Material for Worship on the Tenth Sunday after Pentecost

Today the Ven. Peter Potter is celebrating the eucharist in the church building at 8.30 and 10.30 a.m. Let us prepare ourselves for worship by reading or singing the words of ‘Be still’ as Moira Langston plays the tune. You may also wish to spend some time reflecting on Sieger K?der’s painting ‘Stronghold’.

Be still, for the presence of the Lord,

the Holy One, is here.

Come, bow before him now,

with reverence and fear.

In him no sin is found,

we stand on holy ground.

Be still, for the presence of the Lord,

the Holy One is here.

Be still, for the glory of the Lord

is shining all around;

he burns with holy fire,

with splendour he is crowned.

How awesome is the sight,

our radiant King of light!

Be still, for the glory of the Lord

is shining all around.

Be still, for the power of the Lord

is moving in this place,

he comes to cleanse and heal,

to minister his grace.

No work too hard for him,

in faith receive from him;

Be still, for the power of the Lord

is moving in this place.

David J. Evans

In a sense, both of the main characters in our readings today are sinking and are given firm-handed rescue by our loving God. The prophet Elijah is isolated, exhausted and worn down—easy prey to nagging negative thoughts which whisper the futility and unfairness of it all. It is a place many of us will recognise. Listen to Judith Abbott reading 1 Kings 19.9-18.

Despite Elijah’s fears and failings God doesn’t give up on him. This must have been encouraging and comforting for the community for which this history was written, an audience of scattered, exiled and humiliated people. God doesn’t attempt to dissuade Elijah from how he feels, but offers him instead the way forward, enabling him to view it differently so that it is less overpowering and crippling. He does the same with us if we will allow him, gently offering us a route of hope.

Peter too is overwhelmed by the sense of his own vulnerability in our Gospel passage, Matthew 14.22-33, read here by James Humphreys. Think what it was like for Peter as it dawned on him that he was out in the middle of a huge stretch of dark and angry sea, buffeted by a violent wind with nothing under his feet except fathoms of cold water. It is no wonder that he panicked and started to sink!

This passage has two messages entwined around one another. One is about faith and how it operates. It invites us to see ourselves as disciples in the boat or even as Peter, struggling to stay afloat in the midst of the storm. The other is about who Jesus is. The two messages go together because, according to Matthew, Jesus is Lord of the storms. He walks on the sea as only God can do. He greets his friends saying, ‘It is I’, echoing the ‘I am’ of God’s presence to Moses, and his ‘Fear not’ brings to mind the words of the Book of Isaiah, ‘Fear not. You are mine. When you pass through the waters I’ll be with you’. This is truly Emmanuael, ‘God with us’. We can place our trust in him.

For the disciples as a group, the experience was a moment of growth in their faith and understanding. The risk Peter took to trust Jesus and respond to his call enabled the rest to move from fear to worship, from thinking Christ was a ghost to recognising him as the Son of God.

I wonder what Jesus is calling us to do or to continue to do, as individuals and as a church during the storm of the pandemic? Pause for a moment with this image by Lisle Gwynn Garrity from the Sanctified Art Group, called ‘Step into the swell’. Remember that with Jesus the little things we do to serve the needs of others and the prayers we offer, are just as important as great projects. Like Peter, ask Jesus to call you to come to him on the water.

Trusting in our faithful God let us pray
for people who are struggling to stay afloat:
for the people of Beirut,
for refugees,
for migrant workers,
for those living in slums, favelas and townships:
for people living in fear:
for those in abusive relationships,
for those who have been trafficked,
for those who have lost their jobs;
for those known to us who are sick in body mind or spirit …
for those who are grieving …
for ourselves and for your Church:
a clearer vision,
a readiness to take risks for the sake of others,
the gift of deeper faith in you.
May we and they know the steady hand of Jesus reaching to them and holding them up.
In Christ’s name. Amen.