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 27th JUNE 2021

THE FOURTH SUNDAY
AFTER TRINITY

GOSPEL READING FOR THE SUNDAY
Mark chapter 5, verses 21-43   (Proper 8)
Jesus brings Jairus’ daughter back to life

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered round him; and he was by the lake.   22Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet 23and begged him repeatedly, ‘My little daughter is at the point of death.   Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.’   24So he went with him.

And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him.   25Now there was a woman who had been suffering from haemorrhages for twelve years.   26She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse.   27She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28for she said, ‘If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.’   29Immediately her haemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.   30Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched my clothes?’   31And his disciples said to him, ‘You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, “Who touched me?” ’   32He looked all round to see who had done it.   33But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth.   34He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.’

35 While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, ‘Your daughter is dead.   Why trouble the teacher any further?’   36But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, ‘Do not fear, only believe.’   37He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James.

 38When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly.   39When he had entered, he said to them, ‘Why do you make a commotion and weep?   The child is not dead but sleeping.’   40And they laughed at him.   Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was.   41He took her by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha cum’, which means, ‘Little girl, get up!’   42And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age).   At this they were overcome with amazement.   43He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

REFLECTION

Today we read about Jesus being called to the very ill daughter of Jairus, a leader of the synagogue.   He had heard of Jesus’ healing power and so pleaded with Him to see his daughter.

The girl died before Jesus could get there but as they continued to the house Jairus was told not to be afraid, only believe.   People laughed at Jesus when He told them that the girl wasn’t dead but asleep.   But He took the girl’s mother and father into the room and, taking the girl by the hand, told her: “Little girl, get up!”   Immediately, to the amasement of her parents, the girl stood up and began walking around the room.

We can see here, in this incident, the love Jairus had for his daughter and how he would do anything for her.   We see also the faith he had in Jesus and his belief and trust that Jesus would help him.

Another thing we learn is that with God, all things are possible.   Jairus’ daughter was dead – the situation was hopeless!   But Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid, only believe!”

When we have to face what seems to be a hopeless situation, we must remember how Jairus put his faith and trust in Jesus.   We must do likewise.

PRAYER

Heavenly Father,
as we remember today the dedication of Jairus to his daughter
and how he put his faith and trust in Jesus’ ability to help,
may we also have the same love towards others
and the faith to know that through Jesus all things are possible.
Amen.

SUNDAY 4th JULY 2021

THE FIFTH SUNDAY
AFTER TRINITY

GOSPEL READING FOR THE SUNDAY
Mark chapter 6, verses 1-13   (Proper 9)
Jesus rejected at Nazareth

Jesus left that place and came to his home town, and his disciples followed him.   2On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded.   They said, ‘Where did this man get all this?   What is this wisdom that has been given to him?   What deeds of power are being done by his hands!   3Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?’   And they took offence at him.   4Then Jesus said to them, ‘Prophets are not without honour, except in their home town, and among their own kin, and in their own house.’   5And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them.   6And he was amazed at their unbelief.

Then he went about among the villages teaching.   7He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits.   8He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; 9but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics.   10He said to them, ‘Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place.   11If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.’   12So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent.   13They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

REFLECTION

We were reading this morning about Jesus being rejected in His home town.

Jesus had just healed many people and even raised a young girl from the dead.   He then when to His home town, Nazareth.   On the Sabbath He went to the synagogue and began teaching.

Many who were there were amazed at what they heard.  They did not know that Jesus had so much wisdom and power.   But some of the people in the synagogue began to make fun of Him and were offended by His teachings.   They refused to believe in Him.

Jesus recognised the difficulty of people believing a ‘local boy’ and it transpired that He was unable to do any miracles among them except to place His hands upon a few people and heal them.   Jesus, we were told, was amazed at their unbelief.

Jesus told His disciples to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1:8).   But just as many people in Nazareth rejected Jesus, so also many would reject the preaching of His disciples.

If you and I tell others about Jesus we also must be prepared to face rejection.   It might be said of us, ‘Who do we think we are?   Surely we know them.’   Other people might find our testimony hard to belief.

Just as Jesus and His disciples had this reaction as they bore witness to their belief and faith, so we must not be surprised if this is also our experience.   Jesus never promised His followers an easy time but all who follow Him – including ourselves – are still told to go out and be His witnesses.

