The Collect (Special Prayer) for this Sunday
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.
The Bible Readings (Proper 13, Year A – New Revised Standard Version)
1 Kings 19:9-18
When Elijah reached Horeb, the mountain of God,9 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.’
5 Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that ‘the person who does these things will live by them.’ 6 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) 7 ‘or “Who will descend into the abyss?”’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 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); 9 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.
10 For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.
11 The scripture says, ‘No one who believes in him will be put to shame.’ 12 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. 13 For, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
14 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? 15 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!’
Immediately after feeding the crowd with the five loaves and two fish, 22 Jesus 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 towards them on the lake. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the lake, 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 towards 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 worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’
Some thoughts from Father Tim:
In our reading from his letter to the Romans St Paul deals with one of his favourite themes – how do we get in a right relationship with God? Is it by doing the right things, by obedience to the law as found in the Scriptures, or is it by faith – by trusting in God’s goodness which overflows to us despite our sins and failures? As Christians, we will probably conclude that it is the latter – the life of faith.
As we well know, this way of faith is not always easy, and in our readings from 1 Kings and Matthew’s Gospel we hear of two great characters of the Bible who encounter God in their lives despite challenges, weaknesses and failures: the prophet Elijah and the apostle Peter.
Elijah is fresh from his tremendous victory on Mount Carmel against the 450 “prophets of Baal” (you can read about this in 1 Kings 18). He had called down fire from heaven, and predicted a great rain storm that put an end to a punishing three- year drought, yet he had then fled from Queen Jezebel who was making threats to kill him as he had had those false prophets killed. We find him hiding in a cave on another mountain, Mount Horeb (also known as Sinai). He is exhausted and fearful, and in what today we would probably call a deep depression. He feels utterly powerless and completely alone.
Peter too, having come with the rest of the disciples from a similar high-point – that miracle of the feeding of the five thousand we heard about last week – finds himself in a small fishing boat crossing lake Galilee in the midst of a fierce storm. He and his friends are terrified as they battle the storm and then think they see a ghost walking on the water towards them.
Both Peter and Elijah are not in a good place, but both are reached by a word of hope:
Jesus speaks to Peter and his friends, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid’, and Elijah somehow perceives what our current translation calls “a sound of sheer silence.” We may be more familiar with it as
“a still small voice”, particularly if we recall that lovely hymn, Dear Lord and Father of mankind.
In both these encounters these people of faith are reassured and helped.
Elijah continues in his ministry, though is quite soon relieved of the burden of being God’s main prophet when Elisha takes over in his stead. Sometimes it is good and right to lay things down, to stop doing things that cost us dear, even if we are being used by God as we do them!
Andalthough we often think of Peter as he begins to sink beneath the waves, upbraided by Jesus as he loses his focus – “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” – we do well to remember that before he sinks he does in fact walk on the water as Jesus encourages him to step out! I have often referred to this when mentioning our statue of St Peter in Church: we see him as he takes those steps of faith out of the boat and onto the water.
When thinking of this I am reminded of some words of Sydney Carter the hymn- writer who wrote such favourites as The Lord of the Dance and One more step along the world I go. In what I think is a poem of his called Interview, he poses some personal questions and offers answers
Where have you been all day?
Fishing with question marks.
The fish I caught are piled up in the basket.
What I seek
Is deeper than the water.
So what do you believe in?
Nothing fixed or final.
All the while I travel a miracle.
I doubt, and yet,
I walk upon the water
I think those final lines are so profound – an echo of St Peter’s (and Elijah’s) successes and failures:
All the while I travel a miracle. I doubt, and yet, I walk upon the water.
There is nothing wrong with asking honest questions,and Carter implies that they can yield a good store of understanding and what we call truth. How like a question mark an upturned fish hook is!
And, returning to St Paul in Romans 10, it is he who reminds us of the task we have as the Church: ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ he quotes from Joel 2:32. But he then poses some questions: “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?
I like the idea that the Church is a “school of angling” – a place where people are taught to call upon God – to “fish with question marks”. To discuss who God is, what it means that Jesus is the Word of God, and what a life of faith can look like. To ask questions and grow in understanding and in our knowledge of what it is to be the best version of our human selves we can be: open, as our Collect says, to the light and life of the Holy Spirit so that we may fruitful in love and joy and peace. Fishes worth catching – and worth sharing!
Wishing you God’s blessing as you exercise a faith that is open and questioning – able to hear God’s “still small voice” even in the midst of noise, uncertainty, failure, fear and doubt.
|WE CONTINUE TO OPEN FOR SUNDAY WORSHIP AT 8 am AND 10 am:
All who are able to come will be welcomed.
* For those coming to the 8 am (BCP) Service: please bring along your own copy of the Book of Common Prayer; if you do not have one, then a small copy kept in store will be given to you to use and then to take away with you and then use in subsequent weeks.
* For those coming to the 10 am Service: a service sheet will be provided for your sole use, and this will then need to be taken away with you when you leave.
Please do get in touch with me if you have any queries or concerns. Fr Tim
Wearing of face coverings in Church:
IMPORTANT UPDATE:in line with recent Government statements, as from 8th August 2020 it becomes a legal requirement that face coverings are to be worn in indoor settings where we are likely to come into contact with people we do not normally meet, and this includes places of worship.
So - please wear a face covering when you come to Services at St Peter’s – unless of course you are exempt from doing so.
Please bear in mind that wearing a face covering is intended primarily as a protection for others and will help us to safeguard the health and wellbeing of every member of our Church community.
Other Sunday Worship Resources:
** BBC Radio 4 at 8.10 am.
** The Church of England:
This web page links to online services streamed each Sunday at 9 am, and also previous
online Services and other resources.
** Worship Podcast for this Sunday (and previous Sundays too) from Chelmsford Diocese:
** Chelmsford Cathedral:
** The Church of England Webpage:
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- For a message from the Archbishop of Canterbury, some Favourite Hymns, Reflections and Prayers
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Please ring in, and tell your friends and neighbours too – especially if they are not on-line!
Our choirmaster’s choice of music this week is the anthem version of ‘Dear Lord and Father of mankind’. We are, of course, all familiar with the popular and lovely hymn version, but Hubert Parry also arranged the words as a full choral anthem. Our choir at St. Peter’s occasionally sings the anthem version, a piece I have never heard sung elsewhere. It was difficult to find a version on the internet, but I managed to find this link to a Dutch choir singing it.