Midweek Devotion 5/5/22

St Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh

Midweek Devotion 5th May 2022

Led by Rev Professor Kenneth Boyd

Welcome to online devotion with St Giles’ Cathedral, today Thursday the 5th of May 2022

Scripture Reading:  St Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians: chapter 2 verses 11 to 22.

11 So then, remember that at one time you Gentiles by birth, called “the uncircumcision” by those who are called “the circumcision”—a physical circumcision made in the flesh by human hands— 12 remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. 15 He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, 16 and might reconcile both groups to God in one body,through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. 17 So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; 18 for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, 20 built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. 21 In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; 22 in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.

Reflection

Christ ‘has broken down the dividing wall… between us’. In abolishing the ‘dividing wall’ between Jewish and non-Jewish Christians, St Paul was to turn what had been a Jewish sect into what today is one of the great world religions. Yet the very fact that today Judaism is another of these great world religions, reminds us that the dividing wall within Christianity was soon replaced by another dividing wall between Christians and Jews. The fatal consequences of this, after Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, were to reverberate down to the Holocaust: but also within Christianity itself, time and again, ever new dividing walls would be thrown up, between Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants and their countless subdivisions, each claiming that ‘we’ have a clearer or deeper understanding of the faith than ‘they’ have, again often with fatal consequences when either party gained sufficient worldly power to enforce their views.

What all this demonstrated however was perhaps not the strength but the weakness of the faith of the enforcers, or of those who claimed that they had a clearer or deeper understanding of the faith than others. If, in Christ, the Word or living truth of God is made flesh, embodied in human life, that living truth can never finally be captured in words, but discovered only in living, in praying, often silently, and in loving not only one another but even ‘enemies’, who may eventually turn out to be friends. The rich and amazing biodiversity of the creation God declared to be very good, is mirrored in the rich and amazing diversity of human beings, each capable of responding to God in their own culture and in their own way, which may be neither our culture nor our way.  To recognise this is to begin to learn to love our neighbour, not as we might want or need them to be, but as they really are, a mystery sometimes even to themselves, but fully known and loved by God, who in love created us all and in love longs for all of us to become what we were created to be.

In peace let us pray to the Lord.

Eternal God, whose image lies in the hearts of all people,

We live among peoples whose ways are different from ours  
whose faiths are foreign to us,  
whose tongues are unintelligible to us,
Help us to remember that you love all people with your great love,  
that all religion is an attempt to respond to you,  
that the yearnings of other hearts are much like our own and are known to you. Help us to recognise you in the words of truth, the things of beauty, the actions of love about us.
We pray through Christ, who is a stranger to no one land more than another, and to every land no less than to another.     Amen

Almighty God, in whose hands lie the destiny of peoples and nations,
Let not the hopes of men and women perish, nor their sacrifices be in vain.
O holy and life-giving Spirit, enable us by your grace to root out from our common life the bitterness of ancient wrongs and the thirst to avenge the betrayals of long ago.
Save us from the tyranny of history and set us free in a new obedience to serve each other in the present hour.
Rejoicing in the redemption wrought for us, we believe that our sins of yesterday are covered by your mercy;
grant us therefore to give and receive the forgiveness which alone can heal today’s wounds.
Draw us, O Lord, towards loving kindness and guide us into the way of peace.            Amen

Set free, O Lord, our souls from all restlessness and anxiety.
Give us the peace and power which flow from you.
Keep us in all perplexity and distress,
That upheld by your strength and stayed upon the rock of your faithfulness we may abide in you now and evermore.       Amen

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father,
which art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy Kingdom come,
thy will be done
on 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, Amen.

Blessing

And now may the love of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
bless, preserve and keep us and all God’s children,
in the joy, simplicity, and compassion of the gospel. Amen

Organ Music

Nicolas de Grigny Duo Ave maris stella