Posts tagged ‘Sea’

August 13, 2014

Getting out of the boat

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(Photo: Inishbofin Ferry, July 2014)

Sermon for Sunday 10th August, 2014.

Text: Matthew 14:22-33

As we look at the gospel reading this morning, many of us (if we are honest) will find ourselves identifying with the disciples in the boat. If you think about it, it is a picture of much of the church in our part of the world today. As we look beyond the confines of the boat, we are intimidated by the height of the waves and the strength of the wind. The world is in such a mess, with seemingly endless numbers of spiritually starving people all around us, and the world beyond appears to be nothing but war and rumours of war, disease and disaster, with countless numbers of innocent men, women and children caught up in it all. “It’s much better to say in the boat”, we say to ourselves, “where it is safe, where it is dry and where we can hide from the oceans of need all around us”.  

I have a memory from when I was about five or six years old of watching an episode of Dr. Who on TV – there I was, eyes glued to the old black-and-white television when all of a sudden a scary screaming monster type thing came on to the screen and I was terrified. I got up and ran around to the back of the sofa, occasionally peering over the top to see if it had gone away and then ducking for cover once more. My mother then came in to the room and told me not to be afraid, it was just a man dressed up in a silly costume and it was nothing to be frightened of. I didn’t need to hide behind the sofa any more after that.  

But staying in the boat, or hiding behind the sofa or just keeping ourselves busy with church activity is not where the Lord wants us to be. He does not want us to live in fear, He wants us to trust Him, He even wants us to get out of the boat…  

The reading starts off with the Lord Jesus telling the disciples to head out in the boat and go over to the other side of the lake whilst he goes up the mountain by himself to pray. Did the disciples know that their master and friend was going to pray? I’m not sure, but if they did, then perhaps they didn’t need to fear what was going to happen next. The same is of course true for us. In Hebrews 7:25, the Bible gives us the wonderful promise that Jesus prays for those who come to God through Him. Isn’t it a very special thing, to know that Jesus prays for us?  

So whilst Jesus is alone on the mountain, the disciples are making their way across the lake, but a storm has arisen, the boat is being battered by the wind and the waves and they are far from the shore. It’s quite a contrast don’t you think? Picture the serenity of Jesus in the place of prayer up on the mountain and then in the distance out on the water are the disciples, being lashed, buffeted and bashed by the waves and the wind which are coming hard against them. Remember that a number of the disciples are experienced professional fishermen, they have encountered many storms before, but this is a bad one. The disciples are in a state of panic and in fear of losing their lives and yet they were in fact perfectly safe, Jesus was praying not only for Himself but also for them and He very soon would come to them. How many times have we been in a state of anxiety and fear only to realise later that God was with us all along, looking after us, holding and protecting us?  

In verse 25 it says “In the early morning he came walking towards them on the lake”. In the original it says “In the fourth watch of the night”, which is between 3 am to 6 am. So the disciples had been battling the storm most of the night, and they were no doubt by this time not only frightened, but exhausted. The waves were still large and the wind still strong and there had been no let up. But Jesus comes to them ‘actually walking on the rising and falling waves’ (Hendriksen). ‘The disciples must discover that they have a Saviour who is able not only to still the storm but even to use it as His pathway’ (Ibid.) Initially they don’t realise that it is Jesus coming to them across the water, in the dim light and overcome with fear they cry out ‘It is a ghost!’ But now close to them Jesus says:  

“Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’ Beautiful words, words that give us strength and comfort to this day. If we look at the literal translation of what Jesus says, it is even more powerful, He says: “Take heart, I AM”. When Jesus says ‘I AM’, it is very significant, because this is the name for God in the Old Testament (Exodus 3:14). Jesus is telling the disciples, and us, that He is the great ‘I AM’, so there is no need to fear. In whatever situations you are in today, this is a huge reassurance to your heart that Jesus is in control.[1]   DSC_0801_wp

(Photo: “Jesus walking on the Water”, Stained-glass window, Church of the Ascension, Timoleague)

I think Peter is just such a great, larger-than-life character. He sometimes gets criticised for being a loud mouth who always seems to put his foot in it, but what we learn from him is that it is much better to do something and fail whilst trying, than to do nothing at all. It is much better to get out of the boat and sink and be saved than to never take the step of faith at all. Peter wants to be wherever Jesus is, even if that means doing something that is impossible, something that contradicts the laws of physics, such as walking on water. Of course it was Jesus who created water in the first place, it was He who determined the laws of physics and nature, He is Lord over all He has created and it is subject to Him in every way.  

