Service and sermon August 9, 2020
-Leighmoor UC, Rev Barbara Allen
TIS 119: I sing the almighty power of God
TIS 138: Eternal Father, strong to save
TIS 580: Lead us, heavenly Father, lead us
TIS 589: Jesus calls us! O’er the tumult
TIS 590: What a friend we have in Jesus
TIS 392: At the dawning of salvation
TIS 585: I heard the voice of Jesus say
Call to Worship
You are a God who speaks and there is light,
a God who wills, and there is life,
a God who moves, and there is change.
Come to us, quieten our frightened hearts with the calmness and peace of your presence.
Prayers of Adoration, Thanksgiving, and Confession
Loving, Creator God, we praise you with the whole of creation.
As your human creatures, we gather in our homes to worship you.
We give you thanks for diversity, for the gifts of each season.
At the close of a glorious summer, we rest under the vibrant colours of autumn.
Without the chill of winter, we would not be as thankful for the growth during spring.
We see these seasons in our own lives.
In the midst of our own storms, at sea during the world’s calamity, we would not appreciate or be aware of other gifts
-stories of hope and compassion, a recognition that we are stronger than we thought, a stronger sense of you being beside us in our boat in the middle of the world’s rough waves.
Give us the grace to see you walking beside us, comforting us in our struggles, encouraging us in our sadness.
As we are more mindful of your presence, in awe of your majesty, may be conform more and more to the blue-print of the Christ-like nature that is your will for each one of us.
With you beside us, we are able to face all that life throws at us, with courage.
With you walking ahead of us, we are able to walk with confidence, for you are our God.
And yet, we confess, at times, our lack of faith, especially when fears and anxieties pull us down into the waters.
Forgive us when our own worries have prevented us from noticing the needs of others, when we have neglected our neighbour, when we have not prayed for the world.
Forgive us when we have done things, or neglected to do things which make it hard for us to forgive ourselves.
In a time of silence we remember other things for which we seek forgiveness.
God is love.
Through Christ our sins are forgiven
(thanks be to God)
Take hold of this forgiveness, and live your life in the power of the Spirit.
Genesis 37: 1-4, 12-28
Matthew 14: 22-33
(Matthew 14: 22-33)
‘A young man was apprenticed to a master artist who produced the most beautiful stained glass windows anywhere. The apprentice could not approach the master’s genius, so he borrowed his master’s tools, thinking that was the answer. After several weeks, the young man said to his teacher, “I’m not doing any better with your tools than I did with mine.” The teacher replied, “So, it’s not the tools of the master you need; it’s the spirit of the master you need.”
-it’s not the tools of the master you need; it’s the spirit of the master you need.
v.30: ‘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?”
Two questions appear in the New Testament over and over again:
Who is Jesus?
What is the life of true discipleship?
-what does it mean to be a disciple?
Today’s story, of the wind-battered boat,
of Jesus’ walk on the lake-
of Peter’s doubt and fears-
tackle both these questions.
For many of us-this is a familiar story
and the trouble, or danger, with a story we know is-that we skim when we read it, or tune in a little when we hear it.
-oh, that story! I know what happens!
-which is often our approach/manner when hearing the Christmas story, or the Easter story.
We skim-and miss so much.
That’s a danger with this story, too.
So let’s take some time, listen, and allow this episode to take hold of you-and the way you live your life.
Today’s story follows on the heels of the account of the feeding of the 5,000.
In that episode, Jesus brings home to his disciples that they will later be in charge-that they will, in a sense, be leaders, or shepherds of the flock.
When Jesus says to them
‘They (meaning the 5,000) need not go away; you give them something to eat’
Jesus wanted the disciples to realize that, as shepherds or leaders, they could not undertake that function in their own strength-they needed his power as well.
So let’s keep that story in the back of our minds-because it helps us understand today’s reading.
Jesus has demonstrated to them his power in the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000.
