Sunday 20 June – 3rd Sunday after Trinity
The service is now live-streamed and can be found on the church Facebook page.
God our saviour,
look on this wounded world
in pity and in power;
hold us fast to your promises of peace
won for us by your Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ.
The Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind: ‘Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up your loins like a man, I will question you, and you shall declare to me. Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements – surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone when the morning stars sang together and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy? Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb? – when I made the clouds its garment, and thick darkness its swaddling band, and prescribed bounds for it, and set bars and doors, and said, “Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stopped”?’
When evening had come, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Let us go across to the other side.’ And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great gale arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’ And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’
Post Communion Prayer
O God, whose beauty is beyond our imagining
and whose power we cannot comprehend:
show us your glory as far as we can grasp it,
and shield us from knowing more than we can bear
until we may look upon you without fear;
through Jesus Christ our Saviour.
What are your memories of the sea?
Childhood holidays at the beach? Ice cream and sun burn.
A cruise around the Mediterranean?
Surfing at Croyde or Woollacombe?
A boat trip to an offshore island?
Maybe navigating your own boat?
Feeling seasick on the cross channel ferry?
Walking the coastal path?
The vivid shades of blue on a sunny day, or
steely grey with rolling waves and flecks of foam when the wind is up.
The surf beating against a cliff, sending spray into the air.
The wild cries of seabirds.
David Attenborough’s Blue Planet exploring the mysterious depths.
A book or film with a great storm graphically depicted.
Maybe also, some moments of real fear.
Perhaps we have photos or a vivid picture in our minds, and often there is someone with us, a close friend, a child, a partner. Many times I’ve seen this kind of photo on a funeral order of service.
These are big memories. Afterwards you could tell each other your sea stories. They will be full of excitement and danger or blissful enjoyment. There’s nothing commonplace or ordinary about the sea.
We love the sea, and there’s a tinge of fear, which is part of the fascination. The sea is vast beyond our imagining, an awesome unknown depth, constantly changing; an alien element, powerful and implacable, capricious and potentially deadly.
The Biblical tradition, Hebrew and Christian scripture, reflects this ambivalence about the sea. In the creation story the Spirit of God hovers over the vast abyss of turbulent waters, bringing order out of chaos. Other creation myths of the time have the divine being defeating a great sea monster. There are echoes of that in the story of Jonah, and the psalms talk about God stilling the raging of the waters. The sea is chaos, the primordial turmoil, but God has tamed it and set its boundaries.
At the end of the Bible is that wonderful passage from Revelation. “There will be a new heaven and a new earth. God will dwell with his people”, and then it continues rather strangely, “and the sea will be no more.” In the heavenly city of peace and fulfilment, there will be no sea, no chaos or danger.
And then there’s the sea of Galilee. By turns bountiful and menacing. Giving life and threatening death. In the gospel stories it’s a real geographical place, but also a rich symbolic image. Friends who’ve been to the Holy Land say that Galilee is where they felt most close to Jesus.
Here is Jesus in the boat with his disciples. There’s no apparent reason for their journey. He just says rather randomly, “let’s go across to the other side.” No reason is given, but somehow it’s necessary and important for them to undertake it. There’s no elaborate preparation for the voyage; they took him, “just as he was”. And the journey is shared by other boats; maybe those who were not quite ready to get on board with him.
It’s a metaphor for life. We have to live it just as we are. Our journey is shared by others, but crisis, uncertainty and disaster just come out of the blue. We haven’t noticed the clouds gathering until the storm breaks. Illness or loss or relationship breakdown are suddenly life threatening. No time to prepare, when the tranquil, familiar and routine suddenly becomes stormy and terrifying. We have to face it just as we are. The wind rises, we are nearly swamped and overwhelmed, and we want to call out in fear, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” But this is a necessary part of our journey.
We call out to God in times of trouble, when we feel that we are going under. For many people it feels as if Jesus is silent at the moment when we need him most. We are disciples and we are in the boat with our teacher, but he is asleep, comfortably settled on a cushion, seemingly untroubled by the waves swamping our boat.
When the panicky disciples wake him, Jesus says, “Peace, be still.” Are these words addressed to the storm or to the disciples? His presence brings peace and their fears are calmed with the storm. Then they begin to wonder and ask questions ……Who is this in the boat with us?
The sea, the boat and the companions are part of our story. The gospel resonating with our lives, as so often happens……..
If we look back at our old photos, relive our voyage, look more deeply into the past, think about our companions, remember the storms that threatened to swamp us, maybe we might have an intuition that there was another presence through it all.
And we might begin to realise that the spirit of Christ, which was breathed into the world from the beginning, which was visible for a short time in Jesus; this presence in everything and everybody accompanying us from our beginnings, around us at every moment, has led one writer to call it a “Christ soaked world”. The same presence is particularly focused when we are in pain or fear, saying, “Peace. Be still. Do not be afraid.”