Service of the Word: Sunday 9th August

Collect

Almighty God, you 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, joy, and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever

Reading

A reading from the gospel according to Matthew,

Glory to Christ our Saviour

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 toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, 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 toward 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.”

Give thanks to the Lord for his glorious gospel.

Praise to Christ our Lord.

Homily by the Revd Lee Johnston

In scripture, water and the sea is often a picture of the chaotic world we inhabit. You’ll remember from the very start – in Genesis – that the Holy Spirit broods over the tumultuous and dark waters of nothingness, before bringing order out of the chaos, with the creation of dry land and the garden where humanity can live safely with God. But soon, humanity would plunge itself back into the waters of uncertainty and darkness through its own unruly nature and adam and eve would have to leave the order of Eden and go out into the unknown.

Now we very much find ourselves in their position, East of Eden, harking back to the way things were previously: more orderly, predictable and safe. Or, as today’s gospel envisages, we find ourselves on a boat which we’re starting to realise may not be as secure and steady as we first thought when we boarded. If you were to ask the disciples before the storm started, how would they get to the other side safely, they would of told you that the boat would do that for them. But by the middle of the journey, in the middle of the storm, they are not so sure. They can no longer look to the boat’s captain or crew, who aren’t even mentioned in the story; the structural integrity of the vessel seems to pale in comparison to the high winds and waters that they feel rocking the boat from side to side. What’s happened in their crisis, and in our own is that the places we usually look to, to provide safety and guidance, start to move. They start to shift and become unsteady, like the waves of the sea during a storm.

The structures and forces we thought were permanent and secure, start to seem insecure and flimsy and many of the assumptions we lived with begin to unravel. The way we do business, the way we go to church, the way we spend our leisure time has been put on very uncertain footing in the last few months and this storm may continue for many months to come. But it’s into this storm and into this crisis that Jesus arrives and dares the disciples to believe that they could even walk through this storm if they placed their trust and their hopes on him. Not hope in their own heroism, or in the aerodynamics of the boat they were passengers in, nor even in the fact that the storm would eventually pass. Instead they are to trust he who throughout their lives, had shown himself to be in control of more than just storms, but in control of life and death itself.

Instead of believing that we have to be strong and get through this ourselves or that any month now there will be a vaccine, Jesus is instead offering us a hope that is far more concrete and stable. Trust in him with your worries and fears about this virus, your safety and the world that we’re seeing unfold. Trust in him as you wait by the television hoping for better news. Trust in him to bring order, new life and fruit in your relationship with God even in the midst of this chaos, just as he did the first time around, when the Spirit hovered over the face of the water and God spoke humanity into being.

Let us pray for the world, the church and all of those who are in need.

Intercessions

Lord, it is you who reaches out to us when we cry ‘Lord, save me’. So we pray for you to be with those in our world who continue to live in fear of the virus and with anxiety for their future. We pray for all of those in primary and secondary schooling who have had their education put on hold, asking for schools to become a safe space for learning and community once again. We pray for the development of treatments and vaccines and thank you for the work of all doctors, nurses, carers and researchers who work tirelessly for the health and wellbeing of others. Grant them your peace and strength for the storms that they face each day. We pray too for the people of Lebanon and residents of Beirut, who have lost family and friends, asking for your protection and healing to surround them.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Lord, it is you who called the disciples to travel through the storm with their hopes set on you, the captain of their souls. We pray for your church as it responds to the needs of the nation and the uncertainties of the future, asking for your wisdom and guidance to be upon our Bishop Kevin and upon all churches in our Diocese as they plan to reopen safely, to provide solace and peace to those going through the storm.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Lord, you appear at our side when our fears run high and all seems uncertain. As we find we are no longer in control, we look to you to bring us safely through the storms of this world. For those facing problems or scared of the unknown, we ask for the certainty of your love to fill their hearts with peace, bringing before you: Christine, Ian, Les, Sam, Olive, Richard, Ros, Chris, Bill, Lorna, Joyce, Louyse, John, Avril, Helga, Karen, Colin, Margaret. Give them and us the grace to fix our hopes in you, for your care for us never waivers.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

Lord, you bring safely through the storm of death to the shore of eternal life when we place our hope and trust in you. So we commit to you Vera, Mildred, Stuart and Emma, in the sure hope that they are safe in your presence both now and forever for your life and your love never ceases.

All of these prayers we ask for the sake of your son, our saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.