Sunday 9th August

10th Sunday after Pentecost

 

Jesus said: “Take courage, it is I. Don’t be afraid.”

Our God is a powerful God,

Who does things way beyond our understanding.

But we have no need to fear,

For we know we are in God’s  presence.

Let us come to God now.

Let us come and worship him.

 

Hymn

CH4 351

1. Jesus’ hands were kind hands, doing good to all,

Healing pain and sickness, blessing children small;

Washing tired feet, and saving those who fall;

Jesus’ hands were kind hands, doing good to all.

 

2. Take my hands, Lord Jesus, let them work for you,

Make them strong and gentle, kind in all I do;

Let me watch you, Jesus, till I’m gentle too,

Till my hands are kind hands, quick to work for you.

 

Prayer

Lord, sometime following you can be difficult.

We face dilemmas, and struggle so much,

Wishing that things could be easier.

Lord, help us to relax in your presence,

To trust you and see your plan for us,

To hear your word and be prepared to act on it

As we spend this time today Lord,

We maybe come to you

Feeling sure of ourselves at first,

But then we become not quite so certain –

Just like Peter.

And so, we come to you, Lord Jesus,

Knowing that even if we do begin to sink

Under the pressures that we face,

We know that you are there, holding us up,

And that you will never let us go.

 

Readings

1 Kings 19: 9 – 18

Matthew 14: 22 – 33

 

Reflection

 

1 Kings 19: 9 – 18

One of my favourite stories in the Old Testament is the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, which is found in 1 Kings 18. The passage we have read this morning follows on from Elijah’s encounter. Elijah has stood against the increasingly corrupt empire that is Israel. He has defeated the prophets of Baal, and he has fled, fearing retaliation, and feeling utterly alone. He makes his way to Mount Sinai and it is here, in his mountain hideaway, that God finds him and asks what he is doing. Elijah’s answer is that he is alone. Jezebel has her army and God stands at the head of the heavenly hosts, but he is alone. So, God promises to pass by the cave where Elijah is. Wind, earthquake, and fire follow, but God is not in any of it. Then sheer silence.  And then Elijah comes to the mouth of the cave to receive instruction from God who tells his prophet to go about his business (vv 15 – 17), and reminds Elijah, finally, that he is not alone – 7000 people are waiting for him to lead them.

 

Matthew 14: 22 – 33

Following the gathering and feeding of a great crowd, Jesus dismisses them and makes the disciples get into a boat to travel ahead of him. Possibly because he is wanting to avoid being set at the head of a militia ready to march to Jerusalem, and probably because he wanted to go and spend time in prayer. Matthew tells us that he went up a hill by himself to pray. Do we sense here an echo of the temptation narrative – Jesus seeking strength to stick to his guns in the face of the temptation to take a different route?

The twelve spend the whole night battling the elements out on the lake. As dawn breaks, they are confronted with the sight of Jesus walking across the water – and they are absolutely terrified! But Jesus speaks comfort – ‘Courage, don’t be afraid, it is I!’ (v27). This is a strong suggestion that there is something in Jesus’ identity that is beyond human. In the Old Testament, God spoke as the “I am”, there is similarity in the way Jesus speaks here. There is also a strong echo of the instances when God is pictured in the Old Testament as walking on or through the sea (Job 9:8, Psalm 77:19, Isaiah 43: 16).

We then come to one of the great moments of the gospel stories – Peter inviting Jesus to tell him to get out of the boat, Peter getting out of the boat, and almost immediately sinking and crying out to be rescued. Once back in the boat Jesus gently rebukes him for his lack of faith, and the disciples worship him as ‘Son of God’.

Some have seen this story as a resurrection narrative that is out of place, perhaps one that exists in the same narrative world as that in John 21. There is little evidence for this, rather this story seems to be more centred on Peter and his faith rather than Jesus and his identity. It is a story that can encourage ‘ordinary’ followers of Jesus as it confirms that, despite following and being in close proximity to Jesus for three years, the disciples still struggled with their faith. And perhaps Jesus is not so much rebuking Peter for his lack of faith (v 31) as recognising the frail material he has to work with. Here is someone who, despite having just witnessed Jesus feeding a crowd of 5000, is still struggling with his faith.

Both Elijah and Jesus find themselves on a mountain talking to God, both of them struggle for very different reasons! And both Elijah and Peter struggle to maintain their faith in God despite having seen God perform amazing deeds right in front of them.

Do we hear what God says? Do we believe it and trust in Him?

 

Prayer

Remember the people of Lebanon, especially Beirut

As they cope with the aftermath of the explosion on Tuesday,

Together with the other difficulties that they were already facing.

We pray for our young people as they prepare to return to school,

Those who are starting a new school,

Those who have missed out on their exams

And are perhaps struggling with the results.

We pray for teachers and all school staff,

As they work to prepare the school buildings

For start of term next week.

We pray that everyone will be well and safe

As the new school term starts,

And that   

 

Hymn

CH4 485

1. Dear Lord and Father of mankind,

Forgive our foolish ways;

Re-clothe us in our rightful mind;

In purer lives thy service find,

In deeper reverence praise.

 

2. In simple trust, like theirs who heard

Beside the Syrian sea,

The gracious calling of the Lord,

Let us, like them, without a word

Rise up and follow thee.

 

3. O Sabbath rest by Galilee!

O calm of hills above,

Where Jesus knelt to share with thee

The silence of eternity,

Interpreted by love.

 

4. With that deep hush subduing all

Our words and works that drown

The tender whisper of thy call,

As noiseless let thy blessing fall

As fell thy manna down.

 

5. Drop thy still dews of quietness,

Till all our strivings cease;

Take from our souls the strain and stress,

And let our ordered lives confess

The beauty of thy peace.

 

6. Breathe through the heats of our desire

Thy coolness and thy balm;

Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;

Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,

O still small voice of calm.

 

Blessing