
Welcome everyone to online worship 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 and with those whom you love today, friends. Let us pray.
Holy and Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of your people. And so, grant us the grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Our Scripture lesson today is taken from Exodus 32. Friends, hear the word of the Lord.
7 The Lord said to Moses, ‘Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely; 8 they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf, and have worshipped it and sacrificed to it, and said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!”’ 9 The Lord said to Moses, ‘I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are. 10 Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; and of you I will make a great nation.’
11 But Moses implored the Lord his God, and said, ‘O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, “It was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth”? Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people. 13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, “I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it for ever.”’ 14 And the Lord changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.
What in the world is sin? – and why does it appear to make God so angry? During this Lenten season, I’ve found myself reflecting upon these sorts of questions, and what I’ve found is that the answers are perhaps not as straightforward as we sometimes think. Is sin just the breaking of God’s somewhat arbitrary commandments? Is it just the depravation of what is good? – or is it something more?
The Lutheran theologian Eberhard Jungel might be helpful here, as he describes sin as a sort of ‘untruth’ that stems from our tendency to try and act like God ourselves rather than live a life subjected to God’s calling and mercy. According to Jungel, there’s a great irony in sinners trying to be like God. He writes:
Sinners want to contradict God. But they don’t want what goes with this: self–contradiction. Sinners want to live like God. But they don’t want what goes with this: dying. Sinners want to lift themselves up. But they don’t want what goes with this: being brought low…
As he says elsewhere: sinners simply don’t want to admit that their sin is real and that it matters to God.
What exactly is Jungel on about here? – Well, I think his point might go something like this. Sinners want to be Gods themselves; but the irony is that we want to be like the gods that we’ve fashioned in our own minds and by our own hands rather than like the Living God who whom we know through the scriptures and in Jesus Christ. For none of us really wants what comes with the territory of the latter: Self-sacrifice – dying to demonstrate love – submitting to the sin of another that they might know forgiveness and grace. None of us wants to be a God whose power is demonstrated in humility and love – a god whose life is marked by selflessness and mercy for all.
And so, as Jungel see things: our human sin is our desiring to be false gods. As a result, our sin is not merely the breaking of an arbitrary commandment or settling for something less than the good; our sin is the contradiction of God’s very being – a denial of God’s very Life. And yet, the Good News of the Gospel is that our sin is forgiven – that our denial is made false by the grace of the Living and Holy one, whose claim upon our lives and the life of the world is always more formidable and real than that the claims we make ourselves.
And so, today I encourage you friends, to remember those wonderful words of mercy that we declare each and every Sunday: For it is in Jesus Christ that we are forgiven. Thanks be to God. Amen.
Holy and Almighty God, the Living One who loves without question and desires more for us that we could ever desire for ourselves, teach us again those peaceful rhythms of grace that direct our lives towards streams of mercy, and secure us as branches on the sturdy vine of our Lord Jesus Christ, that we might be a little more loving – a little more graceful – and a little more life-giving to one another in days ahead. Make us faithful, Lord; watch over us and over those whom we love, and let our lives be a blessing to others as we go about our ways. For these things we ask in the name of Christ Jesus, who taught his friends to say together:
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.L.Krebs Jesu der du meine Seele