Welcome to our online worship offering for this week. The readings, reflection and prayers are the same as the ones being used in church today plus some choral contributions which we can’t use in church. It takes about half an hour to go through this worship offering. We hope you enjoy it.
The Prayer for Today: the Collect
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, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Hymn: Lead us Heavenly Father, lead us
Lead us, heavenly Father, lead us o'er the world's tempestuous sea; guard us, guide us, keep us, feed us, for we have no help but thee; yet possessing every blessing, if our God our Father be. Saviour, breathe forgiveness o'er us: all our weakness thou dost know; thou didst tread this earth before us, thou didst feel its keenest woe; lone and dreary, faint and weary, through the desert thou didst go. Spirit of our God, descending, fill our hearts with heavenly joy, love with every passion blending, pleasure that can never cloy: thus provided, pardoned, guided, nothing can our peace destroy.
First Reading: Romans 10:5-15 Salvation Is for All
Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that “the person who does these things will live by them.” But the righteousness that comes from faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
Hymn: I believe in Christ
Gospel Reading: Matthew 14:22-33 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 toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, 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 toward 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 worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Today’s Reflection: from Rev. Jane Cresswell, our Vicar
Today’s gospel tells the story not just about Jesus and his disciples but about a boat that is forging its way in a storm across the sea of Galilee with the disciples on board. Matthew paints a terrifying picture of waves lashing wildly at the boat and of a raging head wind impeding progress. It’s dark and barely possible to make out what is ahead. Out in the middle of the lake the disciples are far away from the safety of the shore on either side, having left Jesus on the shore from which they set out.
In the thinking of ancient Israel, the sea was always a place of chaos, and here with the water billowing around them, the disciples may well feel that their little boat offers little protection against such chaos.
For the disciples in this story there is no really easy or comfortable safe space. There is only the boat battling the wind and waves and the storm itself raging around them. We might readily understand that given the option the disciples would prefer to cling to the protection that the boat affords rather than step out on to the water. Jesus, however, is not so fearful of the chaos. He chooses the sea, walking over the water with the ease of walking on dry land. Matthew offers an inspiring picture of the Christ in the middle of a storm that cannot overcome him.
Meanwhile the disciples, blinded by darkness and whirling water don’t even recognise who this figure is. Peter asks him to prove his identity by telling Peter to walk on water … if there was ever a lesson in being careful what you ask, this is one! And Jesus responds to his request, commanding him to confront the chaos of the sea.
Like Peter we may also have felt fearful as the world has seemingly spiralled out of control in the past few months. A previously unknown virus gradually spread across the globe causing chaos and devastation in its wake, as normal life vanished into an endlessly evolving and changing series of social restrictions, job losses, economic hardships and even the deaths of those we knew and loved. The temptation at times like this is to cling on to our security for dear life, but Jesus calls us to be bold and step out into the waves of our chaotic world in order to recognise and meet him there.
I am not suggesting that we act against sensible government guidelines to protect ourselves and others. Being foolhardy is not what we are called to. Jesus did not call Peter to be foolhardy and to throw himself at the mercy of the waves, rather he called Peter to come to him over the waves. And we read how as long as Peter kept his eyes on Jesus and headed towards him, he steps over the waves with assurance. But the minute he takes his eyes off Jesus and stops trusting him, he begins to sink in the overwhelming chaos around him, crying out: “Lord, save me!” And of course, the story ends as Peter is lifted up and supported by his Lord and together, they return to the boat. It is at this point that the disciples know beyond a doubt that the stranger walking on the water is Jesus and we read how they kneel in worship.
So what’s the point of Peter getting out of the boat if he was only going to end up back in it? Well it leads him to discover an amazing reality – that Jesus was strong where he was weak. And that Jesus was truly in the middle of the storm with him.
Telling this story, Matthew paints a profound picture not just of Jesus and the disciples but also about a boat which down the ages has been seen as an image of the Church, called to navigate the stormy waters of the world often in times of great darkness. In today’s unsettled world, where we really don’t know what tomorrow will bring, we may well feel that we are journeying through the storm, the wind and the waves. Maybe we long for the safe shores of even last year, never mind the “good old days” of the dim and distant past. Or perhaps we just spend our time wishing the current situation away and focusing on the hope of better times to come when we reach a new shore.
But today’s story suggests that the Church doesn’t offer us a place to hide in and cling to until the storm is past, though we may find passing sanctuary and value it. Rather the Church is the place we come to time and time again, having encountered the living Christ in the midst of the chaos of everyday life. It is now in the time of chaos that this story challenges us to step out of our comfort zone and follow Christ over the waves of the raging storm, because he is Lord over it and will keep us from drowning, reaching out to take our hand, calling us to trust him and follow where he leads.
I wonder … how is Jesus calling you to trust him and follow him through the raging storm this week?
Anthem: Lead Me, O Lord
Our Prayers for Today: Click the link below to listen to the prayers; the text is below the link.
Heavenly Father, your Son Jesus calls us to step out onto the water with him, and to leave the safety of our boats, and to walk toward Him in faith. He asks us to join with Him in the work He is already doing in our world.