PRAYER

Father,
just as Jesus was rejected in his own home town,
so we realise that we may also be rejected
when we tell others about Jesus.
Help us to remain His faithful witnesses
and strengthen us to proclaim Jesus is Lord
even when it isn’t easy to do so.
We ask this in the name of Jesus and for your glory.
Amen.

SUNDAY 11th JULY 2021

THE SIXTH SUNDAY
AFTER TRINITY

GOSPEL READING FOR THE SUNDAY
Mark chapter 6, verses 14-29   (Proper 10)
The death of John the Baptist

King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known.  Some were saying, ‘John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him.’   15But others said, ‘It is Elijah.’   And others said, ‘It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.’   16But when Herod heard of it, he said, ‘John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.’

17 For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her.   18For John had been telling Herod, ‘It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.’   19And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him.   But she could not, 20for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him.   When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him.  21But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee.   22When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, ‘Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.’   23And he solemnly swore to her, ‘Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.’   24She went out and said to her mother, ‘What should I ask for?’   She replied, ‘The head of John the baptizer.’   25Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, ‘I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.’  26The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her.   27Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head.   He went and beheaded him in the prison, 28brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl.   Then the girl gave it to her mother.   29When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.

REFLECTION

Today, in the reading, we learn of the price paid by John the Baptist for faithfully following Jesus and proclaiming His coming.

Herodias wanted John dead and the opportunity arose when Herod had a grand birthday banquet with many invited guests.   Her daughter performed a sensual dance before Herod pleasing him so much that he swore to give the girl whatever she wanted.   Herodias prompted her to get John beheaded and to present his head to Herod on a silver plate.

John had been thrown into prison not long after he had identified Jesus as the Messiah because he had pointed out to Herod that he had no right to marry Herodias, the divorced wife of his brother Phillip.

Herod, despite appearances, was a weak man.   He had recognised John as a holy man and it was against his will that he had let Herodias compel him to arrest John.   Now he had been tricked into allowing her will to be done.

This passage highlights the hatred that is sometimes levelled towards those who follow and proclaim Christian values.   Though 2000 years have passed since Jesus lived among men, His teachings remain, much to the dismay of those who oppose Him.   Jesus himself taught the disciples that if the world hated Him, the disciples should expect nothing less.

Whatever we have to face in life and whatever situations we find ourselves in we are called, like John, to proclaim the message and teachings of Jesus.   We are called to proclaim that Jesus is Lord no matter the cost and whatever life may bring.

PRAYER

Father God,
as we remember today the death of John the Baptist
and give thanks for him and all who have been martyred for their faith,
help us to bravely proclaim the things that are right in your eyes
and to boldly live our lives to your praise and glory.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour.
Amen

SUNDAY 18th JULY 2021

THE SEVENTH SUNDAY
AFTER TRINITY

GOSPEL READING FOR THE SUNDAY
Mark chapter 6, verses 30-34, 53-56   (Proper 11)
A crowd follows Jesus

The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught.   31He said to them, ‘Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.’   For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.   32And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves.   33Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them.   34As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

53 When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat.   54When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, 55and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was.   56And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the market-places, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.

REFLECTION

We all need to get away and in our reading we hear of Jesus trying to get away from the crowds that followed Him.

Jesus felt the solution would be to go with His disciples to a deserted place by themselves.   So they set off on a boat but were spotted.   The crowd got ahead of them and again Jesus was asked to heal those who were sick.   The crowd clearly had a great yearning not only to see Jesus but to hear His teaching and for those who were sick to be healed.

Mark records that Jesus had compassion for the crowd because they were like sheep without a shepherd and so He began to teach them.

Today many people are longing to hear the teaching of Jesus, to know His presence and to feel the touch of His healing hand.   There are many who seek to get closer to Him, not only from those who are curious to know more about His life and teaching but also from those who claim to be His followers.   They want to know more about Him and experience the presence of the One who many call their Lord and Saviour.

There is an enthusiasm and a hunger that yearns to be satisfied and needs to be fulfilled in all of us.    The reading reminds us that like the  crowd in our reading we must make an effort if we are to draw closer to God and His ways.

The crowd just didn’t wait for ‘something to happen’.   They sought Jesus.   Their quest was first and foremost in their lives.   Their desire to find Him and to hear His teaching was the only thing that mattered to them.

