The Lord be with you! Good morning, Cheviot Churches – and Good morning to those listening in other places too! You are all very welcome. This is Colin, and I hope everyone is staying well. Let us worship together for our service for the 10th Sunday after Pentecost.
From hillside to lakeside Jesus meets the needs of his friends. Always surprising them and us with his words and actions. Always responding to our needs, always there for us. We gather to give thanks and praise to the one who loves and cares for us. We offer ourselves and this time and invite Jesus to surprise us once more.
Hymn 260 (vv1,2)– Eternal Father, strong to save
Prayer of Adoration and Confession
Surprising and mysterious God,
you come to us when we least expect it,
calling us out of our routines and our plans,
inviting us to follow Christ on a great journey of faith.
We praise you for the many ways you comfort and guide us.
In our moments of fear, you speak to us with words of reassurance.
In our moments of doubt, you reach out your hand to save us.
In our moments of turmoil, you bring calm to the storm.
We place our trust in you this day and every day,
and worship you as our Redeemer and Saviour
in the name of Christ, our Lord and friend.
Merciful and patient God,
We confess that we still live in fear and doubt,
even though we have been touched by your grace.
You call us to live with courage and perseverance,
yet we give up too easily and opt for the safer route.
You encourage us to be bold in our faith and steadfast in our fight for justice, yet we remain silent in the face of inequality and violence.
Forgive us all the times we have left you down and let down ourselves.
Renew our lives through your mercy and grace.
Jesus is alongside us in the storms of life, speaking words of forgiveness and peace. We are a forgiven people. Thanks be to God.
Readings- Genesis 37: 1-4
Matthew 14: 22-33
Hymn 191 (vv 1,3,5) – Do not be afraid
Gracious God, we thank you for your promise to hear our prayers. Strengthen our faith in that promise so that our lives might proclaim your love, mercy and goodness made visible in the life of your Son, Jesus Christ, and when the wind and waves get high and threaten to overwhelm us, help us remember Jesus’ words: “Take courage. It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Amen
Earlier in the week I travelled to Eyemouth. I had never been before, so it was interesting to look around, especially the harbour. I soon became aware of Black Friday, the day that the fishing fleet was caught up in a storm and most of the boats wrecked with the loss of 189, many of them from Eyemouth. It was a terrible event. Sailing has always been a risky business, and even today you can be very vulnerable out on the water.
The Sea of Galilee was hardly the North Sea; for most of the year it was very calm. But occasionally the wind would rise and the waves become choppy, and a storm could arise out of nowhere. There were some violent ones when I was there. In our Gospel reading today, Jesus had sent the disciples ahead of him across the lake. It was straight after the feeding of the multitude, when Jesus’ compassion had prompted thousands upon thousands to be fed. But just before, news had reached Jesus of the death of John the Baptist. No doubt, Jesus wanted space; he wanted to go off by himself to take it in, so the disciples went ahead without him. And their boat was caught in a storm.
Now many of the disciples were experienced fishermen, but even so, this was fierce. It happened in the evening, and it was early morning when they encountered Jesus, so for several hours they battled with the storm, frantically trying to navigate back to shore – but failing. They would have been exhausted, as well as terrified. Then Jesus appeared, and the situation is resolved. At a time of crisis and of fear, Jesus appears and takes control, and everything is OK. For Matthew speaking to the early Christians when the whole world seemed against them, this would have been a very reassuring story, and so it is for us today.
We live in a world where there are many fears. The horrific explosion in Beirut shows how in a split second our lives can be turned upside down. The lockdown in Aberdeen that Coronavirus is still very much with us and remains such a threat to our health. There is no room for complacency. Fears of unemployment, financial concerns, anxieties over health, let alone international tensions, means that we live with fear. So, this story speaks to us today, of Jesus being beside us at scary times and saying the same words he spoke to the disciples: ‘Take heart. It is I. Don’t be afraid’. In our difficult times, Jesus is there beside us, to reassure us. We have to trust in him.
But the story in Matthew goes on, and suddenly we find Peter jumping out of the boat and walking towards Jesus. But suddenly he is conscious of the waves and starts to sink, only for Jesus to grab him. Peter is often seen as headstrong, impetuous. But what are we to make of this?
Now, I find it interesting, for if I were in the boat, I would be calling out to Jesus. ‘Come here. Get us out of this’, and wait for Jesus to rescue me. But instead, Peter launches himself out of the boat. Instead of remaining passive on the boat, he goes towards Jesus. In order to get closer to Jesus, he takes the risk and does what Jesus is doing, namely in the story, walking on the water. He doesn’t quite manage it, but he makes a good attempt, but then takes his eyes off Jesus, but even so, I think it is an important lesson.
As Christians we want to get closer to Jesus, and we do this by doing what Jesus does. Now I am not suggesting we go to the Kale or the Bowmont and practise walking on water. But Jesus forgave – do what Jesus does. Take time to pray – do what Jesus does. Welcome the stranger, love your enemies, break down barriers, speak up for justice – do what Jesus does.
For 2000 years people have sought to get closer to Christ, by doing what Jesus does, and their lives are an example to us all. Let us keep our eyes firmly focussed on Jesus and take the risk of being as Christ to those around – and do what Jesus does. Amen
Hymn 802 – We are here to praise you
Prayers of Thanksgiving and Intercession
Faithful God, bless the gifts we bring to you today. Use them and us to plant seeds of faith, hope and love in the world so that your goodness will grow among your people, and your name be honoured for Christ’s sake.
God of all people,
your love and grace sustain the world and all who live in it. When we foolishly set up walls between people, you tear them down and draw us into one family, united in Christ and in compassion.
The pandemic has filled so many countries and neighbours with turmoil and fear.
So we come before you with prayers for the world you love.
Astonishing God, you surprise us.
You come to us in unforeseen circumstances and in unexpected people.
We give you thanks for all the healers and heroes who have stepped forward during the pandemic to surprise us with kindness and courage.
We pray for all who still face upheaval and uncertainty because of COVID-19.
Ever equip our leaders with wisdom and imagination to address the fear and change we are facing. And fill our hearts with compassion and understanding for the most fearful.
God of peace, you reassure us.
You remind us not to be afraid when troubles arise.
We pray for all people who live in precarious situations not related to the pandemic. Assure them they are not forgotten.
We pray for those who struggle with illness, grief or depression. We pray for all who have lost loved ones. May they know your peace and strength.
We bring before you the people of Beirut, caught up in the terrible explosion and adding to an already fraught situation. Bless the medical teams as they try to cope.
We pray for charities like Christian Aid, trying to respond to this and to so many other situations of need in our world. May we ever be conscious of the needs of others.
Hymn 490 (vv1,2) – Jesus lover of my soul
Go in peace, to love and serve God. And may God surprise us on the way, Christ Jesus be our company, and the Spirit lift up our lives. May the blessing of God, Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer be with you and all whom you love, wherever they may be, now and forevermore. Amen