SUNDAY SERVICE FOR AUGUST 7TH 2020 TRINITY 9
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One of the things which frightens me is water. I don’t like swimming and being in a boat fills me with dread. But I love being by the sea and watching the waves and the power of the tides. One holiday we went to St Abbs Head in the Borders and there was a storm. Not to be deterred we walked to the harbour and watched in fascination at the spectacle unfolding. Someone had left their Range Rover on a slipway and the vehicle had slid into the water and was carried away. There was nothing anyone could do because the sea was so rough and gradually as we watched the whole car was broken into pieces!
So I can understand the fear that the disciples felt in their fishing boat on the lake as the wind buffeted them, although they were less likely to be panic stricken as they would have encountered these storms before. They had been so recently with Jesus but Jesus had needed some time alone with his Father after feeding 5000 and performing other miracles and healings. He sent the disciples ahead of him, in fact in some versions it states that he compelled them to go, probably telling them he would catch them up. The disciples were on their own.
They were not there through any fault of their own and in fact were there because they were being obedient to Jesus. The storm was one thing but seeing a figure walking towards them was quite another and they were afraid. Jesus spoke and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Three phrases which meant so much. “Take courage” giving the disciples encouragement not rebuking them. “It is I”, referring to God’s name of I am. “Do not be afraid” words used when the twelve were sent out on their mission, at the tomb to the women and at the Transfiguration to the disciples frightened by the great light.
How did the disciples feel when they realised who it was? Well, we know how Peter reacted!! Impulsively he said that if Jesus asked him to he would be able to go to him. And at first, Peter walked towards his Lord. But then he realised what he was doing, felt the buffeting wind and the tumultuous waves and dropped into the sea.
Peter acted on impulse but his heart was in the right place and he always acted out of love. Yes, he often failed and came to grief but Jesus had warned that following him would not be easy. And Peter never finally failed. In the moments of failure he turned to Jesus and clutched at him to be saved.
If we think of times when we have felt adrift then we come near to recognising what this story can tell us today. When Peter took his eyes away from Jesus he was afraid and thought that he could not do as Christ did. Jesus reached out and took his hand asking why he doubted. That is a question which Christ often asks us!!
Jesus climbed into the boat and the storm stopped. And the disciples were no doubt very grateful that it had. They showed how they felt in the words “Truly you are the Son of God.” There is a story told by William Barclay from St Francis of Sales who had noticed that a young girl who was fetching water always put a piece of wood into the pail before she lifted it. He asked her why and she told him that it was to keep the water from spilling, to keep it steady. When the bishop later wrote to a friend he said, “So when your heart is distressed and agitated put the Cross into its centre to keep it steady.”
We all have moments or even longer times when we suffer doubt. Jesus came to the disciples in their time of need and we need to believe that that is what happens for us. That is what faith is: reaching out to grasp Christ’s hand and knowing that he will catch us and hold us. Yes, sometimes we feel he asks us to do the impossible but we don’t have to do it alone.
Many of us are overwhelmed by what is happening in the world today. We see the effects of the Covid 19 virus, the conflict in various places and the destruction of so much. But each one of us is beloved by God and even when we falter, God never does! Neither doubt nor faith are easy each bringing their own problems but faith is far more powerful as it comes with love, calmness. Doubt simply brings uncertainty and despair.
At this point I was having real problems about how to finish the talk. I spent several days trying to work it out and then found this piece from (Tony Peterson, The Africana Worship Book: Year A, Discipleship Resources, 2006, p. 91.)
Lord If It’s You …
Lord, it it’s you, we need to hear from you
When we are alone
When we go away to pray
When we have little faith
When we are battered by the waves
When the wind is against us
When we get in the boat
When we’re terrified by our ghosts
When we seek you on the mountain
When we cry out in fear
When we start walking on water
When we begin to sink
When we are far from land
Lord, if it’s you,
speak to us
calm our fears
calm our storms
Strengthen our resolve
Remind us who you are
Walk to us
Call to us
Reach out your hand and catch us
Quiet the wind around us.
Lord, if it’s you, we worship you for “Truly you are the Son of God.”