When The Storms Come

CALL TO WORSHIP: Jesus said ‘Take courage: I am here.’ The Lord is with us by His Spirit. Let us worship Him with boldness and confidence.

As Elijah stood there, the LORD passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. After the wind there was an earthquake, then a fire, but the LORD was not in any of these. And after the fire there was the sound of sheer silence.

Lord, we have hushed our noise, and now we bring You the offering of our silence.

Still our busy minds as well, so that we may be ready for everything that you want to do in and through us today. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen

HYMN 18: BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD-StF

PRAYER OF ADORATION: Almighty God, we praise and worship You because You made us and You love us. All through history, You have been showing people the right way to live.

You sent Jesus to live amongst us so that we could look at Him and see what You are like. We see Him walking to the disciples across the water, and it reminds us that nothing can ever come between us and You.

We hear Jesus tell the disciples not to be afraid, and it reminds us that although You are great and mighty, You are also loving and caring. We see Jesus calm the wind and the waves, and it reminds us that You are the Lord of heaven and earth.

Finally, we see the disciples respond by worshipping Jesus. Gracious God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we, too, worship You, now and always. Amen

TALK FOR ALL: A HELPING HAND (Matthew 14: 22-33)

We may not remember how it was when we learned to walk. First we crawled, later we took steps holding onto someone’s hand, and finally we were able to walk by ourselves.

You may have learned how to ride a bike in much the same way. First there are training wheels on your bike and an adult helps you learn how to balance. As you continue to practice you are, at last, able to steady the bike and ride without the assistance of others.

There are certainly times when we need the help of another: learning to skate or swim, and going down a steep slide for the first time.

Learning anything new can make us feel a bit fearful. We can also feel frightened when we encounter something we don’t understand. At those times we may need someone to lean on; someone to hold us up until we have become familiar with the new activity and are strong enough to do it on our own.

Jesus spoke to his disciples, teaching them about this very thing. His disciples were in a boat, far from land, when a strong storm came up and battered their boat. The story tells us that “Jesus came to them, walking on the sea” (14:25).

The disciples did not understand what was happening and became very frightened. Jesus said, “Cheer up! It is I! Don’t be afraid” (14:27).

Jesus “stretched out his hand (and) took hold of” Peter, one of his disciples who was trying to reach Jesus as he came toward the boat.

When you feel frightened it may help to remember that God is with us, always. “Cheer up! It is I! Don’t be afraid.”

HYMN 59: LORD THE LIGHT OF YOUR LOVE IS SHINING- StF

PRAYER OF CONFESSION AND THANKSGIVING:  As we come to God with our confession, let us think about Peter, getting out of the boat to walk to Jesus. Let us remember how he looked at the waves, and began to sink.

Let us pray.              

Loving Lord, we come to You now to say that we are sorry, because we often fail as Peter did. We set out to serve You with good intentions; But then we get so busy that we forget to keep our eyes on You; or we become frightened if things get difficult, and stop trusting You. Forgive us for our lack of faith in Your power to help us.

When Peter began to sink, Jesus stretched out His hand. Thank you that when we are struggling, Your hand is always there ready to save us. Help us to keep our eyes on You at all times, and to put our trust in You, our Lord and our friend. Amen  

READINGS: MATTHEW 14: 22-33

HYMN 340: YE SERVANTS OF GOD – StF

SERMON: WHEN THE STORMS COME (Matthew 14: 22-33)

This wonderful story from Matthew tells us of Jesus’ miracle of water walking – but the message it gives us is so much more.  St. Augustine said that this story was an allegory for Jesus and the Church.  He said that the Church was represented by the boat the disciples were in.  So Augustine said that the Church may get thrown around by the storms and high seas of life – and he equated the devil with the power that keeps the storms blowing – but with Jesus’ help the Church can weather whatever storm blows.  I like that analogy, but I think the story of Peter’s interaction with Jesus tells me something even more meaningful today.

As I’ve said before, Peter is sort of the perfect example of Christian discipleship for us.  He can show us faith in action.  But he also shows us what NOT to do by virtue of his impetuosity followed by failure of faith.  And every time, Jesus takes him back and saves him from the world – and from himself.  What an example for us.

This morning’s story follows immediately after last Sunday’s feeding of the multitude.  And remember that even before Jesus healed, preached, taught and fed that day, He was looking for a place to get away from the crowds; to rest and pray.  So, after the crowds had been fed, Jesus sent the disciples in the boat to go across the Sea of Galilee and He stayed behind to go up on the mountain alone to pray.

The Sea of Galilee is about 8 miles across at its widest point.  That’s a pretty easy sail if the winds are right.  But that night the sea and the wind were both working mightily against the disciples.  Matthew tells us that the disciples were “far from shore” and that it was “early morning” when Jesus approached the boat. 

