Home Service Sunday 13th August 2023

Prayers of Approach

Lord, we would come to you over the stormy seas of our lives. Beset by waves of worry and doubt, we hear your call and set our feet upon the waters. Help us to focus on you now, trusting to your promises in the face of all distractions.

God of everything and everywhere, we find you by the lakeside, we hear you in hidden places, we see you on the mountain-top. May we feel your presence with us as we worship today.

Gentle God, speak to us in the sound of silence; speak to us through the voices of the past; speak to us in the babble of conversation; speak to us with words from Scripture; speak to us from the experience of faith; speak to us, for we are listening for your Word. Amen.

Hymn Be still for the presence of the Lord (MP 50)

Readings 1 Kings 19:9-18

Matthew 14:22-33


Both Elijah and Jesus find themselves on a mountain talking to God, but for very different reasons! And both Elijah and Peter struggle to maintain their faith in God, despite having seen God perform amazing deeds in front of their eyes. Both passages ask the question about hearing what God says and believing it: do we?

Elijah struggles against all the odds to remain faithful to God when persecuted by Ahab and Jezebel in the ninth century BC, and Peter’s faith wavers when buffeted by the storm. But both come through when they experience the power of God. Elijah, in his struggle to remain faithful, encounters God in sheer silence, while Peter’s faith is tested by the storm on the lake. The presence of Jesus casts out fear and brings reassurance and calm.

Hymn Dear Lord and Father of mankind (R&S 492, MP 111)


Today’s readings can be summed up in three words – Fear, Faith and Silence. Both Peter and Elijah are afraid; Elijah running for his life after defeating the priests of Baal on Mount Carmel fears retaliation from King Ahab and his wife, Jezebel; Peter and the other disciples in the boat are afraid of the storm but more fearful of the ‘ghost’ coming towards them over the water. On being reassured by Jesus that he isn’t a ghost Peter plucks up the courage to ask ‘if it really is you tell me to come to you on the water’ and when Jesus says ‘come’ steps out of the boat. Unfortunately after taking a few steps Peter realises what he is doing and noticing the wind and waves and the ferocity of the storm begins to sink, in his fear calling out to Jesus for help.

In his fear too Elijah called out to God and both he and Peter were gently chided for their lack of faith. Both however were comforted by the presence of God. As Jesus helped Peter back into the boat the storm was stilled and everything became calm. On the mountain God called Elijah to the mouth of the cave where he would pass by. First there was an earthquake, then a great wind, then fire yet God was in none of these but in the calm and stillness that followed.

A Trappist monk, Thomas Keating wrote, ‘Silence is God’s first language; everything else is a poor translation.’ Many of us however struggle with silence, we live our lives to a constant soundtrack of radio or television, always on in the background even if we are not watching it, and just living is so noisy with traffic, machinery and so many gadgets. We so rarely experience silence unless we actively seek it. Yet Jesus sought out silence and solitary places to listen to and be with God, and Elijah found God not in the powerful manifestations but in the quiet which followed. Are we perhaps afraid of what we might encounter in the silence, or even worse that there might be nothing there at all?

In the song, ‘The Sound of Silence’ by Simon and Garfunkel silence seems rather menacing, yet ‘a vision’ is planted within it. No one dare ‘disturb the sound of silence’ but the final verse declares its message.

And the people bowed and prayed To the neon god they made And the sign flashed out its warning

In the words that it was forming And the sign said, “The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls and tenement halls” And whispered in the sounds of silence. https://youtu.be/DCtouot15cA

We might be left asking what do people believe in, what do they fear, who are the ‘prophets’, and what is their message? And we are back once more to Fear, Faith and Silence.

It is sometimes said if we have faith in Christ what do we have to fear? Fear is often seen as being a result of doubt and faith removes all doubt but we sometimes confuse faith and certainty. Faith and trust is what Peter shows but it is not certainty. Peter doesn’t know that he can walk on water but he is prepared to try – if Jesus calls him. The results remind me a little of Wile E. Coyote in the Road Runner cartoons. Chasing the Road Runner he runs off the edge of a cliff but he keeps on going in a straight line until he suddenly realises there is nothing beneath him and it is only then that he starts to fall.

Unlike Wile E. Coyote however Peter has someone he can rely on to save him. And this is where faith begins. An ancient Hebrew word for faith is aman which means to ‘lean on’, ‘rest on’ or ‘trust in’. When we are out at sea with nothing to lean on or rest on, the only thing we can trust in is Jesus.

Hymn Jesus calls us o’er the tumult (R&S 355, MP 359)

Prayers of Thanksgiving and Intercession

Lord, we thank you for the story of Peter faltering amid stormy seas, because it is reassuring to us when we do likewise; and we praise you for walking on those rough waters, for it teaches us that you are in the storm with us, as you were with Peter and those disciples still in the boat; and you are the one we can trust to save us when we sink. Help us to keep our eyes on you in stormy times, for you alone will prevent us from going under. Your arm is strong to save, however weak our faith may be. Amen.

Lord God, we come before you to pray for all those people for whom taking risks is a way of life. Lord, reveal yourself to them and keep them safe.

We pray for our emergency services – paramedics, the police, the fire service – all who daily face difficult situations as they seek to help to protect us and make our world a safer and more peaceful place. Lord, reveal yourself to them and keep them safe.

We pray for people who work in troubled areas – the armed forces in war zones, those who bring humanitarian aid into areas of natural disaster, and many more. Lord, reveal yourself to them and keep them safe.

We pray for people who take risks in your name, Lord Jesus – those who take your word where it is most needed – and for people who grapple with faith and doubt. Lord, reveal yourself to them and keep them safe. Amen.

Hymn Will you come and follow me if I but call your name (R&S 558)


May the blessing of God the Father be upon us as we venture out into the world, to live to the glory of God’s name.

May the blessing of God the Son be upon us as we step out in faith, to serve Jesus Christ as faithful disciples.

May the blessing of God the Holy Spirit be upon us as we listen to the promptings of God’s Spirit, at one with our neighbours, with ourselves, and with God. Amen.

Prayers and other material © Roots for Churches Ltd. Used by permission.

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