Lord, in your mercy; hear our prayer
Gracious Lord, we thank you for the world you have created. We pray for greater wisdom and responsibility in our stewardship of this earth. We pray for fishermen and seafarers and all who brave the seas to bring us food and trade goods from the farthest reaches of our planet. We hold up to you all those affected by the recent tragedy in the port of Beirut. Surround them with your love at this most difficult time.
Lord, in your mercy; hear our prayer
Father, we thank you for the gift of your Son, our saviour, who walks with us on our life’s journey. We pray for all who travel with us in our family, among our friends and within this community. We pray for deepening awareness of our need for one another and of your image in the hearts of everyone we meet. Help us to be vigilant in safety measures to avoid the possibility of spreading the Coronavirus.
Lord, in your mercy; hear our prayer
Loving God, we thank You for the gift of life and pray for those whose lives are troubled by illness, grief, poverty or injustice. We pray that in the darkness of their suffering and pain Your light will shine to bring them the assurance and hope they need. We remember at this time those known personally to us and those who have requested our prayers thinking especially of Sue Blore’s sister, Eileen.
Lord, in your mercy; hear our prayer
Heavenly Father, we place in your loving keeping all those who have died Lord, and we pray that we too may show in our lives the promise of heaven’s love, joy and peace and we ask for your comfort and peace to be on all who mourn, especially Brenda Kennedy and family.
Lord, in your mercy; hear our prayer
Merciful God, we thank you for your promise to hear our prayers. Strengthen our faith in that promise so that our lives might proclaim your love, mercy and goodness made visible in the life of your Son, Jesus Christ. When the wind and waves get high and threaten to overwhelm us, help us remember Jesus’ words: “Take courage. It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
Merciful Father: Accept these prayers for the sake of your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen
Hymn: Do not be Afraid
Notices for this week
Cream Tea at St Anne’s: This afternoon between 3pm and 5pm, St Anne’s are offering a take away cream tea featuring Sue Blore’s amazing scones. The scones, jam and cream will be served in take away containers outside St Anne’s church building so you can enjoy them at home. If you haven’t ordered, you can just turn up but when the scones are gone, they’re gone! Price £5 per person.
Open Wednesday: Next Wednesday (12th) for the first time since the pandemic, we will be celebrating a midweek Eucharist at 12.30. The church will still be open from 12 until 2pm for those who wish to slip in for private prayer.
Given the lunchtime service, Wednesday Compline on Zoom: 8:45 for 9:00pm will end after next Wednesday. If you would like to join in next Wednesday, just drop Jim a line on firstname.lastname@example.org and he will send you the link.
Online Worship: During August, our Diocesan online services are taking a break but this does offer the opportunity to sample the Church of England streamed worship offerings which are lovely. Go to https://www.churchofengland.org and put ‘Weekly Online Services’ into the search box at the top of the screen and this will lead you to lots of interesting and inspiring worship opportunities.
“Flavour of Italy”: Thank you to all those who supported the vicar’s lunch and supper. Our funds have benefitted by a further £185 and all those involved had a wonderful time!
Masks: You will probably know that the government has now made the wearing of masks in church compulsory unless you have a medical reason for not doing so.
Praying for Beirut: We are all asked to pray for the people of Beirut as they struggle to come to terms with such a huge disaster. There is a prayer we can all use in the ‘Personal Prayer’ section of this website.
PCC Meeting: The PCC will meet for the first time since January on Sunday, 23rd August at 12 noon after morning worship. We need to deal with financial matters, set a date for the postponed Annual Parish Church Meeting, review our patterns of worship in the light of our current experience and particularly address how we support/engage our young families as current restrictions continue. Please do share your views with any PCC member about these or other issues.
Final Hymn: Eternal Father, Strong to save
Eternal Father, strong to save, Whose arm does bind the restless wave, Who bids the mighty ocean deep Its own appointed limits keep; O hear us when we cry to Thee For those in peril on the sea. O Saviour, whose almighty word The winds and waves submissive heard, Who walked upon the foaming deep, And calm amid the rage did sleep; O hear us when we cry to Thee For those in peril on the sea. O Holy Spirit, who did brood Upon the waters dark and rude, And bid their angry tumult cease, And give for wild confusion peace; O hear us when we cry to Thee For those in peril on the sea. O Trinity of love and pow'r, Your children shield in danger's hour; From rock and tempest, fire, and foe, Protect them where-so-e'er they go; Thus, evermore shall rise to Thee Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.
A Blessing: An Ancient Irish Blessing
May the road rise up to meet you, May the wind be always at your back, May the sun shine upon your face,The rains fall soft upon your fields And, until we meet again, May God hold you in the palm of his hand. Amen.
A Voluntary: Organist Gavin Bateman plays the final movement of the Organ Sonata No 1 in E-flat major BWV 525 by J S Bach. The music is accompanied by images of bible verses chosen by members of the congregation of St Laurence Church Northfield and published on the 3rd Sunday after Easter.