August 13, 2023

Listening to God’s Call

Lord as we come to your word open our hearts and make yourself known that we may receive from you and declare your glory. Amen


Today we have the story of Jesus walking on the water, but I want to start by looking at Elijah in our OT reading.  We have just sung rock of ages – when choosing the hymns Rock of ages came to me as a link to Elijah hiding in the cave.  Once I read all of the verses I realised I hadn’t known the hymn very well and hadn’t realised how funereal it is and I nearly chose something else! – but the second verse links with our reading from Romans and thinking again of Elijah, he thought his time had come, everyone else was dead killed by Jezebel and he thought he was next.  He had run away fearing death. God found him but his question “What are you doing here?” is not just asking Elijah why he is there, but also why he isn’t where he is supposed to be as God’s prophet among the Israelites?  “But they are trying to kill me, I am the only one left……he replies  Elijah knew the power of God, if you read earlier in the story he had just called down fire from heaven and defeated the prophets of Baal,  He hoped Jezebel and the Israelites would see this and turn back to God, but instead of repenting and turning to God in her fury Jezebel seeks Elijah’s death.  Elijah does trust in God, he is his prophet, he knows how to listen to God and yet at this point he runs away, but the Lord finds him and rewards him with his presence : first there is a terrifying wind – powerful enough to break rocks, then there is an earthquake and a fire but God isn’t in any of these God is in the still small voice – is God helping Elijah realise that however noisy the world is God will be there quietly speaking to him?  Then God turns everything around for him.  Elijah thinks it is all over he has come to God with nothing, but no says God – go and anoint new kings, anoint Elisha your successor and watch as the 7000 rebuild Israel.

In the hymn we come with nothing but the cross of Jesus saves us, as our passage from Romans says – it isn’t the law that saves us, it isn’t our actions that save us – we could go up to heaven or descend to the deep but it isn’t our deeds that save us but our faith.  : “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”

So let us turn to Jesus walking on the water and Peter’s faith.  It has been a long day and Jesus goes into the mountain to pray while he sends the disciples by boat to cross to the other side.  The wind and waves are buffeting them as they struggle to make progress when as dawn approaches what is this they see is it a ghost?  Jesus sees their fear – it’s me he says and then Peter says “if it is you tell me to come to you on the water” “come” says Jesus and Peter gets out of the boat and walks on the water towards Jesus – until he notices the wind and begins to sink while crying out to Jesus, who reaches out a hand and catches him…..   I almost detect a smile on Jesus’ face as he says to Peter “why did you doubt” – Jesus didn’t ask Peter to get out of the boat, Peter had faith that if Jesus called him he too could walk on water, he asks Jesus to call him because he had faith and yet once out of the boat he loses his focus on Jesus and begins to sink……  Like Elijah, Peter does listen but having set off across the water with great enthusiasm he is distracted by the world around him and begins to sink…..

What of the rest of the disciples in the boat?  They didn’t attempt to follow Peter but they saw the power of Jesus – his power over creation as the wind dies down and they worship him – he truly is the son of God.  They too heard his words and they continue to follow him.  So, what about us?  Do we know that Jesus will remain with us? He remains with us and is the Lord of all Creation as well?  Whether we stay in the boat with the 11 disciples or hop out of the boat with Peter, Jesus is with us.  He’s with those of us who stay in the boat and will calm the storm that threatens.  He’s with those who embark on something ambitious and fail, forgiving the failure and, again, calming the storm.

The question is are we listening for his call or are we too distracted by the storms of life and the noise around us in the world?  If we hear his call do we continue to believe that we can do it or do we get discouraged and doubt?

We all probably have times when we get despondent, when the first wave of enthusiasm for a new project wanes and we want to run away.  Today’s readings tell us to run away to the Lord, to seek him and to know that he will support us – he will take us by the hand and encourage us, even though our faith may be small he will support us in our weakness and give us the strength to carry on.  In our first hymn we sang:

Breathe through the heats of our desire Thy coolness and Thy balm; let sense be dumb, let flesh retire; speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire, O still, small voice of calm!

Why do we need to listen?  Because there are many who still haven’t heard God’s voice, who need the still small voice in the storms of their lives to bring them peace.  People who need to call out to Jesus to save them.   But, as Paul writing to the Romans says – how can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?  And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? -: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

Are we listening?  We are saved by our faith are we listening for the times when God wants us to share that faith and proclaim his glory?