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Sunday 9th August 2020 Trinity 9

posted 7 Aug 2020, 04:38 by Church Office   [ updated 7 Aug 2020, 15:13 ]
You can download the order of service here, and a printable version of the readings, sermon and prayers can be downloaded here.

Sunday 9th August 2020

Ninth Sunday after Trinity

The old and new testament stories today are most obviously linked by the experience of storms and the experience of the presence of God as stillness.  But they are also linked by the stupidity of God’s people.  Both the prophet Elijah and the disciples of Jesus are heading in the wrong direction: Jesus clearly told the disciples to cross in the boat to the “other” (aka gentile) side but several hours later they are still in the middle of the lake.  Elijah has been rushing around being zealous for the God of hosts, a task which has involved him inciting sectarian violence against the “others” in his land. 

Over the last several weeks the parables and miracles have pushed home the point that we are not very good at deciding who is in and who is out, who’s side God is on.  God, it seems, doesn’t take sides.  When we claim God for “our” side storms seem to be inevitable.

The question the readings pose for us as we confront storms on many fronts in today’s world is whose “side” is God sending us to at this moment and how might we be resisting it?

Pram Service (8am) is IN CHURCH! 

In our pram service this week we will be setting sail in stormy waters.  Making and sailing paper boats to see if we can safely cross to the other side with Jesus on board.

Sunday school is on summer break and will return in September.


Readings

1 Kings 19:9-18 

 At that place he came to a cave, and spent the night there.

Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10 He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.”

11 He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 14 He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.” 15 Then the Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram. 16 Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place. 17 Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall kill; and whoever escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall kill. 18 Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”

 

Matthew 14:22-33 

22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. 25 And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”

28 Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”


Sermon

 When a story begins “It was a dark and stormy night” it’s a sign that trouble is coming.

The storm has always been used as a symbol of upheaval and disruption.  The storm has also often been regarded as divine comment on the ills of the world.  Starting off with Noah’s flood, apparently the result of divine displeasure with the way the human race were running things right up to the present day: In 2017 the unprecedented floods and storms which culminated in Storms Irma and Harvey, were seen by some on the American right as signs of God’s wrath and displeasure over the legalisation of gay marriage. 

I doubt that lesbianism caused the storms however they might have had a point that they told us something about human behaviour and were probably a sign that all is not well in humankind’s relationship with the planet.

Both of today’s stories are stormy.

The first storm comes when the prophet Elijah is on the run, hiding during a bloody religious conflict.  The second comes when the disciples are in a boat crossing to another shore. 

Yet in both cases it is not so much the storm that creates fear and dismay it is the stillness that follows the storm, a stillness in which they are aware of God’s presence.  A presence that leads Elijah to give up his work and hand on his mantle and leaves the disciples to get a right telling off from Jesus.

The story of the disciples in the boat is well known and I think we often understand Jesus to be telling them off for their lack of faith because of their fear of the storm – but we are not told that the disciples were frightened of the storm, it tells us that they were frightened by the sight of Jesus coming towards them across the waves.

Elijah’s story is different – he is not on a boat he is hiding in a cave.  He is on the run in the midst of violent religious conflict which he himself stoked. God’s presence comes to him with a repeated question: what are you doing here? What indeed.

Perhaps Jesus’ rebuke is in essence the same question: what are you doing here in the early hours of the morning when I sent you off in the boat hours and hours ago  when the wind and the waves were still calm with instructions to go straight to the other side. 

“Other” here signals “gentile” – having spent time curing and feeding and teaching their own people Jesus is now sending them to the “others”.

It is no accident that they didn’t get there.  I don’t think that they were prevented by a storm unless of course that storm symbolised their own doubts and conflicts. 

The disciples have never understood Jesus’ fascination with the “other”.  When he takes them into gentile territory they react with hostility: asking if they can call down fire on the Samaritan village, abusing the Samaritan woman who dares to ask Jesus to cure her child.

