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10th August 2014 - Sunday Morning - Revd. Preb Maureen Hobbs

Sermon for Proper 14 - Trinity 8
1 Kings 19. 9-8
Matthew 14. 22-23

A friend of mine has a framed copy of a poem from somewhere in one of her cloakrooms.... I've said "yes", once too often!
And I am sure we can all recognise that feeling.... The feeling that we have, this time, bitten off a bit too much to chew? That our good intentions have outstripped our abilities? In short, that we are sinking?

It isn't a pleasant feeling is it? Although it may be a useful, if painful lesson to learn. Sometimes we need to think things through - or maybe sometimes we just need to have more faith and ASK for help for goodness sake! Rarely if ever does someone think the less of us if we admit that something is a bit beyond our own abilities and we ask for advice, or help, or assistance...

Ah but there is that old friend pride that gets in the way sometimes, isn't there? Having said we'll do something or decided on a certain course of action, we don't like to admit that we may need a bit of help, do we? And so far too often, we flounder on, getting more and more stuck or making an even bigger mess of something until finally someone takes pity on us, or we do eventually admit we need help, and it all gets sorted out!

Like most of you I have seen the reports of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa with mounting horror and pity. But what is becoming very obvious is that no one nation there is going to solve this problem on their own. It is beyond the resources of any one state - but there is a real chance that if the medical experts of the world get together; and if the richer nations of the world make finance available, this is a problem that humanity can overcome.... but only if we work together.

And the equally tragic news coming from the Middle East - whether in Gaza or Iraq. I don't get the feeling that any one power can possibly resolve these political problems ... if there is to be any resolution, it will only come when the world begins to act as a community and work together for peace and justice.

No-one individual will be able to claim the credit - there are no miracle solutions this time.... but the combined effect of people praying and standing together should not be underestimated. But we still keep hoping for a Saviour to come - unaware that he is already beside us.

(You have to feel a bit sorry for poor old Elijah in our first reading this morning, don't you? After all, when you have been a tremendous success at something - won a gold medal or the equivalent - it is a bit of a come-down to realise that you have to go back to square one and keep on training if you expect to repeat such a victory? Elijah had seen so many miracles, miracles of food, of healing; miracles of fire, of supernatural strength - and for what? There he was marooned in the desert up a mountain, no clear way ahead, everyone baying for his blood and not a sign of repentance from anyone from the king down. It seems that miracles, (which you would think would kind of be God's trump card, wouldn't you?) count for nothing in the end.

God asks him - asks us - "What are you doing here?"... He doesn't really need us to tell him the series of events that have brought us to this point in time and space (he already knows that of course!) God wants us to tell him what we think we are doing - what are we achieving - what good news are we bringing - to his people all around us?)

It is never enough to rest on our laurels - to congratulate ourselves on a job well done, and think that's it! We can sit back now and wait for the applause (!?)

That is not God's way at all! For nothing that we think we may have achieved can be won without God's constant help and guidance. And so very often we hear a quiet voice telling us to retrace our steps, go back the way we have come, get stuck into our training routines once more and wait for the next opportunity to listen for God's voice calling us and expecting us to take on the next challenge.

When God says "Come!" it is both an invitation and a command. Frequently we are expected to step into the deep water - attempt something that would ordinarily be far beyond our strength and ability - yet with God's gently insistent command, we find that it is not impossible after all.

This past week we have been running holiday club here in Pattingham. I say 'We' - using the royal prerogative you understand!
In fact I had very little to do with it - other than be there for a few hours and say a few prayers....

What was impressive was that people - several of them - who do not as a general rule take on such responsibility - for over 20 of other people's children for goodness sake! Stepped up to the mark (or possibly stepped out of the boat) - kept their gaze fixed on Jesus - and did the impossible....

God says to us - each of us in a different way and at different times,
If I call you to walk on water, come!
If not, stay in the boat
And I will help you to catch fish, and people;
I will help you to mend nets, and quarrels;
I will help you to weather storms and pour oil on troubled waters
(and our world has so many storms and troubles that need pacifying just now!)
I will smile at you from the eyes of children,
Reprove you in the words of the wise;
I will teach you to love the unlovely
And swim against the tide of indifference;
I will have no need of miracles to keep you busy,
Or amaze you
Or to achieve all that needs to be done....

For life will never be an anticlimax
But is a miracle in itself!