Sunday Eucharist prayers, readings and reflections are available below.
TRINITY IX SUNDAY 9 AUGUST
Almighty God, who 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 and joy and peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord.
Romans 10:5-15, Matthew 14:22-33.
We pray in the name of Christ who takes away our fear
- that Christians keep their eyes fixed upon Christ through whom we find salvation
- that our leaders are humble and dedicated to the good of all
- that the sick and sad find care and consolation
- that the dead who have passed through the storms and pains of this world may find peace and comfort in the next. We pray especially for Charlie Chesser.
"You of Little faith, why did you doubt?" Matthew 14:31
When I was a young curate i elected to go on a recruiting course organised by the Royal Army Chaplains Department, seduced by the prospect of lavish hospitality and the company of some friends who were also going. The idea that I might have joined the army was pretty absurd and it became even more so when the need for physical fitness and the ability to get through an assault course was emphasized. In those days the Department was based in a splendid Victorian Mansion, Bagshot Park, now home to the Earl and Countess of Wessex. In front of the house was a large ornamental pond. Fixed in front of it was a small notice which read, "No walking on the water". I wonder whether it is still there?
In the Gospel today from St Matthew we have this strange story of Jesus walking on the water and of Peter attempting to do the same. It follows the account of the Feeding of the Five Thousand we heard last week. Jesus dismissed the crowds and sent his disciples on ahead, across the lake, while he goes up a mountain to pray alone.
Early in the morning the disciples see Jesus walking towards them through a rough sea and they cry out in fear because they think they have seen a ghost. Jesus calls out to reassure them and Peter says, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you in the water." Peter sets out confidently but is soon overcome with fear and has to be rescued by Jesus and gets told off for his lack of faith. When they are in the boat the wind drops and the disciples worship Jesus.
Mark tells the same story but without Peter's attempt to walk on water. Why does Matthew record this? The usual assumption is that Peter would not have sunk if he had had enough faith. But the disciples' lack of faith is implicit in Mark's version and has not needed a description of Peter trying to walk on water to make it explicit.
Perhaps Jesus' rebuke of Peter relates not to the fact that having more faith would have made walking on the water possible, but rather that Peter was demanding proof of Jesus' power, rather than relying on his own faith.
It is this "if" which may give us the clue to understanding the story. Peter says to Jesus, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water". And the devil says to Jesus in the wilderness; "If you are the Son of God...." In the wilderness Jesus is repeatedly tempted to "prove" his divinity to the world and to himself by a display of signs and wonders. Jesus refuses to be drawn into displays of supernatural power and focuses on God who alone is worthy of trust and worship. In demanding a miracle Peter has fallen prey to the temptation to seek physical proof for his faith, and he is consequently rebuked by Jesus.
I guess we are all inclined to demand proof for our faith. But often we seek not faith but certainty. We have no problem when all in our lives is going smoothly; but when the "wind and the waves" that are the realities of every human life threaten to swamp us - the experiences of loss, sickness and ageing are our common lot - we find it hard to hold on to faith.
Our lives can sometimes bring us to some pretty dark places where our faith and even sanity can be tested.
Darkness covered Calvary. It was a place of pain and desolation. There was to be no "coming down from the cross", no miraculous intervention, no proving of Divine Sonship there, only the darkness and a stretching out of arms in pain and love. Yet within a few days there were words of consolation and hope for exhausted and disillusioned disciples on the Emmaus road and a joyful recognition of the LOrd's presence as he took bread and broke it.