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Weekly Bible Notes and Worship Resources

Ordinary 19 Year A


To walk on water, you have to get out of the boat

I am reminded of the phrase 'you've got to be in it to win it.' The point is obvious, we will never achieve unless we participate. The flip side is that as well as achievement, we can also fail in our endeavours. Perhaps it is that fear of failure which prevents so many people from making the effort, and trying to make our dreams become reality. This is true of so many things, not least our willingness to serve God, to allow our talents to be used in his service. The Apostle Peter is a real example to us all, he made mistakes, he had failure in his life, yet he was prepared to have a go, and because of that Jesus called him 'the rock' the one he chose upon which to build his church. In the passage from Matthew today, Peter jumps out of the boat to meet Jesus. Whilst walking on water for a time he soon loses confidence and starts to sink. However we have to pay tribute to Peter because at least he had a go. The words of Theodore Roosevelt.

'It is not the critic who counts; not the one who points out hoe the strong stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the one who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly who errs and comes us short again and again; who knows great enthusiasm and great devotion; who spends him/herself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who, at worst, if he/she fails, at least fails while daring greatly. So that his/her place shall never be with those timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.'

Opening Verses of Scripture    Hebrews 10:23

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.

Collect Prayer for the Day — Before we read we pray

Almighty God, 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. CW

Gracious Father, revive your Church in our day, and make her holy, strong and faithful, for your glory’s sake in Jesus Christ our Lord. CW

First Bible Reading  Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28

Jacob settled in the land where his father had lived as an alien, the land of Canaan. This is the story of the family of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was shepherding the flock with his brothers; he was a helper to the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives; and Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he had made him a long robe with sleeves. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him.

Now his brothers went to pasture their father’s flock near Shechem. And Israel said to Joseph, ‘Are not your brothers pasturing the flock at Shechem? Come, I will send you to them.’ He answered, ‘Here I am.’ So he said to him, ‘Go now, see if it is well with your brothers and with the flock; and bring word back to me.’ So he sent him from the valley of Hebron.

He came to Shechem, and a man found him wandering in the fields; the man asked him, ‘What are you seeking?’‘I am seeking my brothers,’ he said; ‘tell me, please, where they are pasturing the flock.’ The man said, ‘They have gone away, for I heard them say, “Let us go to Dothan.“’ So Joseph went after his brothers, and found them at Dothan. They saw him from a distance, and before he came near to them, they conspired to kill him. They said to one another, ‘Here comes this dreamer. Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; then we shall say that a wild animal has devoured him, and we shall see what will become of his dreams.’ But when Reuben heard it, he delivered him out of their hands, saying, ‘Let us not take his life.’ Reuben said to them, ‘Shed no blood; throw him into this pit here in the wilderness, but lay no hand on him’ – that he might rescue him out of their hand and restore him to his father. So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the long robe with sleeves that he wore; and they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it.

Then they sat down to eat; and looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels carrying gum, balm, and resin, on their way to carry it down to Egypt. Then Judah said to his brothers, ‘What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.’ And his brothers agreed. When some Midianite traders passed by, they drew Joseph up, lifting him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt. NRSV

Second Reading  Romans Chapter 10:5-15

Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that ‘the person who does these things will live by them.’ 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) ‘or “Who will descend into the abyss?”’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 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); 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. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. The scripture says, ‘No one who believes in him will be put to shame.’ 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. For, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

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? 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!’ NRSV

picture of a storm on EverestGospel Reading  Matthew 14: 22-33

Immediately after feeding the crowd with the five loaves and two fish, Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking towards them on the lake. But when the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’

Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came towards Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’ NRSV

Post Communion Sentence

Holy Father, who gathered us here around the table of your Son to share this meal with the whole household of God: in that new world where you reveal the fullness of your peace, gather people of every race and language to share in the eternal banquet of Jesus Christ our Lord. CW 

Leonardo da Vinci - Jesus walking on water


The story of Jesus walking on the water follows the story of the Feeding of the Five Thousand. The two episodes make obvious an important lesson for the disciples and for us. When faced with enormous difficulties we are tempted to think that all is lost and we cannot cope. It is exactly at that time that we must realise that we do not have to cope on our own. Jesus is with us and even the most desperate situations are changed when we place our trust in him.

Matthew wrote at a time when Christians were persecuted, the Apostle Peter has most likely been crucified. The episode of the storm addressed issues of danger, fear and faith. The boat seems to represent the church, buffeted by temptations, trials and persecutions. Jesus however is the church's champion, who is strong to save those who call on him in faith. The message must have brought great comfort to the early Christians. While not spared suffering and death, they were confident that Christ would save them even if they were to die.

It is important to remember that the disciples encounter the storm, not because they are rebellious or foolhardy, rather because they are obedient. The difficulties that they experience on the sea are not of their own making, but stem from their compliance with Jesus' command.

The disciples find themselves perhaps three miles out in the small boat, far from shore, in a storm. In Biblical literature, the sea is often represented as the abode of demonic forces hostile to God. In the Apocalypse, the final reign of God will mean that the sea no longer exists (21:1) To have command over the sea shows God’s triumph over evil. Jesus comes walking toward the disciples on the sea. Matthew has identified Jesus as Emmanuel -- God with us (1:23) -- and this story reinforces that role.

