SUNDAY REFLECTIONS

Each week The Reverend Richard Terrell reflects
upon the biblical reading
from The Common Worship Lectionary
that is used in local churches

SERMON
THE STORMS OF LIFE

GOSPEL READING
Mark chapter 4 verses 35 to 41

            Mark chapter 4, presented us with a familiar incident that must have stayed in the memory of the disciples to the extent that it reached the ears of the writer of the second Gospel and he recorded it for us.

            Jesus and His disciples were crossing the Sea of Galilee when ‘A great storm arose, the waves beat into the boat, and it was being swamped by the waves.’

            In crossing the Sea of Galilee Jesus and His disciples were moving from the Jewish side, where they were at home, to the Gentile side, where they were strangers.   They were moving from the side where life was familiar to the side where it is new, different, and unfamiliar.

            We can take incidents recorded in the Gospels as simply interesting stories – moments in the life of Jesus witnessed by the first disciples – or we can hear them speaking to our own experiences today.

            We may have never crossed the Sea of Galilee but we have all been in that boat.   This is not just a story about the weather and a boat trip.   It is a story about life.   It’s a story about faith.   It’s a story about fear.

            Sometimes we find that the sea of life is rough.   The wind is strong.   The waves are high.   The boat is taking on water and sinking.   We all know what that is like.   Each of us, I am sure, could tell a storm story.

            Some of those storm stories might begin with a phone call, a doctor’s visit, or news we did not want to hear.   Some of them will start with the choices we have made, our mistakes, and our sins.   Other stories will tell about the difficulty of relationships, hopes and plans that fell apart, or the struggle to grow up and find our way.   Some of our storms seem to arise out of nowhere and take us by surprise.   Others build and brew as we watch.

            It is a fact of life that storms happen.   Storms of loss and sorrow.   Storms of suffering.   Storms of confusion.   Storms of failure.   Storms of loneliness.   Storms of disappointment and regret.   Storms of depression.   Storms of uncertainty and second guessing.   Storms of thoughts and voices.

            Regardless of when or how they arise, storms are about changing conditions.   Life is overwhelming and out of control.   Things don’t go our way.   Circumstances seem too much for us to handle.   Order gives way to chaos.   We are sinking.   The water is deep and the new shore is a distant horizon.

            In the storm Mark recorded, the disciples were quick to make the storm about Jesus.   “Do you not care that we are perishing?” is their pleading and implied criticism.

            We’ve probably all echoed their words in the storms of our lives.   “Do something.   Fix it.   Make it better.”   In the midst of the storm Jesus seems absent, passive, uncaring.   How can He sleep at a time like this?   Sleeping Jesus is not what the disciples wanted or what we want in the storms we experience.

            Yet was important that Jesus was in the boat with the disciples.   Who knows what might have happened if they were on their own.   He was sleeping in the boat but He is experiencing the same storm as the disciples.   He is surrounded by the same water, blown by the same wind, beaten by the same waves.

            His response, however, is different.   While disciples fret and worry He sleeps.   The disciples want busyness and activity.   But Jesus sleeps in peace and stillness.

            In sleeping, as He does, Jesus might be indicating that for Him at that moment the greater storm and the real threat is not the wind, waves, and water – the real threat comes not from the circumstances in which we find ourselves, but within us.   The real storm, the more threatening storm is always the one that churns and rages within us.

            That interior storm is the one that blows us off course, beats against our faith, and threatens to drown us.   Fear, vulnerability, and powerlessness blow within us.   The sense of abandonment, the unknown, judgment and criticism of ourselves and others are the waves that pound us.   Too often anger, isolation, cynicism, or denial become our shelter from the storm.

            “Peace! Be still!” says Jesus.   He speaks to the wind and the sea.   Yet Jesus isn’t changing the weather as much as inviting the disciples to change.   He’s speaking to the wind and the waves within them.

            The disciples had been pointing to what is going on outside them.   But Jesus now points to what is going on inside.   “Why are you afraid?   Have you still no faith?”

            As we reflect upon the incident Mark records, we need to realise that the words of Jesus are speaking to you and me today and to the circumstances of our lives, the storms we meet.   Storms happen.   Faith, more faith, better faith, stronger faith, the right kind of faith do not eliminate the storms of our lives.   Faith does not change the storm.   It changes us.

            Faith does not take us around the storm but through the storm.   Faith allows us to see and know that Jesus is there with us.   Faith is what allows us to be still, to be peaceful, in the midst of the storm.

            The Spirit of God blows through and within us more mightily than the winds of any storm.   The power of God is stronger than any wave that beats against us.   The love of God is deeper than any water that threatens to drown us.

            In every storm Jesus is present and His response is always the same, “Peace!   Be still!”

