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From St Giles' Cathedral, Edinburgh, led by the Rev Calum MacLeod with the Cathedral Choir directed by Michael Harris. Organist: Jordan English.

From St Giles' Cathedral, Edinburgh, led by The Rev Calum MacLeod with the Cathedral Choir directed by Michael Harris.
Introit: Christ whose glory fills the skies (Andrew Carvel)
Preces: Richard Shephard
Anthem: Be thou my vision (Bob Chilcott)
Hymns: All my hope on God is founded (Tune: Michael)
O God you are my God alone (Ps 63) (Tune: Resignation)
There’s a spirit in the air (Tune: Lauds)
Readings: Isaiah 6: 1-8, Luke 5: 1-11
Organist: Jordan English.
Producer: Mo McCullough

24 days left to listen

38 minutes





Welcome to worship at St. Giles’ Cathedral, the High Kirk of Edinburgh.

Day by day, we celebrate the presence of visitors from all over the world, who come to the cathedral exploring its history, learning of its place in the history of the nation, perhaps seeking an encounter with the Holy in this ancient sacred space. And Sunday by Sunday we gather to worship God, members, regular attenders and visitors alike as has happened for nearly 900 years on this site at the heart of Edinburgh’s medieval Old Town.

Leading worship with me this morning are the Reverend Helen Alexander and the Reverend Dr Anne Logan, and members of the congregation.

Our help is in the name of the Lord, maker of heaven and earth.

Let us worship God.         

HYMN CH4 192:   ALL MY HOPE ON GOD IS FOUNDED  (Tune: Michael)

CALUM   Prayer

Let us pray.

Holy God, our praise can never match the wondrous measure of your grace. Our lips can never express the depth of gratitude that our hearts feel. In your providence we have been kept, of your bounty we have received, and under the shadow of your wings our hearts have learned to rejoice. In you we find our steadfast and faithful hope through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Forgive us God for you come to us but we do not recognise you; you call but we do not follow; you bless us but we do not thank you.

To all who turn from sin in sorrow,

to all who turn to God in hope,

this is God’s word of grace.

We are accepted, we are forgiven, we are loved.

Thanks be to God.


READER   First reading:  Isaiah 6: 1-8

The first lesson is written in the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, in the sixth chapter.

6  In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. 2Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. 3And one called to another and said:
‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory.’ 
4The pivots* on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. 5And I said: ‘Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!’

6 Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. 7The seraph* touched my mouth with it and said: ‘Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.’ 8Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I; send me!’

Here ends the first lesson.


READER:  Second Reading: Luke 5: 1-11

The second lesson is written in the Gospel of St Luke, in the fifth chapter.

Once while Jesus* was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, 2he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. 4When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.’ 5Simon answered, ‘Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.’ 6When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. 7So 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. 8But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!’9For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; 10and 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.’ 11When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.

Here ends the second lesson.

HYMN  CH4 43:  (Ps 63)  O GOD, YOU ARE MY GOD ALONE (Tune: Resignation)


The American writer Annie Dillard, has a superb essay called An Expedition to the Pole in which she reflects on what it is like coming to church.  "On the whole," she writes, "I do not find Christians, outside of the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of conditions.  Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we blithely invoke?  It is madness”, she writes, “to wear ladies' straw hats and velvet hats to church.  We should all be wearing crash helmets.  Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews because the sleeping God may wake…the waking God may draw us out to where we can never return.” 

Isn't that a great image?  I love thinking of our stewards with flares and life jackets being handed out along with the orders of service.  There's something of this warning that Annie Dillard has in our stories today; these two amazing texts about encounters with the power of the awesome God. 

In Isaiah’s call narrative, we find Isaiah doing something quite ordinary, visiting the temple and yet his visit this day results in a mystical encounter with the Holy God of Israel in which Isaiah experiences that awesome nature of God.  The temple, he says, is filled with just the hem of God’s robe.  The story contains a great warning to us in a culture which too often domesticates God. 

The theologian John Calvin loved this passage; he saw in it one of the central paradoxes of our life of faith because for Calvin it speaks of the mystery of the God who is the creator of all things, the ‘ground of our being’, as Tillich put it.  And alongside that mystery we encounter God's willingness to condescend, to come down to humanity in love so that we might begin to enter into the mystery of God.  Calvin wrote that God comes down in three particular ways: in scripture as the Word of God, revealing God's love and God's loving relationship with humanity; in baptism and The Lord's Supper, the Sacraments, God moves towards us, and ultimately for Calvin, God descends, God comes down in love in the incarnate Christ, in God taking on human flesh. 

In the Isaiah story there is an almost sacramental moment where in the temple with the awesome God a response is evoked, a response of fear of God, of honesty, of confession when the prophet acknowledges, in God's presence, “I am a man of unclean lips among people of unclean lips.” 

The sacramental moment is when something ordinary becomes special – this happens as a coal is taken and touched to the prophet's lips.  What Calvin calls in his definition of sacrament ‘a visible sign of an invisible grace.’  God's grace, God's love is cleansing, is healing on the prophet.  There's a connection here we might say between worship and vocation, calling. 