Peter has enough faith and enough courage to step out of the boat, which at this time is still being buffeted about. To begin with it all goes well, he is actually walking on the water towards Jesus. But the initial wonder of what he is doing evaporates as Peter takes his eyes of Jesus and notices the strong wind. In so doing his faith is replaced by fear and he begins to sink. Turning back to Jesus he cries out “Lord, save me!” Jesus’ response is immediate, He reaches out and catches hold of him. Perhaps it is then as the two of them are walking back to the boat that Jesus says: ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ In other words, Peter should have taken to heart that He was in Christ’s presence, and he should not therefore have been afraid.  

Perhaps some of us can relate to Peter, yes we have faith, but mixed in with that faith is fear and doubt (Wright). It can seem that what Jesus has asked us to do is impossible, whether that is being a witness for Him in the home, in school or in the workplace; whether that is being involved in ministry of some kind to those in the church or to those outside; whether it is in helping those around us or helping those in far away places. It can all seem, at times, overwhelming. If like Peter we look at the wind and the waves we will conclude that what God has asked us to do is impossible. All we have to do though is keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, in prayer, in His Word, in worship and praise and as we go out into the world. Spending time with Him is key so that not only will we know what He wants us to do, but we will have the power, energy, strength and faith to do that which He asks of us.  

As Peter and Jesus get back into the boat all is calm, the wind stops and the disciples cry out now not in fear, but in worship, saying to Jesus ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’  Worship is of utmost importance.  

One of my favourite books of recent years is John Ortberg’s “If you want to walk on water You’ve got to get out of the boat.” He writes:   “When human beings get out of the boat, they are never quite the same. Their worship is never quite the same. Their world is never quite the same. Whatever the results, whether they sink or swim, something will have changed… Jesus is not finished yet. He is still looking for people who will dare to trust Him. He is still looking for people who will refuse to allow fear to have the final word. He is still looking for people who refuse to be deterred by failure … Just remember one thing: If you want to walk on water, you’ve got to get out of the boat.”[2]  

Let’s pray: Lord, we ask that You would give us courage to get up and to step out and to follow You and Your will and plan for our lives, now and always … Amen.  

Further Reading:

  • William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary, Matthew, Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh, 1989
  • John Ortberg “If you want to walk on water You’ve got to get out of the boat.”, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2001
  • Tom Wright, Matthew for Everyone, Part 1, SPCK, London, 2004

[1] http://acs.alpha.org/bioy/commentary/765

[2] John Ortberg “If you want to walk on water You’ve got to get out of the boat.”, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2001, p.202

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May 9, 2014

Mizen head cliffs

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Back in mid March we took a trip down to Mizen Head, Ireland’s most south-westerly extremity.  It was a lovely clear day but quite cold and very windy (our youngest son lost his hat over the edge of the cliff during a particularly strong gust!).

The above view was well worth the climb to get there.  The transatlantic route lies just south of here and this is the last view of Ireland for the seafarer heading west.  It is not difficult to imagine the emotion that many must have felt as they stood on deck, making their way to a new life in a new world, excited by the new beginnings that lay ahead but sad at all that they were leaving behind…

June 25, 2012

Three fishermen

The rain was pouring heavily down as we walked along the beach.  That morning I had been reading a book I had bought the day before (courtesy of a generous book token) called “Ansel Adams 400 Photographs”.   Full of inspiration from looking at Ansel’s legendary pictures I just had to bring the camera with me (in a waterproof bag of course).  I think I wanted to prove to myself that it was possible to get a picture even in ridiculously wet weather – of course having the three fishermen there helped with the final result and the rain actually gives a kind of watercolor texture that is a bit different to the norm.  I hope they caught lots of Mackerel for all their efforts!

(Larger version on Flickr here.)

June 21, 2012

House by the sea

Wouldn’t it be lovely to have a house by the sea?  The view as you ate your breakfast would be wonderful and imagine the morning strolls across the deserted sands (perhaps even with the occasional swim) and going to sleep at night to the sounds of the waves lapping against the shore.

The problem here though is that this house seems to have recently lost a big chunk of its front garden.  We’ve seen other houses along the coastline that have had to be abandoned as they have become unsafe to live in – sadly it looks as if this house might be heading the same way, but I hope not, I hope they are able to find some way to save it.

(Large version of the photo here).

June 8, 2012

Horse & Rider

A horse and rider on Inchydoney beach, taken towards the end of last month.

(See larger version here.)

