Sunday Worship 9th August
St Thomas' Church welcomes you to a Parish Eucharist at 10 am. Our visiting Priest for today is Reverend Barbara Christopher, and many of us will remember her from her time with us as Curate a few years ago.
We follow all of the advice from the Government, the Church of England and Manchester Diocese to ensure your safety. From this week the wearing of face coverings is mandatory unless you are exempt from this requirement. Please do bring your own if you can, but we do have a limited supply of disposable face masks if you need one - so don't let that stop you from joining us.
Your own home is still the safest place to worship, particularly if you are shielding or in a vulnerable group, and you'll find everything you need here on this page.
This morning's first hymn is "Be Still For The Presence Of he Lord" -
Today's Gospel reading -
Today’s gospel passage is a very dramatic one.
It is set just after the feeding of the 5000, and it marks a change in pace in Matthew’s gospel. Jesus ministry is about to come into the full public gaze, as it begins to worry both Herod and the Pharisees. Jesus is trying to carve out a little space for himself –to pray, to reflect, to gird himself up for the confrontations to come. Finally after the feeding of the 5000, he persuades the disciples to go off in the boat and leave him alone.
The disciples set out back across the lake. And one of the sudden storms for which the lake was notorious had come down and they were struggling against the winds and waves and making little progress. As the night wore on, Jesus began to walk round the head of the lake to reach the other side. There is some dispute about what happened next – the Greek is open to interpretation as meaning that Jesus walked on the surface of the water or that Jesus walked through the surf and waves. But whatever interpretation of Greek we choose the significance is perfectly clear. In the hour of the disciples’ need, Jesus came to them.
The second part of the gospel is valuable in the insight it gives us into Peter’s character. Peter is a very engaging person, who gets into muddles. In this passage we see clearly who this all too human character is. Peter was given to acting on impulse, and without thinking about what he was doing. Again and again he acted without fully facing the situation and without counting the cost. But there are worse sins than that, Peter’s whole trouble was that he was ruled by his heart, and however he might sometimes fail, his heart was always in the right place and the instinct of his heart was always love. Because Peter acted on impulse, he often failed and came to grief. Jesus was always honest with people – he urged them to see how difficult it was to follow him before they set out in the Christian way.
But Peter did not finally fail, for in the moment of his failure he clutched at Christ. Every time Peter fell he rose again and even his failures brought him closer to Christ. A saint is not someone who never fails; a saint is someone who, after a fall, gets up and goes on again.
This passage ends with another great truth. When Jesus got into the boat the wind subsided. Let us go back to the beginning of the Gospel passage, to that boat full of disciples. We see the disciples sitting in the boat after Jesus went off. They must still have been excited after the miracle they had been part of, and full of enthusiasm and hope. But left to themselves, as the wind got up, they begin to lose heart. But it is Peter who, as we might say, began to bounce back. As soon as he sees Jesus he wants another does of the high excitement of miracles, and Jesus indulges him. But on the unstable water, with the wind even stronger without the protection of the boat around him, Peter panics. He had thought miracles were a kind of magic, that would make the waves feel like a road, and build a shield to keep the wind off. He had thought of Jesus’ power as some kind of almost external force, to be tapped and used as he pleased. He had not realised that Jesus’ power is not magic but the absolute demonstration of nature responding to her maker. Peter had set out to try to get close to God’s power by sheer will. Instead he has to reach out his hand to Jesus and recognise that he walks on water as a disciple of Christ, and not by any other sort of power at all.
It is important to note that no sooner had Peter lost his footing than Jesus shot out his arm, and caught Peter up, taking him back to the safety of the boat, where the storm then passed. That’s the key to this story. That’s the part to focus on; not that Christ walked on the water, or that Peter did not, but that Christ caught Peter when he fell and sat with him in safety and calm afterwards.
Christ will always do the same for us, whether it be our first ever fall, or our final one.
Our second hymn today is "Love Divine All Loves Excelling" -
Our prayers for today -
And our final hymn for today is the Boys Brigade anthem - "Will Your Anchor Hold In The Storms Of Life"