The message of today’s reading is not only that we should learn to seek out Jesus but to know, as did that crowd, that He is always there to help us.

PRAYER

Loving Father,
you have taught us through your Son that you are always willing
to comfort, heal and support us in our times of need.
Help us to draw closer to you to hear your voice
and to know your presence in our lives.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. 
Amen

SUNDAY 25th JULY 2021

THE EIGHTH SUNDAY
AFTER TRINITY

GOSPEL READING FOR THE SUNDAY
John chapter 6, verses 1-21   (Proper 12)
Feeding the multitude

After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias.   2A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick.   3Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples.   4Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near.   5When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming towards him, Jesus said to Philip, ‘Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?’   6He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do.   7Philip answered him, ‘Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.’   8One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, 9‘There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish.   But what are they among so many people?’   10Jesus said, ‘Make the people sit down.’   Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all.   11Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted.   12When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, ‘Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.’   13So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets.   14When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, ‘This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.’ 

When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, 17got into a boat, and started across the lake to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them.   18The lake became rough because a strong wind was blowing.   19When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the lake and coming near the boat, and they were terrified.   20But he said to them, ‘It is I; do not be afraid.’   21Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land towards which they were going.

REFLECTION

Our Bible reading today tells us about a time when Jesus needed to feed a hungry crowd and all His disciples could find was a small boy’s lunch..    It is the story about when Jesus fed 5000 people.

Jesus had been teaching a large crowd of people who had become very hungry because they had brought no food with them.   Andrew found a small boy who had five small pieces of bread and two small fish, but that would seem to be insufficient to feed all of the people.   But taking what was available, Jesus gave thanks, blessed and passed the fish and bread around to the people.   It was to the astonishment of all that there was more than enough for everyone and there were even twelve baskets full of the leftovers!

There are some very important lessons we can learn from this story.   The first is from the little boy, who didn’t have very much – only five pieces of bread and two small fish – but who was willing to offer what he had to Jesus.   We may sometimes feel like that like him we have very little to offer.

The second lesson is that God can use the offering we make, no matter how little, for His glory.   It is from small beginnings that great things can come.   It took only twelve disciples to offer their lives and help spread the gospel for a world-wide church to be established.

So our reading is a challenge to consider what can we offer to God which Frances Havergal summed up when she wrote, in her well-known hymn, ‘Take my life, and let it be consecrated Lord, to thee.’

PRAYER

Heavenly Father,
we thank you for all of your blessings.
Help us not only to be generous in sharing with others
but to offer our life to you
so that you may take and bless all that we have
to enable great things TO happen in your name.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.
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.

HUNGER

READING FOR THE SEASON
John chapter 6, verses 1-21   (Proper 12)
A boy’s small lunch

MARTIN’S MESSAGE

Do you ever get hungry?   There are times when I really have to hunt for food and it sometimes feels as though the harder you try the less you get.   There are times when I really long for food.

There was a time when a lot of people were so keen on following Jesus and hearing every word He spoke that they completely forgot about food.   They hadn’t brought any with them and found themselves in a wild and desolate countryside where they had no means of getting anything to eat.

A young boy, however, anticipated his hunger and had brought some lunch with him.   He had packed five barley loaves and two small fishes.   He was ok, or so he thought, until Andrew came up to him and took his lunch to Jesus.   ‘No way,’ he thought, ‘would that feed a crowd of five thousand!’   Yet it did!   In fact the fragments that remained filled no less than twelve baskets!

That was a miracle to defy explanation but it had the effect of making those who witnessed it realise how powerful and special was Jesus.

Thinking about it that miracle was only possible though the offering of a small boy’s loaves and fishes.   In fact we can see, in most of the miracles Jesus performed, that people had to offer something to Him in order for Jesus to do God’s work.

Which makes me think … what can I offer that He might use?   If I had been that young boy would I have kept my lunch for myself or would I have given whatever little I had to Jesus so that through my offering something great and marvellous might happen?

‘Take my life,’ wrote Frances Havergal in a hymn, ‘and let it be, consecrated, Lord, to thee’.   So, Lord, take me and use me to Your praise and glory now and always.

PRAYER

Heavenly Father
as we remember how Jesus used a small boy’s lunch
to perform a miracle that fed thousands of people,
help us to realise how Jesus can use whatever little we have to offer
and do great things to your praise and glory.
Amen

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