Let’s try to put ourselves in that place for a minute.  Two days earlier they had gotten news that John the Baptist had been executed by Herod.  Andrew and John had been disciples of John the Baptist before they met Jesus.  They loved John, as did his cousin, Jesus.  They had not been able to mourn his passing because of the crowds that kept pressing in on them.  They tried to get away by boat, but Jesus told them to put back in to shore because He had such compassion for the people.  Then there was that incredible miracle of the feeding.  Now they were emotionally spent and physically exhausted – and they found themselves stuck in the middle of the lake, in a crushing storm, too tired to fight the rest of the way across.  And then they saw Him walking toward them – 3 miles from the shore – and they were petrified because in their state, they thought it was a ghost.  But instead of cowering as the others did, their unofficial leader, Peter, stood up to get a better look.

Jesus, still walking toward them on top of the waves, said, “Cheer up! It is I! Don’t be afraid.”  And when Peter hears his master’s voice, he responds, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the waters.”

I’ve got to tell you, in that place, at that time, I would not have said what Peter did.  I don’t know about you, but given the position the disciples were in, and knowing that they had seen Jesus still a storm before this (Matt 8:23), I think my response would have been, “Lord, if it is you, get us out of this!”  But not Peter.  He was a true disciple.  He wanted to do what his master did, say what his master said, know what his master knew.  Peter wanted to walk where Jesus walked – even on the water.

So Jesus calls Peter to him and Mr. Enthusiasm jumps out of the boat and starts walking in the Way of the Lord.  But what happened to him next?  Like his name, petros (or rock) he started to sink.  And this is the ultimate example for us, I think.

We are all very much like Peter in our day-to-day lives.  We want so much to be disciples – those who devote their lives to learning from Jesus and trying to live as Jesus lived.  We want to have the great faith on which Jesus could establish the Church – we want to be the cornerstones that Jesus told Peter he was.  But like Peter, when the storms come, we lose our concentration, when we take our eye off the ball, even for a moment, we sink.  Isn’t that true of us?  I know it is of me.  No matter how badly I want to be a great Christian, let some stumbling block get thrown into my way, and I’ll look at it long enough to trip.

If we share these same tendencies, “Cheer up! It is I! Don’t be afraid.” (Matthew 14:27).  No matter how much we may lack in our ability to be good disciples, Jesus never gives up on us. “Petro”s the rock, sank that early morning in the Sea of Galilee, but Jesus was there, hand out, at the ready, to grab him and pull him into the boat.  The same is true of us.

As we are all yearning in returning to worship in our churches, where we can all look at the ministries available here at Leicester Trinity Circuit, we can all decide where our own desire to be disciples might take shape.  If you see something that sparks an interest, speak to any of the stewards or me.  Don’t worry about “what if I can’t do it?”  Remember Peter and the incredible storm; and put your hand out to receive a boost from the Lord. 

When we think about leadership of this circuit, and when we consider how much of your time, talent and treasure should go back to the God who gave it to us, “Take heart, it is (Jesus); do not be afraid.”  Step out in faith – just as Peter did.  Even if you start to sink, with the help of our Saviour, and the support of our church’s family, you’ll end up right here in the boat with the rest of us.  And thanks be to God for that.

Amen.

HYMN 663: I, THE LORD OF SEA AND SKY- StF

PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION: Today, we have been thinking about Jesus stilling the storm, and about Elijah, watching the wind, earthquake and fire. Today, we pray for those who work at sea, or in difficult weather conditions, and for those who will be near water this summer.

Let us pray.

Lord, the wind and the waves are Yours; You are the ruler of everything.

The disciples were fishermen, whose work took them to sea. We pray for those who work at sea today; for fishermen, going out in all weathers so that we might have food for our tables. We pray too for those working on oil rigs so that we might have the power that we need. Help us to value what they provide, and not waste the resources that they bring us.

Lord, the wind and the waves are Yours; You are the ruler of everything.

We pray for those who serve in the Royal Navy, the Merchant Navy, and for those who work at sea and for commercial organisations. Keep them safe as they deal with all kinds of weather conditions.

Lord, the wind and the waves are Yours; You are the ruler of everything.

The disciples were in danger because of the wind and waves. We pray for those who work for the safety of people at sea or on beaches. We pray for coastguards and for lifeguards; and we pray for volunteers, such as the members of the Lifeboat service. We thank You for their dedication, and ask that You will give them skill and courage as they seek to save the lives of others.

Lord, the wind and the waves are Yours; You are the ruler of everything.

The weather was not rough for the disciples at first. No doubt they were enjoying being out at sea. We pray for those who go on water for pleasure, in boats or in other craft. We pray for those holidaying by water. We think particularly of young people who like to play near rivers or streams, sometimes forgetting their own safety. Help them not to be so keen on having fun that they forget about the rules. Bless any of our own congregation holidaying near water, and keep them safe.

Lord, the wind and the waves are Yours; You are the ruler of everything.

We think of Jesus stretching out His hand to Peter, and pray now for ourselves. Lord, we may not be going near the sea, or be anywhere near water, but we know that we need to take the hand of Jesus. Whether we are going away or not, help us to put our trust in Him, not just for today, but for the rest of our lives. In His name we pray. Amen

HYMN 645: WILL YOUR ANCHOR HOLD IN THE STORMS OF LIFE -HP

BLESSINGS: Jesus said to Peter, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ Lord, as we leave, help us not to doubt You, but to go with complete confidence in You. The blessings of God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be continue to be upon us and remain with us always. Amen