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Sunday August 9th 2020 – Ninth Sunday after Trinity

Opening prayer:
God of our days and years,
we set this time apart for you,
Form us in the likeness of Christ
so that our lives may glorify you.

Psalm: 85:8-13
  8 Let me hear what God the Lord will speak,
   for he will speak peace to his people,
    to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts.
  9 Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him,
    that his glory may dwell in our land.
10 Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet;
    righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
11 Faithfulness will spring up from the ground,
    and righteousness will look down from the sky.
12 The Lord will give what is good,
    and our land will yield its increase.
13 Righteousness will go before him,
    and will make a path for his steps.

Old Testament: 1 Kings 19:9-18
At that place he came to a cave, and spent the night there.
Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ He answered, ‘I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.’
He said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’ Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ He answered, ‘I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.’ Then the Lord said to him, ‘Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram. Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place. Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall kill; and whoever escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall kill. Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.’

Epistle: Romans 10:5-15
Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that ‘the person who does these things will live by them.’ But the righteousness that comes from faith says, ‘Do not say in your heart, “Who will ascend into heaven?” ’ (that is, to bring Christ down) ‘or “Who will descend into the abyss?” ’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say?
‘The word is near you,
   on your lips and in your heart’
(that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. The scripture says, ‘No one who believes in him will be put to shame.’ For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’

The Gospel: Matthew 14:22-33
Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking towards them on the lake. But when the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’
Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came towards Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable you. My Lord My Rock and My Redeemer.

Every book that I have read about the walking on water story is headed Jesus walks on water, this includes most of the translations of The Bible I have on my bookshelves. In some ways this should not come as a surprise, after all in Matthew we have already seen vast numbers fed, demons driven out and blind men given sight, amongst other miracles. But no where can I find the heading Peter walks on water, with the requisite number of exclamation marks. Peter almost drowns or even the remaining disciples clinging to their boat in the storm get the feeling the idea that Peter is not quite the ticket. That’s Peter! And I can see the other disciples rolling their eyes and shaking their heads saying “He’s going to die”. Even David Garland says the disciple’s task is to stay in the boat worshipping, or in this case praying together for the storm to calm, not attempting the sensational.

Let us just for one moment focus on the boat, the Sea of Galilee is well known to those on board the boat, at least six of the disciples came from this place including Peter. The lake is about 15 miles long and 8 miles wide, reaching depths of 150 feet. It is the second lowest lake in the world, the lowest being the Dead Sea, so just how bad can a storm be on this body of water, bad really bad. Have a look at some of the YouTube videos of the storms on this Lake, waves can often reach 10 metres tall. It is night, it is dark, it is stormy and like the Sheriff in Jaws I am sure that they wished they had a bigger boat. Then out of this stormy night a figure shimmering is walking towards them, across the water, this increases their fear. What is this apparition, is it friend or foe, Jesus identifies himself but instead of huddling in a small wet windy corner waiting for this ethereal figure to appear and still the storm, Peter faces this figure and has to make sure, if it is you then command me to come on to the water? Is this Peter’s doubt of the identity of Christ rising to the surface, does he really want to show off, do the spectacular, be the talk of the town, if it is not Christ walking across the water but a vision, a spectre, the Devil, a delusion or even a dream Peter is in trouble or is he? 

There is much to this story and of course we know it is about faith, that personal deep faith that so often is short of the mark; it is about Peter and that, as we know about him, his human faith, that is jarred, flawed and questioning, much like our own; it is also about those storms of life where we are driven to the corners of our boats praying for a bigger boat, rescue and no not going to repeat the worn joke about God sending a helicopter. It is about Jesus encouraging, saving and rebuking at the same time, how many of us have experienced that.

Peter is not in trouble at this point, he is still on a boat, he is not alone, Peter is in the safest possible place at the moment he asks the question. But here is the important thing, Jesus answers him and Peter does not step back from the brink and say ‘oh well that is alright then’, that satisfies my concerns, he climbs down, important, he climbs down out of the boat. Faith or stupidity?

It is a step of faith, one that is not forced but one that God calls each one of us to do. God asks all of us, calls us all in a myriad of ways to walk on the water, to have faith that will cause us to walk through the storm. But it all starts with us, recognising our Lord and taking the decision to climb out of the boat. Huddled on the boat is good, being safe in the storm is good but Christ did not lift Peter out of the boat and set his feet upon the water. Like some kind of levitating magic trick Peter had to climb out of the boat himself, be obedient and trust. My point is this: In our lives we all have boats that we’re in and there comes a time when we have to step out of our boats – put our faith to the test – so that God can use us.

So, I am going to rename the passage Peter climbed out of the boat and would urge all of you to do so when called. We too will flounder, we too will be rebuked, encouraged, but with faith we too can walk through a storm, answering God and to be faithful to his call. It may not make the storm any less but Christ’s hand will be there to reach out and catch us.

But we first need to climb out of the boat!

                                                                               From Carol Bridge (LLM)

Almighty God,
who sent your Holy Spirit
to be the life and light of your Church:
open our hearts to the riches of your grace,
that we may bring forth the fruit of the Spirit
in love and joy and peace;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Heavenly Father your Son Jesus waits for us to step out onto the water with him, to not be afraid to leave the safety of our boats, and to walk toward Him in faith. He asks us to join with Him in the work He is already doing in our world.

We pray today for Louie Burlington who takes his first step of faith as he is baptised later today in Ash church. May his family know your presence with them and help this church community to welcome and encourage them all in their walk of faith.
Gracious Lord, we thank you for the world you have created. We pray for greater wisdom and responsibility in our stewardship of this earth. We pray for fishermen and seafarers and all who brave the seas to bring us food and trade goods from the farthest reaches of our planet.

We pray for those who brave difficult waters in flimsy boats looking for a better life for them and their families. We pray to for the coastguard and lifeboat service called upon so often to rescue those in danger on the water.
  (Short Silence)
Father, we thank you for the gift of your Son, our saviour, who walks with us on our life’s journey. We pray for all who travel with us in our family, among our friends and within this community. We pray for deepening awareness of our need for one another and of your image in the hearts of everyone we meet and help us to remain  vigilant in safety measures to avoid the possibility of spreading the Coronavirus.
Loving God, we thank You for the gift of life and pray for those whose lives are troubled by illness, grief, poverty or injustice. We pray that in the darkness of their suffering and pain Your light will shine to bring them the assurance and hope they need. We remember at this time those known personally to us and those who have requested our prayers …….
Heavenly Father, we place in your loving care all those who have died, and we pray for your comfort and peace to be on all who mourn.
Merciful God, we thank you for your promise to hear our prayers.  Strengthen our faith in that promise so that our lives might proclaim your love, mercy and goodness made visible in the life of your Son, Jesus Christ, and when the wind and waves get high and threaten to overwhelm us, help us remember Jesus’ words: “Take courage. It is I. Don’t be afraid. .”

Lord’s Prayer:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.

The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.

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