23 Jul 2020 • From Elizabeth, our Vicar
Prayer & reflection for 9th August 2020
Reading - Matthew 14 verses 22-33
Jesus Walks on the Water
Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking towards them on the lake. But when the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’
Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came towards Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’
Peter is my favourite disciple because I always feel that Peter is so human and real. To me he is the, ‘think first, act first and think later’ disciple; some of this life’s most real people are just that in our modern world. The deed is done or the words are out of their mouth before they stop to think of the consequences. And it is the pausing and thinking of the possible consequences that so often stops us from getting on and doing things.
But not Peter; Peter acts and speaks first and thinks later.
Think of Peter’s confession of Christ. ‘Who do people say that I am?’ asked Jesus. ‘Some say you’re Elijah or Jeremiah or maybe one of the other prophets,’ suggest the other disciples. But Peter declares boldly, ‘I say you are the Christ.’
Or think of the Transfiguration scene and Peter chattering on about putting up shelters for Jesus and Elijah and Moses. Did he stop to ponder what those long dead people were even doing there?
Or think of Peter’s denial of Jesus at the scene of the trial. ‘You’re one of them?’ proclaims the servant girl. ‘I don’t even know the man,’ declares Peter in some anger. What would those so easily said words come to mean for him?
And here today once again, there out on the lake in the stormy sea, Peter behaves true to form; act first and think later. ‘If it’s really you, Jesus, out there in the dark looking like a ghost, then let me walk on the water with you.’
‘So come to me,’ invites Jesus and Peter steps out of the boat seemingly having forgotten that the average person can’t walk on water unaided.
Is he trying to prove to himself that he trusts Jesus? Is he trying to prove that trust to Jesus?
Does he think he’ll be safer in the stormy sea than in the wind battered boat? Is he wanting to be better, bolder, stronger than his fellow disciples? Or is he just being his usual, impetuous self. Act first and think about the consequences later.
As he takes his first, and last, steps across the water, Peter is overwhelmed by the sudden knowledge of his vulnerability, overwhelmed by the realisation of what his actions have got him into.
Suddenly it occurs to him that he is indeed out in the middle of a huge stretch of dark and angry water.
Suddenly it occurs to him that he is indeed being buffeted by the violent winds.
Suddenly it occurs to him that there is absolutely nothing under his feet except many fathoms of cold water.
It’s quite hard to imagine a less severe place to be, or to imagine a more vulnerable place to be. It’s hard, for me at least, to imagine there being any thought in his head at that moment of realisation except for ‘how did I get myself into this?’
And whether we know ourselves to be act first, think later people, or whether we consider ourselves to be wiser than that, careful about our thoughts and especially careful about our actions, isn’t that where we so often find ourselves? Out in the big, raging storms of life, buffeted by the winds of discontent all around us and knowing for certain that we are, emotionally and spiritually, standing on something that in no way resembles solid ground, that now it’s us who are calling out into the darkness for help and hoping, with Peter, that someone out there will hear us, that someone out there will rescue us. Hoping that as we, with Peter, reach out our hand into the confusion that surrounds us, that we will, like Peter, find our hand held securely by the hand of our God.
Peter is in a place that many of us will have found ourselves in in the past, and it’s a place that most of us will find ourselves in again in the future, maybe many times. Because Peter is a believer caught midway between doubt and faith, and so he represents all of us who dare to believe that Jesus is the Saviour. We step out in the confidence that Jesus will sustain us, but then we forget to fix our gaze on him, and to keep it fixed on him, and instead we move our gaze to the towering waves and the howling gales of life that surround us, until they threaten to overcome us. And Peter also represents for us and with us, the risk-taking of faith and the knowledge that to live with faith is to live with uncertainties.
We walk on the waters of life every day, sometimes we do it with ease and the water is calm and life is peaceful, and sometimes we’re desperately stretching up our hand out of the storm and reaching out to feel our God grasp our hand and pull us to safety. And as we come up out of the storm there are probably times when we hear those words that Peter heard, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt.’
Revive your church in our day,
And make her holy, strong and faithful,
For your glory’s sake
In Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Psalm 85 verses 8 -13
Let me hear what God the Lord will speak,
for he will speak peace to his people,
to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts.
Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him,
that his glory may dwell in our land.
Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet;
righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
Faithfulness will spring up from the ground,
and righteousness will look down from the sky.
The Lord will give what is good,
and our land will yield its increase.
Righteousness will go before him,
and will make a path for his steps.
Take some time to pray in silence for those who are sick,
those who are bereaved,
those who are struggling with the restrictions to daily life,
and those who are on your own heart and mind this day.
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven.
hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.Amen.
The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious unto you.
The Lord lift up the light of his countenance upon you and give you peace.