In the midst of earlier bloody religious and racial conflict God sent Elijah to the other side; across the border to Zarephath, enemy territory, where he was kept alive by the kindness of a foreigner.  Yet he still continues to incite violence against those “others” who are not like him.  God shows him violence and destruction in the wind and the earthquake and the fire and makes the point that these are NOT where to find God.

Before we are too hard on either Elijah or the disciples we should note that they are at least aware that something is not right with the world around them, that trouble is coming, they are full of zeal and passion for a new and different way of living.  It’s just that they are going the wrong way. They think that they can put things right with God and with the world if they get rid of all the foreigners and infidels and concentrate on their own people. 

But God keeps sending them to the other side.

When storms are raging around us it is hard to stop and be still and listen to the voice of God.  We would rather rely on our own considerable energy and ingenuity to bring about change.

We are living in stormy times and the forecast is that the storms are going to be here for a while: the unemployment rate is rising, the economy is faltering, the pandemic is still stubbornly gripping the globe.

We know that we are in trouble but perhaps the storm is not the trouble, perhaps the storm is just a sign, a great big divine hint, that we have been heading in the wrong direction.  And maybe, just maybe, if we stop and listen to the still small voice of calm, the storms will abate, and we will know what direction to head in.

Prayers

Through the storms of life, O God,
you are with your people
in the person of Jesus your Son.
Calm our fears and strengthen our faith
that we may never doubt his presence among us
but proclaim that he is your Son,
risen from the dead,
living for ever and ever. Amen.

 

Prayers of Intercession

God, we meet you in stillness in the midst of the storm. We come to you now, joining our hearts in prayer:

God who speaks not with mountain-shaking wind but with the quiet that follows, we pray today for the church to hear your voice. We give thanks for the many blessings you pour on our church: for our leaders who share your voice with us, both in person and remotely; for our shared joy in celebrating the wedding of Fran and Andrew in our church yesterday; and for people of faith throughout the world who have found new and creative ways to worship. May we hear your voice in the voices of our brothers and sisters in Christ, and may we all grow in faith together.

Lord, in your mercy,    hear our prayer.

 

God who speaks not with the earthquake but with a still, small voice, we pray today for the world to hear your voice. We pray especially for the people of Lebanon; may they find comfort in you and in each other, and may we find ways to support them as they begin to rebuild Beirut. We pray too for the people of Japan as they remember 75 years since the bombing of Hiroshima; may we all honour that memory by working towards the peace you promise for your kingdom.

Lord, in your mercy,    hear our prayer.

 

God who speaks not in the fire but in the silence, we pray today for our community to hear your voice. We pray for the places of silence in Clapham, where many are living life fully, but many are isolated or alone. We come to you with both the joy of those filling the reopened restaurants of the high street, and with the quiet resolve of those shielding to protect their health and their loved ones. May we recognize the diversity of voices in our community and find new ways to serve each other.

Lord, in your mercy,    hear our prayer.

 

God who speaks to us both in health and in sickness, we pray today for the sick. We pray especially for those dear to us: for Jane, Heidi, and Albert Bell; Sara Carter, Ruby Mitchell, Monika Maciejko, Jane Taylor, Linda Parker, Christine Harris, Jane Roberts, Damien Harte, Jo Harvey, and Joshua Clark. We give thanks for all those caring for the sick; may we all follow your loving example in caring for one another.

Lord in your mercy,    hear our prayer.

 

God who speaks to us both in joy and in grief, we pray today for the grieving. We pray especially for the families of Ann Kodz and Donald Edge who are mourning their recent losses. May we support them and all those among us who have lost loved ones recently, as well as those remembering the anniversaries of their loved ones’ deaths. Grant the departed rest, and grant us comfort in their memories.

Lord, in your mercy,    hear our prayer.

 

We now close our prayer together:

Merciful God, accept these prayers for the sake of your son, our saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

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Church Office,
7 Aug 2020, 04:38
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Church Office,
7 Aug 2020, 15:10