A similar movement happens in the gospel story of encountering God's grace and God's power in Jesus' call of Simon who will become known as Peter.  This is a narrative in which we come upon the life altering power of God's word. The writer David Ostendorf reflects that in this passage in Luke, “God's word is present in Jesus calling, pulling, pushing us outward toward new and boundless horizons.”  And again this encounter happens in the context of the ordinary, an ordinary day at work for Simon and his colleagues fishing.  A poor day’s fishing to be sure - there's not much out there to catch.,  I find it interesting to me that the characters in this story, Jesus, Simon who will become Peter, and then James and John at the end who leave their nets to follow are the same characters that we read about in Luke's story of the transfiguration, just a few chapters later.  Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration is there with Peter and James and John.  And I think Luke's asking us to make a connection here that in this story there is a transfiguring moment, a moment of revelation or epiphany in the miraculous catch of fishes. And this is not Jesus as some kind of heavenly depth sounder who discovers elusive shoals of fish.  This is a story of miracle, of a sign pointing towards the nature of Jesus. 

Simon has a profound religious experience and, like Isaiah, acknowledges fear, acknowledges brokenness in confessing ‘I am a sinful man.’  This evokes questions like, what do I really believe about the ways that God works in this world?  Have I grown fixed in my expectations about what God is up to? Do I have eyes to see the surprising ways in which God moves in the midst of situations whose outcome I think I already know?

That's the challenge inherent in Annie Dillard's reflection about coming to church.  Do we come to church in the routine of our week, knowing that we will sing some old hymns and we'll hear a scripture reading and recite the Lord’s Prayer, or do we come open to the surprising ways in which God might move as we gather around the word, around the table, encountering Christ. 

There is something in this that Douglas Dunn, the Scottish poet, calls ‘the transfigured commonplace.’  That transfigured commonplace I believe happens when we gather in community in the presence of God's word; when as disciples we come to the table and encounter God in ordinary things of the world made special, water, bread and wine, which become for us visible signs of the invisible grace of God, a grace which calls us to put down our nets in deep water, calls us to new places and new possibilities and I know this because it happens to people – this call to discipleship.

It happens to ordinary people, not just to special people, to saints, holy people, or particular castes, like priests, or ministers.  It happens to everyone who seeks to follow Jesus.  Because I know people who, because of their relationship with God and community and bread and wine, give up high paying jobs to teach in high schools; people who leave home and family to go and work in microcredit financing in the poorest countries in Africa; people who respond to Jesus and go fishing in deep places.

You know them, too. This sense of, as George MacLeod puts it, “the eternal seeping through into the physical,” of God's presence breaking in on us, calling us to new places, to new meaning in our lives. 

The refrain in our closing hymn puts it this way:

God in Christ has come to stay,

live tomorrow’s life today.




Let us pray.

Gracious God, with confidence as your faithful children, we ask that you would draw near to us now as we come before you offering prayers for your Church and your world.

Bless our nation Lord; give wisdom and compassion to the Queen and those who govern us. May the life of our nation be an example of welcome, tolerance, and justice for the world. Bless those who serve in the forces; defend them in danger and guide them to serve the cause of peace in your name. Bless our young people – may they never see the flames of war, or know the depths of cruelty to which humanity can sink.

CHOIR              Make a joyful noise unto the │Lord • all ye │lands

Serve the Lord with gladness: come be-│fore his │presence • with │singing.


May peace be known in those places of our world where conflict reigns. Deliver the people of the world from violence whether it is carried out in the name of religion, politics or economic power. Inspire the community of nations to work together for the relief of suffering of the poor and marginalised throughout the earth.

CHOIR             Sing unto God, ye │kingdoms • of the │earth; O sing │praises│

unto • the │Lord.


Remember, O Lord, your children who live in or on the edge of hardship and poverty, who are ill at home or in hospital, who are mourning the loss of a loved one, who have still to come to any real understanding of your love in their lives.  Be a source of comfort, healing, guidance and strength.

CHOIR               Why art thou cast down │O my │soul, and why art │thou dis-│quieted •
with-│in me?

  Hope in God for I shall yet │praise │him;
who is the health of my │counten•ance│ and my│ God.


God, bless your church with strength, the bright lamp of faith, that in all lands it may be your hands of mercy, your voice of grace, your presence of love. Guard and guide your people who are persecuted for the sake of the gospel. Deliver the church from division and the wounds of history and grant that it may be a Spirit-filled vessel, working always for reconciliation, healing and salvation.                                                                                                          


Blessed is the people that know the │joyful │sound; ║

they shall walk, O Lord, in the │light of │thy │countenance.

In thy name shall they re│joice • all the │day; ║

and in thy righteousness│ shall they │be ex│alted.


Pour out your Spirit upon the whole earth and bring in your new creation. Gather your Church together from the ends of the earth into your kingdom, where peace and justice dwell.

CHOIR             Blessed be the Lord God, the │God of │Israel, who a-│lone • doeth
│wondrous│ things.

And blessed be his glorious │name for │ever:

and let the whole earth be filled with his glory, A-│men and │A-│men.


We say together the prayer that Jesus taught:

All:  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,
the power and the glory
for ever and ever. 


Our closing hymn encourages us to discipleship: ‘There’s a spirit in the air’. 


CALUM   Benediction

Now go out into the world and be of good courage. Render no one evil for evil, but hold fast to the good. And the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Amen (Sung)


Organist: Jordan English


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