Matthew's church is weathering a storm of persecution. These Christians are not in rebellion, but are faithfully serving God. The story of the disciples on the sea, therefore, mirrors exactly the situation of Matthew's church. It holds a promise that Jesus comes to Christians in the midst of the storm -- that the storm does not hold the upper hand -- that Christ is present with us in the storm and redeems us from the storm.

When the disciples see Jesus, they are afraid. The storm, while dangerous, is familiar. The disciples know what to expect from a storm and what to do to keep the boat afloat. They do not know anything about men walking on water far from land, and fear that they are seeing a ghost. Jesus responds with a threefold statement: "Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid."
Jesus uses the first phrase, "Take heart" (Greek: tharseite -- have courage -- be of good cheer) elsewhere in this Gospel to hearten a paralytic (9:2) and a woman with a hemorrhage (9:22). It is not a rebuke but an encouragement.
The second phrase, "it is I" (Greek: ego eimi -- literally "I am") is God's name (Exod 3:14).
The third phrase, Do not be afraid  In this Gospel, an angel uses the third phrase, "do not be afraid" to reassure Joseph (1:20) and the women at the empty tomb (28:5, 10). Jesus uses it to reassure the Twelve as they go on their mission (10:26, 28, 31) and the disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration (17:7). Again, it is an encouragement rather than a rebuke.

This story reassures Matthew's church that, even in the midst of persecution, they need not fear -- Jesus is present with them. It offers the same reassurance to us in times of illness, death, persecution, or other troubles. It prepares us for times when things are going badly -- or well. Adversity is not a sign of God's displeasure or prosperity a sign of God's pleasure. Wealth does not equate to God's favour or poverty to lack of favour. Illness is not a sign of inadequate faith or health a sign of great faith. Jesus says that God "makes his sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous" (5:45). Paradoxically, the storms of life can be a means of blessing. When things are going badly, our hearts are more receptive to Jesus. A broken heart is often a door through which Christ can find entry. He still comes to us in the midst of our troubles, saying, "Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid."


After just defeating 450 prophets of Baal, it is very embarrassing that God’s best prophet Elijah is now hiding in a cave afraid of the murderous enemy King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. . Now an angel has guided Elijah to Sinai (Mt. Horeb), the same mountain where Moses met the Almighty.
At this moment of crisis God comes to Elijah but not with power and a convincing display, rather in a still small voice. Not very exciting. But isn’t that what life is like? we too look for God at times of crisis, personal and communal. Where is God amid the chaos of the world? Are we not entitled to hear something of the divine road, rather than a whisper? Yet we who live by faith know that whilst God is imperceptible, yet he is present to us. Elijah will have to call the people back to fidelity to God and the covenant; to a faith not based on spectacles and signs of power, but on a relationship of love and trust in God.
When people demanded signs of power from Christ, like storm, fire, wind and earthquake, he refused to give them. Instead, he invited people to trust in him even without instant relief and spectacle. Elijah got the message, he set out on his difficult journey trusting God would support him and not abandon him in his coming trials. As he went forward he would have to continue to listen to the still voice of God within—just as all faithful people must.
When we find ourselves withdrawing to a cave of fear, defeat, discouragement or despair, we might draw the conclusion that we are all alone in our struggle. Or, we can make the impossible leap of faith that says, “I believe God is with me, even in the sound of silence.” It turns out, Elijah’s fearful flight away from Ahab and Jezebel has set him back on the path to absolute dependence on God. God has not abandoned him after all. God did not given up on Elijah; Elijah did not give up on God, this is a lesson for us all.      Charles Royden

Should we fall, we should not despair and so estrange ourselves from the Lord's love...Let us always be ready to make a new start. If you fall, rise up. If you fall again, rise up again. St. Peter of Damaskos (12th century)


Dear Lord and Father  (Tune Repton)

How lovely on the mountains

Eternal Father   (Tune Melita)

O God of truth and justice - Tune Thornbury

At the name of Jesus (Tune Camberwell)

O God of truth and justice
defender of the poor,
we trust your promise faithful,
your mercy ever sure.
Come not in fire or earthquake,
or sign of worldly power,
but let your gentle whisper
announce the hallowed hour!

2 When storms of life around us
condemn our hearts to fear,
then let the voice of stillness
compose the anxious ear,
and from our fears remake us
with faithful hearts and brave,
who, fixing on the Saviour,
may ride the threatening wave.

3 O give us grace to follow
where Christ himself has trod,
with gentle voice proclaiming
the perfect peace of God:
the promise of redemption
which first the fathers heard,
in Jesus Christ made perfect,
the co-eternal Word.

Michael Forster (born 1946)
© 1993 Kevin Mayhew Ltd
7 6 7 6 D Iambic  Tune Thornbury

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead

Prayer is a plant, the seed of which is sown in the heart of every Christian,
if it is well cultivated and nourished it will produce fruit, but if it is neglected,
it will wither and die.

