I’m still on Matthew’s gospel story of Jesus and Peter on the water. My three sermon point are Walking, Wavering and Worshipping and focus on Peter.
Our TV programmes regularly have experts on as talking heads, telling us how things ought to be and how easy it is to solve the great problems of life if we will only listen to them.
Peter, to his eternal credit, didn’t sit in the boat telling people how easy walking on the water would be. He got out, risked his dignity and did it. Don’t forget that, while he sank, he had first begun to walk on the water: to do the impossible.
Do you believe that you can do the impossible? Peter proved that, as long as Jesus is present and calling us to do it, then as the current TV ad for sportswear says: Impossible is Nothing.
I’m wrestling with a Bible story at the moment … it’s the account in Matthew of Jesus, and then Peter, walking on the water. There’s so much in this story that I’ve preached on it for the past two weeks and will carry on for at least the next two.
During my prayers I have had a sense of God saying to me – or possibly people I share worship with – that we have taken our eyes off Jesus. That was the point when Peter began to sink under the waves; more conscious of the effects of the wind than Jesus calling him to dare to walk on the water.
You must have those moments when it’s easier to fold, to crumble, than to keep going in faith.
I guess that faith in Jesus Christ is not actually about victory all the time. It’s more about staying the course, keeping on keeping on. Jesus doesn’t say that Peter has “little faith” because he sinks but because he stops focusing his walk on Jesus. How about you? How about me?
Right: it’s back into the fray after a wonderful 19 days holiday in France. We spent about 9 days in the Dordogne, around Sarlat, in temperatures of over 100F and then went up to the Vendee for a great week at the Spring Harvest Holidays site at Le Pas Opton (www.springharvestholidays.com).
The first week was chilling and time for Joy and myself and we really valued that. The second week we got more involved in what was going on, especially the evening worship where the speakers were Jeff Lucas and Ruth Dearnley, both members of the Spring Harvest leadership team.
More ramblings about holiday thoughts over the next weeks I guess.
For now it’s back to work …
It’s obviously been my media week. I’d been home from Radio Cornwall about three hours when I got a call from BBC Radio Five Live asking if I would go on there! This time it was to talk about some trouble on some of our local beaches. They asked me because I look after a chapel in Polzeath, North Cornwall, and the village is one which has been plagued by drunken gangs on summer evenings.
It was on about 20 past midnight so I don’t know if anyone was listening other than my wife and my father but I enjoyed it.
Working on the radio was one thing I always wanted to do. I doubt this kick starts a career but it was fun.
So, teach me to open my big mouth … yesterday I say I don’t know what to say and then today get asked onto the radio to say something!!
BBC Radio Cornwall got the Bishop of St Germans and myself to try to give an idea of what Christianity says at a time like this.
We agreed that it’s not about blaming Muslims – and in fact we were preceded by the Imam for the south west who utterly condemned the bombings as totally contrary to both Islam and the teaching of the Koran.
Bishop Roy and I both stressed prayer for the victims, the rescuers and those who worked on the fringe of the rescue effort – opening halls to use as emergency medical centres, brewing coffee etc.
We agreed that God would be at the heart of the suffering, standing with those who are bereaved and still wondering.
I also had the opportunity to stress the new Methodist initiative Pray Without Ceasing: a year of prayer launched at this year’s conference. The London North East district (stretching from the centre of London out towards East Anglia) is the first area to be responsible for prayers – including 24/7 prayer in London. Never was it more appropriate.
It’s really hard to know what to say, isn’t it? How can anyone just walk into a tube train and blow people to pieces? What sort of attitude must they have?
And how do Christians respond? Well, for one thing, it’s not about whether you’re Christian or Muslim – just about whether you’re a murderer or not. I mean, we all know that it’s ridiculous to blame Muslims. I don’t know any personally – well, North Cornwall isn’t very ethnically-diverse – but I do remember hearing a Muslim scholar say that killing one person is the same as killing the whole world. So it’s not a Muslim thing, it’s terrorism.
‘I want God to hold them so close that they can feel his love’
I remember being in London when the IRA blew up Canary Wharf. I was at Waterloo station waiting for a train back to Cornwall and we had to be evacuated for about 20 minutes. That was scary enough and we weren’t in any danger. I was also driving through the centre of London when the IRA blew up Airey Neave (a friend of Margaret Thatcher) and was trying to meet Joy (my wife) but it was before mobile phones and I couldn’t get in touch. That was awful, especially because I just had to sit in the traffic jam and listen to news reports.
Quietly, I’ve been praying for the people caught up in the tragedy. And what about the bombers? Are they alive or dead? And here’s a qestion … what do you pray for the bombers? Is it that they find Jesus and realise the enormity of what they’ve done or that they get caught and punished – or both.
We had our Cell Group tonight (like a house group but different!) and we looked at that passage where Jesus talks about prayer and says that whoever asks will receive, whoever seeks will find, whoever knocks will have the door opened to them.
We’d puzzled about it a bit, wondering if Jesus actually meant that we would have whatever we asked for etc etc.
It then struck us that he ends the passage talking about how much God wants to give us the Holy Spirit and that he won’t give us less than the best. Perhaps the “ask, seek, knock” stuff is all about the Holy Spirit … if we ask for it (more properly Him) we will receive; if we seek the Spirit we will find and if we knock the door it will be opened and we can walk right in to the fullness of the Holy Spirit.
Just a thought but it got us quite excited.
Well, have a good night. God bless you.
Isn’t this a lovely picture? I took it when we were visitng the Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island. Not a clue what the flower is but I like it a lot.
Today has been a great day. I read one of the Bible readings at my friend Vicky’s ordination service this afternoon: the only clergy person not dolled up in cassock, gown, alb, stole etc! In fairness some of them only wear them because Anglicans have to, but it’s quite nice being conspicuous sometimes!
Anyway, it was a great service and Vicky’s husband George – a retired priest – preached a very good sermon on clergy being ambassadors for God: I particularly liked the idea of us being sent to represent the monarch in a foreign country.
I guess that’s true for all Christians, we have to get used to representing God in a society that doesn’t think it needs him.
As someone once said, we are the only institution that exists for the benefit of the non-members, or at least we would be if the Church did its job properly.
Let’s get back to the point. It was a great service and then I went on to one of the small country chapels I pastor for a service bringing two people into membership: that was terrific and such an encouragement for the chapel.
Yes, a good day. A God day.
It’s the big Live8 day tomorrow and I’ve just been watching the BBC South West news programme from the Eden Project. They are hosting Africa Calling, a day of African music as part of the MPH events.
If the G8 leaders have any sense, surely they will take the opportunity to slash debt for the world’s poorest countries.
Of course it’s not the only solution but it is something we can do and, more crucially, it is something we should do. If it is combined with more and better aid and proper trade rules it will make a difference.
At the Methodist Conference we heard from Bishop Robert Aboagye-Mensah, the Presiding Bishop of The Methodist Church in Ghana. He said: “You can see it like this. People talk about wanting a level playing field and if you have free trade then the playing field is level. However, we have a saying in Ghana that if the giraffe and the antelope are standing on level ground their situation is not equal if all the leaves are high up in the tree. We do not have all the advantages of the West the industry, the transport and the large commercial farming. Therefore we are not equal. Sometimes the antelope needs to be lifted up to be able to compete on equal terms.
What we need is flexibility that enables us to develop our own trade policies. At the end of the day we need fair trade not free trade.”