10th Sunday After Pentecost

Sermon Title: 10th Sunday after Pentecost 2017  (8am only)
Date: 13th August 2017
Preacher: Rev’d Susanne Chambers
Church Calendar Date: 10th Sunday after Pentecost
Lectionary Reading: Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28, Psalm 105:1-6, 16-22, Romans 10:4-15, Matthew 14:22-36

It’s only eight more sleeps until I go on long service leave! This is so exciting and yet yesterday morning, I was struck with fear that I haven’t dotted and crossed all I need to do before I leave so that all will run smoothly here at St Paul’s, with wider responsibilities I have in the Diocese, let alone what I need to pack!

Yesterday morning, I received an email from the locum: no. 2 Roger who saw in my letter to him I’d written the wrong dates and I was feeling quite embarrassed about that! And then I couldn’t find the Blessing of pet service for him on the 8th October.  I had so much on yesterday as well as write this sermon, that my mind was captured if you like, by the fear of how I was going to get everything done and to do it right as well!

So I can relate very much with the disciples in the boat and with Peter who got out of the boat and starting walking towards Jesus, only to then realise the strength of the wind, became frightened and began to sink.

Have you ever had that sinking feeling?  I’m sure I’m not alone with times of feeling swamped by the demands of life and also when the fears of ill health or finances or North Korea or… whatever it is that seem to loom large!

What I want to be is a ‘non anxious’ presence, calm and not flustered by the winds of life!  But you know, this is not real! I expect a lot of myself!

I want to reflect on Jesus for a moment. Jesus wasn’t always calm and serene and I need to remember this!  As I look at today’s story and the preceding stories, this tells me a way forward for me as a faltering disciple of Jesus.

John the Baptist had just been beheaded by Herod and when Jesus heard this he withdrew to a deserted place by himself. As you know, it was John who baptised Jesus in the river Jordon and they were cousins. So Jesus was grieving and needed to be on his own. But the crowds followed him and he didn’t get the space to grieve at that time because he saw all these people and had compassion for them.  He then got the disciples to feed the crowd over five thousand of them and all were fed.

We now come to our story today.  He got everyone to leave. The disciples to get into a boat and head out to sea and he dismissed the crowds.  Jesus was then able to go up a mountain by himself to pray. Jesus ascends the mountain which is a symbol if you like of the closeness to God and opens himself in prayer.

In prayer, Jesus speaks to God probably about John the Baptist and maybe about his fear of what will happen to him, about his disciples and about the crowds who need to be fed and he probably spoke of his feelings of grief, anger, fear, sadness etc and his frustrations and his disappointments. He then listens to what God had to say to him.

As we know the disciples in the boat were overcome by fear, not only by the stormy conditions but also because they didn’t recognise Jesus.   And Jesus says to them:  “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”

I believe Peter was testing his faith in Jesus and so started to come towards him on the water. When Peter suddenly noticed the strong winds, he had that ‘sinking feeling’ and he cried out ‘Lord, save me!’ Fear took hold of him.

Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

This story today is to help us know that we will be overcome with fear at times and that fear can paralyse us and we can’t see a way out.

My fears on Saturday morning were about expectations… what if I don’t do it ‘all right?” will people think I’m stupid… not up to the job!  (Actually it’s my own inner talk that usually says this!). And then I fear I can’t meet the expectations for trusting and living as God would want me to.  I can so easily beat myself up!

Peter and the disciples were frightened. Fearful of being swamped yet they saw that all they had to do is to call out “Lord save me” and immediately Jesus reaches out his hand to hold their hand firmly.

We may not have faith, strong faith all the time.  Our lives aren’t static or the lives of others are static either. There will always be events that will challenge us as human beings.

I said earlier I want to be this ‘non-anxious’ presence. Well, most times in a crisis with other people I can be.  What I have to keep learning is how to do this for myself.

I will be frightened at times and this messes with my head. Things sometimes overwhelm me.

I think we are all like Peter. We are able to get out of the ‘boat’ and walk towards Jesus… we are all splashing around together!

I believe we are all here today, because we want to live authentic lives, if not with unsteady faith in Jesus.

I remember as a child at night I would sometimes be frightened and call out to mum. She would come straight away and she would ask if I had said my prayers. I hadn’t. Once I said them, I wasn’t afraid and fell asleep.

Even though I know that the presence of God/Jesus is always with me, I still need to spend time in conversation, in prayer. We all have this amazing relationship with God and although we are just one small human in this world of ours, we are each known and loved.

So to leave you with two thoughts.

  1. We are all capable of sinking. Fear is something that can be helpful to us for survival but it can also paralyse us.
  2. Jesus in his humanity, kept his heart open in prayer to God and says to us, ‘You might sink when you come to me, but I will always hold you firmly. Keep your hearts open in prayer.’

The Lord be with you.