St. Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh
Midweek Devotion 9th July 2020
Led by Rev. Craig Meek
Welcome and Opening Sentences
Welcome to worship online with St. Giles’ Cathedral. Today is the 9th of July 2020 and my name is Craig Meek; I am the Assistant Minister here at the Cathedral, and I’m delighted that you’ve joined us from wherever you are for a few moments of reflection today. May the peace of our Lord be with you and with those whom you love you. Let us worship the Living God.
A Reading from Hosea 11:1-9
When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.
2 The more I called them,
the more they went from me;
they kept sacrificing to the Baals,
and offering incense to idols.
3 Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
I took them up in my] arms;
but they did not know that I healed them.
4 I led them with cords of human kindness,
with bands of love.
I was to them like those
who lift infants to their cheeks.
I bent down to them and fed them.
5 They shall return to the land of Egypt,
and Assyria shall be their king,
because they have refused to return to me
6 The sword rages in their cities,
it consumes their oracle-priests,
and devours because of their schemes.
7 My people are bent on turning away from me.
To the Most High they call,
but he does not raise them up at all.
8 How can I give you up, Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, O Israel?
How can I make you like Admah?
How can I treat you like Zeboiim?
My heart recoils within me;
my compassion grows warm and tender.
9 I will not execute my fierce anger;
I will not again destroy Ephraim;
for I am God and no mortal,
the Holy One in your midst,
and I will not come in wrath.
Friends, this is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
What do we do with a God who loves like YHWH? – a God who in Jesus Christ has entered into our finite reality and chaos, so that we might in turn know something of that Infinite and eternal love that is God’s very being? What do we do with a love that we cannot earn, did nothing to deserve, and perhaps tend to ignore more often than we care to admit? What do we do with a love that persists, even when we’ve drifted from it; even when we’ve begun filling our lives with all sorts of other things and commitments? What do we do with a God who loves like YHWH?
Our Scripture text today is taken from the Book of Hosea, one of those so-called minor prophets of the Old Testament that presents us with a God whose judgment is conditioned by mercy and by compassion for those who deserve neither. Historically, in our text, God’s people are in moral disarray; they care nothing about their promises to be faithful covenant partners with the Living God. Perpetually, they chase after other gods; they chase after other images and things that they think will satisfy their needs and most basic desires, only to find that these gods are as empty as the promises that they made to YHWH in previous generations.
Rather than fume with anger, however, the Living God is depicted in our passage as one who is dismayed – as one who agonizes over the self-destruction of one’s very own people. YHWH is tormented by a love that God’s people fail to return; tormented by a people who would rather chase after other lovers than embrace the one who’s love never quits.
But this is precisely what love does and will continue to do, isn’t it? It yearns for those who reject it – it agonizes over those who refuse it – it worries over those who can’t see it – it overflows for anyone and everyone who will dare to let themselves embrace it.
What do we do with a God who loves like YHWH? – with a God who keeps chasing after us, even in those moments where we could never dream of such a thing? Maybe we smile, and let that love wash over us. Maybe we pause for a moment, take a deep breath, and let ourselves be grateful. Maybe we calm ourselves in a moment of anxiety or anger or helplessness, and find strength in the God who is both for us – and with us – no matter where we’ve been nor where we seem to be headed. Amen.
Joining Together in Prayer
Let us pray.
Holy and Almighty God, the one who creates and redeems, who satisfies the desires of the heart and brings peace to those who are in trouble; hear our prayers as we place ourselves and our world before you once again. Lamenting the many things which distort beauty and cause division, and seeking peace and blessing upon those who have none, we pray that your love would chase after those in need; that you would provide for those who hunger and thirst; that you would foster justice in those places where we have sown division and inequality, teaching us to do likewise. We pray, Lord, that you would teach us again to bless one another; to empower and dignify those around us who are all too often trampled by the world.
We pray, Lord, for those whom we love and commit them to your care. We pray, especially, for those with anxious hearts and minds; for those whose bodies are weak and failing; and for anyone overwhelmed by this world of chaos – may they know something of your peace and love in the days and hours lying ahead.
Hear us, now, Lord as continue, praying the prayer that Jesus taught his friends to say together:
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 you’ve enjoyed this devotion 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.
Louis Vierne Prélude (Pièces en style libre)