O God, whose glory the heavens are telling, the earth your power, the sea your might, and whose greatness all the hosts of heaven proclaim; to you belongs all glory, honour, majesty and praise; both now and for ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen   Liturgy of St James, 5th century

Living God, you have placed in the hearts of your children a longing for your word and a hunger for your truth. Grant that, believing in the One who you have sent, we may know him to be the true bread of heaven, your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Cleanse our minds, O Lord we beseech thee, of all anxious thoughts for ourselves, that we may learn not to trust in the abundance of what we have, save as tokens of thy goodness and grace, but that we may commit ourselves in faith to thy keeping, and devote all our energy of soul, mind and body to the work of thy kingdom and the furthering of the purpose of thy divine righteousness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Euchologium Anglicanum


Additional Material

Opening Verse of Scripture—Romans 10:12
For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile--the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."

Collect Prayer for the Day—before we read, we pray
Living God, you have placed in the hearts of your children a longing for your word and a hunger for your truth. Grant that, believing in the One who you have sent, we may know him to be the true bread of heaven, your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

First Bible Reading 1 Kings 19:9-18
There he went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the LORD came to him: "What are you doing here, Elijah?" He replied, "I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too." 
The LORD said, "Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by." Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. 
Then a voice said to him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" He replied, "I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too." 
The LORD said to him, "Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu. Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel-all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him."

Second Bible Reading Matthew 14:22-33
Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. 
During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. "It's a ghost," they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid." 
"Lord, if it's you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water." "Come," he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!" Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?" And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God."

Post Communion Prayer
Lord of all mercy, we your faithful people have celebrated that one true sacrifice which takes away our sins and brings pardon and peace: by our communion keep us firm on the foundation of the gospel and preserve us from all sin; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Commentary: Walking on Water
There are three accounts of the miracle of walking on water, in Mark 6, John 6 and here in St. Matthew's Gospel. They represent three accounts of essentially the same story. 
After the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand, the disciples have gone on ahead of Jesus and a storm has arisen. The sea was traditionally a place of terror for the Israelites - but one may suppose that while the sea was rough it was not sufficiently rough to frighten those disciples who had made a living on the water, unlike that other occasion in the gospels when Jesus was asleep in the boat and the storm was so fierce that they had to wake Him. 
So while all three stories point out the difficulty of the crossing and the sudden appearance of Jesus, all agree that the fact of Jesus coming towards them "walking on the sea" was the cause of their fear. They did not at first recognise Him. Their fear was the fear of all who face the unknown, then as now. All three agree, however, that once they knew who it was their fear subsided and they welcomed Jesus into the boat. 
In both Mark's and Matthew's accounts the result is that the storm died down, whereas in John's "they came immediately to land". As with all the accounts of miracles we are faced with the question as to what we make of it. At least one commentator has suggested that we have here a certain development of the tradition in which the memory of the Risen One blends with that of the earthly ministry of Jesus so that there is a bringing together into the story something of the post resurrection appearances of Jesus. 
While we may have difficulties with the story, the early readers of the gospels would not. This would have been a story of divine disclosure. For them, it is God who walks on the face of the waters (Job 9:8) or strides across the face of the waves (Psalm 77:19). So they would have sensed the majestic claim inherent in the story. And the disciples' terror provides a counterpoint to the story, contrasting the human with the divine and underlining the importance of Jesus' words "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid," words which echo God's promises recorded at the beginning of Isaiah 43. And so the story reminds its readers that Jesus is more than just a teacher. He is imbued with power, a presence which is both delivering and calming. He is clothed with the very power of God. 
And as is so often the case as we think about the stories in the gospels we are brought face to face with a life which was markedly different from that which most of us live and which had an impact beyond measure on his contemporaries, and which challenges us in our turn.
And lest we think that it was easy for the disciples, St. Mark's final words should give us occasion to think for he writes "...and the wind dropped. At this they were completely dumbfounded, for they had not understood the incident of the loaves; their minds were closed." So as we in our turn reflect on this event among the other signs of Jesus' power, we too need to make sure that our minds are not closed, not least to the possibilities of sharing in that power which Jesus promised to all his followers. John Stubbs

Meditation: Storms and Tempests
Every one knows how to be resigned amid the joys and happiness of prosperity, but to be so amid storms and tempests is peculiar to the children of God. - St. Francis of Sales

See how great a flame aspires
Give me joy in my heart
Not far beyond the sea nor high
Be still for the presence of the Lord.
Who is on the Lord's side (Tune Rachie)

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead

God our Father, we read of the commandment "do not kill" and think it doesn't apply to us because we don't take anyone's life. Yet there are times when we take life from others by cruel words, sarcasm, doing people down, and gossiping. Lead us to choose to bring life to others - and not death. Inspire us to break the cycle of whatever is negative or violent or evil whenever we encounter them. Let us not look for vengeance - to get our own back -but lead us to be generous and ready to conquer evil with goodness. Amen. 

O God, you declare your almighty power most chiefly in showing mercy and pity: mercifully grant to us such a measure of your grace, that we, running the way of your commandments, may receive your gracious promises, and be made partakers of your heavenly treasure; 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.