            In every storm there are choices to be made.   Do we submit to the storm or do we find a way through?   Do we put our faith in the power of the storm or in the power of God in Christ?

Norton 2021

PRAYER

Heavenly Father
we thank you for always being in the boat of our lives
to calm every storm that may trouble us.
When we call on you for help bring us the calm we seek.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour.
Amen

SUNDAY 5th SEPTEMBER 2021

THE FOURTEENTH SUNDAY
AFTER TRINITY

GOSPEL READING FOR THE SUNDAY
Mark chapter 7, verses 24-37   (Proper 18)
Faith in the Healer

24 From there Jesus set out and went away to the region of Tyre.  He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there.   Yet he could not escape notice, 25but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet.   26Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin.   She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter.   27He said to her, ‘Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’   28But she answered him, ‘Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.’   29Then he said to her, ‘For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.’   30So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

31 Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis.   32They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him.   33He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue.   34Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, ‘Ephphatha’, that is, ‘Be opened.’   35And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.   36Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it.   37They were astounded beyond measure, saying, ‘He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.

REFLECTION

Today’s reading records two healings.   The first was the healing of a young girl described as having an unclean spirit.   The second was the curing of a deaf man.

The woman whose daughter was ill was a Gentile and as Messiah Jesus was seen as someone sent to the Jews – a point made in His reference to the children’s food and to dogs.   But the woman’s response led to the demon being banished from her daughter.

The deaf man, as so often is the case, also had an impediment in his speech.   Both presented him with the difficulty of communicating with other people and we can imagine that this resulted in him being a very lonely person until, that is, the day He met Jesus.

Imagine the relief of the woman, her daughter and the man who was deaf.   From then on they, their family and friends could lead normal lives.   Although Jesus sought no publicity – ordering people to tell no one – they could’t hold back on declaring what had happened.   ‘They were,’ as Mark records it, ‘astounded beyond measure.’

Though we ourselves can be amazed by the miracles it might be worth noting that they happened at the instigation of a woman and a crowd having faith in the ability of Jesus to heal.

Sometimes we need to have such a faith and trust in Jesus that we can lay our problems at His feet so that we and those we love can be healed by Him and can exclaim that He does all things well.

PRAYER

Heavenly Father,
We thank you for all you have done for us.
May we help others to let Jesus come into their lives
and to acknowledge that He does all things well.
Amen

SUNDAY 12th SEPTEMBER 2021

THE FIFTEENTH SUNDAY
AFTER TRINITY

GOSPEL READING FOR THE SUNDAY
Mark chapter 8, verses 27-38   (Proper 19)
Peter’s declaration – a fan or follower

27 Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that I am?’   28And they answered him, ‘John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.’   29He asked them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’   Peter answered him, ‘You are the Messiah.’  30And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.

31 Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.   32He said all this quite openly.   And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.   33But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan!   For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’

34 He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.   35For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.   36For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?   37Indeed, what can they give in return for their life?   38Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.’

REFLECTION

Are you a fan of Jesus, or a follower?

Have you ever been a member of a fan club – a group of enthusiastic supporters of a well-known person, music group, or a sports team?    If so you might have worn a t-shirt with the team name and a picture of their mascot on it.

The number of fans usually depends on how popular or successful the person or team is.

When Jesus was on earth, he had a lot of fans.   As He travelled around performing miracles like feeding 4,000 people with seven loaves of bread or healing the blind, there were huge crowds of fans everywhere He went.   But Jesus wasn’t interested in having fans, He wanted followers.

One day He said to a crowd of people, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross and follow me.   If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it.   But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.”

To be a follower of Jesus means much more than being a member of His fan club.   It means more than wearing an “I Love Jesus” t-shirt, or a necklace with a cross on it.   It means to follow the teachings of Jesus every day.   It means to reach out to the poor, to feed the hungry, to be a friend of the friendless, to love the unlovely.

In other words, it means to show the love that Jesus showed to everyone we meet.   That is what separates a fan from a follower.

So are you satisfied with being just a fan of Jesus or do you want to be a follower?

PRAYER

Heavenly Father,
Help us to be more than fans of Jesus.
May we become true believers and followers
so that our whole lives are dedicated to You,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen

SUNDAY 19th SEPTEMBER 2021

THE SIXTEENTH SUNDAY
AFTER TRINITY

GOSPEL READING FOR THE SUNDAY
Mark chapter 9, verses 30-37   (Proper 20)
Service and humility

 

30 They went on and passed through Galilee.   Jesus did not want anyone to know it; 31for He was teaching His disciples, saying to them, ‘The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill Him, and three days after being killed, He will rise again.’   32But they did not understand what He was saying and were afraid to ask Him.