Now-Jesus is to outline his power-and their role as his disciples in another way.
But first- as I mentioned earlier-
The question: ‘Who is Jesus?’
Here- the sea or lake-is part of the answer.
Jesus has sent his disciples on ahead of him, across the lake, while he went up the mountain to pray.
When Jesus finished his time of prayer, he was able to see from the mountain that the boat was having problems in a rough sea against a head wind.
Between three and six o’clock in the morning (the 4th watch) he came towards them-walking across the sea.
The sea. Water.
The sea can conjure up two different types of experiences:
- The pleasurable
–holidays at the beach, a picnic on the sand, perhaps the refreshing feel of the ocean on a hot day
–family times. Relaxation
- The scary, the terrifying
–caught up in a wave, out of our depth-dumped by a wave.
–not sure if we’d be able to swim back to shore
–maybe in a boat-starts off nicely-but then the sea becomes rough.
Or both experiences can take place at once.
When I was a child, I was taken to Elwood beach by my Nana.
I was a competent swimmer.
I was in the waves, with the crowd.
Time doesn’t mean much when you’re ten, and having a good time.
It was only when I arrived back at the beach towel, that I realized that my Nana was notifying the life guards that I was missing.
The pleasurable and the terrifying.
Fishermen, sailors, people who live and work by and from the sea, will tell you that you should never take its calmness for granted.
-never assume that you can take control of its waters.
In the Bible, water (sea, ocean, lake, flood) is often a symbol of chaos, of deathly, destructive forces that no one except God, can control.
Even back to vs 2 of Genesis 1: ‘the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep.’
Walking on water was seen as symbolic of power and control over the forces of chaos:
‘Your way was through the sea,
your path, through the mighty waters;
yet your fingerprints were unseen.’
Or Isaiah 43: 16-
‘Thus says the Lord,
who makes a way in the sea,
a path in the mighty waters.’
Just two examples.
For the biblical mind, to be ‘at sea’ evokes images of death, of chaos-a power that threatens the goodness of life.
In today’s story, the sea is the barrier which separates the disciples from Jesus, separates them from the power of God.
The story demonstrates that Jesus shares the power of God.
In Luke’s version, the disciples ask: “Who then is this, that he commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him?”(Luke 8: 25)
In Mark 4, Jesus rebukes the wind and commands the sea to be still. The disciples in Mark’s account ask: “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
-as Lord of Creation- the wind and sea obey him.
So that first question is answered:
Who is Jesus?
In Matthew, the answer is found in the final verse in today’s reading:
‘And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
The Son of God, Jesus, Lord of Creation.
But when it comes to Question 2-
What does it mean to be a disciple?
That is much harder to answer!
The problem for the disciples is that, when a crisis comes, when danger looms, and everything appears to be about to collapse, they panic and act as though they had no faith.
And what about Peter and his wet walk?
-he is chided for his lack of faith!
-his fear overwhelmed his faith
His fear overwhelmed his faith
When he takes his eyes off Jesus-he begins to sink.
Now there’s a great danger in this passage.
The danger is-that we say we should take note of Peter’s lack of faith
-so we don’t suffer the same damp fate!
IF we take this approach, then we run the risk of saying that someone sinking in times of trouble, someone who feels overwhelmed by their troubles, or by their grief, or by their illness, or by this pandemic-
obviously doesn’t have enough faith!
That view is both wrong and dangerous.
It may create pride in those who are doing well-who are healthy, who have job security,
and it may lead to despair for those who are experiencing trouble and trials in life.
It may nourish self-righteousness in those who are doing well, and who are in good health –causing them to scorn the less fortunate and the poor.
there is another way to view Peter and his wet walk.
We’re not to think that having enough faith will keep us from the problems and troubles of the world.
Are Christians exempt from lockdown?
Faith will not keep us from problems.
Jesus never said that he’d protect us from life.
There will be accidents, disease.
God didn’t say we would have a stress-free existence-life isn’t like that
-there is free will.