May 15, 2012

Tranquility

Looking up ‘Tranquility’ in the thesaurus produces a string of:

Peace
….peacefulness
……..restfulness
….repose
calm
….calmness
……..quiet
….quietness
stillness.

Even something about reading those words produces a certain soporific effect.

The picture above I took at Garrettstown on a day off last Saturday. Without such special days, times with my beautiful (and incredibly patient) wife and our two wonderful boys I don’t think I would last very long in parish ministry.  We all need times of peace, days of fun, moments of joy and places to escape to.

We spent about six or seven hours on the beach but it felt like no time at all.  It wasn’t very warm, there was a chill in the air from the north east, but we built an enormous sand castle, which later became an alien space craft and a rowing boat (of sorts).  We gathered driftwood and made a fire on which we cooked sausages and rashers.  Breathing in the fresh sea air all day meant that we all slept very well that night and I was ready in body, mind and spirit for the day and week ahead, (something which unfortunately doesn’t always happen).

As I look at the photo now I am reminded of those old and familiar words that long ago we used to sing in church:

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee:
because he trusteth in thee.
Trust ye in the Lord for ever:
for our rock of ages is the Lord.

(Isaiah 26:3-4)

January 18, 2012

For those in Peril on the sea.

There have been two sad and tragic maritime incidents over the past days.  Firstly the ‘Costa Concordia‘, a Cruise Liner which ran aground off the west coast of Italy.  At the time of writing there are 11 people confirmed dead and 23 still unaccounted for.  Secondly, and closer to here, the search continues today in Glandore Harbour for the five missing crewmen that went down with the vessel ‘Tit Bonhomme.


Glandore Harbour

(Photo: Glandore Harbour in happier times)

Last night, in the home group that meets in our house we discussed the passage in Matthew 14 where Jesus walks on the water towards his stricken disciples.  It was only natural then that we found ourselves praying for those affected by these two tragedies and for all those whose livelihood depends on the sea.  It is perhaps impossible to imagine what it must be like for the relatives, as they wait for the bodies of their loved ones to be recovered.  May God help them in ways beyond words and understanding and may He give all help to those involved in the search.

Of course, the words of that great hymn, “Eternal Father Strong to Save” comes to our minds at times such as this:

Eternal Father, strong to save,
whose arm doth bind the restless wave,
who bidd’st the mighty ocean deep
its own appointed limits keep:
O hear us when we cry to thee
for those in peril on the sea.

O Saviour,whose almighty word
the wind and waves submissive heard,
who walkedst on the foaming deep,
and calm amidst its rage did sleep;
O hear us when we cry to thee
for those in peril on the sea.

O Holy Spirit, who didst sweep
across the dark and formless deep
to bid its angry tumult cease,
and give, for wild confusion, peace:
O hear us when we cry to thee
for those in peril on the sea.

O Trinity of love and power,
sustain us all in danger’s hour;
through wreck and tempest, grief and loss,
renew the triumph of the cross:
and ever let  there rise to thee
glad hymns of praise from land and sea.

William Whiting (1825-78)

May 10, 2011

A walk to Wood Point

Yesterday we took the opportunity of some welcome sunshine to take our visitors on a walk to Wood Point via the beach and woodland at Courtmacsherry.

As close to the edge as I dared!

Wood Point.  I didn’t know the name of this spot as it is not given any name on my recent Ordnance Survey map.  It was only by going to the OSI website and looking at the historic overlay from 1887-1913 that the name was given (though to add confusion the name “Land Point” is given in the even earlier 1829-1842 overlay).

The “Navigational Aid” – wearing its rust with pride!

Walking back through the woods, some bluebells…

The pressures of my work have been considerable of late and it was wonderful to be able to get away  – even if only for an hour or two, a real blessing it was.

September 7, 2010

Raging Waters

Rushing Wave

The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!”

He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm.

(Luke 8:24)

Dear Lord Jesus, for all those who are facing storms and trials and great difficulties, we pray for your calm and peace to come into their hearts and lives.  For all who need stillness, for those who need to see the way ahead, speak your words of truth and light.

Help us to let you be in charge of our lives, let you be the Captain who steers, the Navigator who directs and the Saviour who heals and forgives….

July 21, 2008

Ballywilling Strand

Ballywilling Co. Cork

Canon A570is, 3 exposure panorama

We discovered this wonderful place recently on a family outing, a relatively hidden beach not too far away from the much more popular Garryvoe Beach in East Cork. I wonder who lives in that little house, not a bad view – though perhaps a bit scary during a winter storm?!