33 Then they came to Capernaum; and when He was in the house He asked them, ‘What were you arguing about on the way?’   34But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest.   35He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, ‘Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.’   36Then He took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in His arms, He said to them, 37‘Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.’

REFLECTION

Have you ever thought what a ‘Topsy Turvy’ world we live in?   Things are often the opposite of what we think they should be.

The disciples must have thought that when Jesus taught them about who was the greatest in the Kingdom of God.

They had been arguing about which of them was the greatest when Jesus told that they must take the last place if they wanted to be the greatest; they had to be the servant of all and had to become like a little child.

It wasn’t exactly what the disciples wanted to hear.   They were hoping to hear Jesus say that they were going to have a position of great importance in His kingdom.   Instead, Jesus called a little child over to him and taking him in His arms told them “Anyone who welcomes one of these little children also welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me, also welcomes the one who sent me.”

If you were asked, “Who is the greatest person who ever lived?”   What would your answer be?   Would you name a famous athlete?   A film star?   A world leader?

Christians believe that Jesus Christ was the greatest person who ever lived.   Why?   Because, although He was God, He gave up all of His divine privileges and became a servant.

The teachings of Jesus are very different from the way most people think today.   We live in a world where people want to be first.   They want power and influence.   They think that adults are more important than children.   But in God’s Kingdom, the children are just as important as anyone.

If we want to follow the kind of life Jesus taught then our lives must be ones of service and humility.

PRAYER

Heavenly Father,
help us to remember that to be great in your sight,
we must come to you as a child
and that we must live our lives in service and humility.
In Jesus’ name we pray.
Amen.

SUNDAY 26th SEPTEMBER 2021

THE SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY
AFTER TRINITY

GOSPEL READING FOR THE SUNDAY
Mark chapter 9, verses 38-50   (Proper 21)
Be at peace with one another

 

38 John said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.’   39But Jesus said, ‘Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterwards to speak evil of me.   40Whoever is not against us is for us.   41For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.

42 ‘If any of you put a stumbling-block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea.   43If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.  45And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell.   47And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, 48where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.

49 ‘For everyone will be salted with fire.  50Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it?  Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.’

REFLECTION

The early followers of Jesus belonged to what they must have thought was a very special club – and it was.   There were only twelve in the first group of people who followed Jesus.   They felt very good about being part of Jesus’s team.   In Jesus’ name they healed sick people and taught them about the Kingdom of God.

One day the disciples saw someone who was not a member of their group doing good things in Jesus’ name.   You might think that they would be happy to see other people doing good things, but their re-action was to tell them to stop what they were doing because they were not a part of their special group.

The disciples thought Jesus would be pleased by their actions, so they went and told Him what they had done.   To their surprise, Jesus was not pleased.   “Don’t stop people who are doing good things in my name” Jesus said.   “No one who is doing good things in my name will then turn around and say bad things about me.   Anyone who is not against us is for us.”

It is good to belong to a group and especially good to be a part of the larger Family of God.   The Family of God has many different groups within it.   Whenever we see anyone who is doing good in Jesus’ name, we must rejoice and be glad because, Jesus said, “if they aren’t against us, they are for us.”

There may be times when we need to recognise that ‘ours’ is not the only way.   We must acknowledge the variety of people who seek to follow Jesus and the different ways of expressing the Christian faith within the Church Family.

PRAYER

Heavenly Father,
we are all part of your family.
Help us to be rejoice and be glad
when we see other members of your family doing good things.
In Jesus’ name we pray..
Amen.

MARTIN’S MESSAGE

Martin the Monkey sometimes accompanies The Reverend Richard and helps to re-enforce the Gospel message. He usually attends on special occasions in the Church Year and shares his thoughts with you.

BE A PINCH OF SALT

READING FOR THE SEASON
Mark chapter 9, verses 38-50
Working in God’s world

MARTIN’S MESSAGE

Salt has many uses, apart from improving the taste of food it is used in making over 14,000 different products:-   fixing dye, making leather and in the production of plastics, to name but a few.

At one time people were paid with salt.

As salt is so important, it is no wonder Jesus told us that we are to be like salt to the world.   He said “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again?   Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other.”

Jesus was saying that we should flavour our world with love and that we should allow Him to use us in making the world a better place.

Most recipes call for just a “pinch of salt.”   That isn’t very much salt, but it changes the taste of an entire batch of cooking.   If you don’t have that little bit of salt, you will definitely notice that there is something missing.

There is a lot that is wrong in our world today.   If you and I show the love of Jesus in all that we do, we shall be the salt of the earth like Jesus called us to be.   Just a pinch of salt can do much to make our world a better place with people living their lives in a way that is acceptable to God.

PRAYER

Heavenly Father,
help us to influence Your world
that we may become the salt of the earth
and change the world into a better place.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord..
Amen

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