In many cases, a double-edged sword.
If your child decides to fail Year 12 and create stress for you-what do you expect to happen? A miracle?
Or if your child decides not to study…or study very little? When our son was in Year 12, I jokingly said that I hope they have questions about the tv show The Simpsons on his exam papers!
What about if a drunk driver kills a family travelling in another car?
Miracles don’t always happen in our day-to-day lives
Faith is not about being able to walk on the water-only God can do that!
Faith is daring to believe, in the face of the evidence-that God is with us in the boat
-that God is with this community, and with other communities-as we make our way through the storms of life
battered by the wind, by the world, by covid-19.
In other words-faith is not there in order to make us heroes
-nor is faith there so that we can escape from the world.
It is there to help us imitate our Lord-in service to the world.
Being a disciple involves acknowledging that Jesus has the divine power to save, heal, and feed the crowds-and that he is Lord.
Peter needs to have ‘more’ faith, not in order to walk upon the waves
-but so that he will be able to feed Jesus’ sheep.
This story links us back to the feeding of the 5,000.
Perhaps Peter would have shown that faith NOT by jumping out of the boat BUT by staying in it-waiting for Jesus to come to him-staying with the other disciples, not abandoning them.
And why does Jesus walk on the water?
It is not to show off
-though it does lead us to the realization that He is Lord of Creation.
Jesus walks on water in order to come to the aid of his threatened disciples.
-he walks on water in order to help those in distress.
Like the opening story-where the master artist tells his apprentice that he needs not the tools but the spirit
so, too, the disciples. They are to imitate Jesus’ authority, and his life of service.
But Jesus’ gentle rebuke of Peter reminds us that the typical disciple (and let’s include ourselves in that category) is a mixture
-of courage –and of anxiety-of hearing the word of the Lord-and looking at the terror of the storm
-of trust-and of doubt.
But Jesus comes into our storm tossed lives-just as he came to the disciples in the boat.
In the darkest times-and it is pretty dark at the moment isn’t it-Jesus is there. Jesus is HERE.
His presence doesn’t always mean a removal or end of a problem-but He is always with us, even in the eye of the storm, even in the centre of a pandemic.
In a letter written by a husband to his wife during the American Civil War, there is this line: ‘I shall always be with you in the brightest day and in the darkest night.’
That is also Jesus’ promise:
‘I shall always be with you in the brightest day, and in the darkest night.’
Prayers of the People
Loving God, we pray for the world.
We pray for countries and communities struck down by covid 19.
We continue to pray for people suffering from the disease, or dying, for their families, friends, and work colleagues.
We pray for all in aged care: for residents, and staff. Please decrease the anxiety of the frail, as they try to cope with no visitors, and limited knowledge of what is happening.
We pray for those on the front line-putting their own lives at risk
-for doctors and nurses, health workers, police.
Be with them.
We pray for politicians during this challenging time, as they make their way through unchartered waters.
We feel for them…they did not sign on for this. Give them the strength, wisdom, and courage they need when making many difficult decisions.
We pray for understanding in our communities; it is hard being in lockdown, but it is necessary in order to save lives. Teach us to think of others.
We pray for people coping with other illnesses.
We pray for other trouble spots in the world-areas rocketed by terrorist attacks, regions affected by drought, or by floods.
We pray for the victims of the explosion in Beirut, over 137 killed, more than 5,000 injured, half the city destroyed, and many left homeless. Be with aid and emergency agencies, as they rush to help. We are shocked by the photographs, overwhelmed by the devastation.
In the words our Saviour taught us, we are confident when we pray to say…
‘Our Father in heaven…’
You are people of faith.
Christ is with you in the boat of life, with you during storms and turmoil.
You are not alone; God is always with you, as pilot, and compass.
May the love of God surround you, the arms of Christ steady you, and the Spirit light your way,
-Rev Barbara Allen, 9th August, 2020