This material was first published by Redemptorist Publications
and is included here with their permission.
“Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” (Matthew 14.27b)
Sarah has a lot to cope with. Her children are on holiday at the moment. Fortunately she works only in term times but she also has to spend time visiting and shopping for her elderly father who is becoming less and less able to care for himself. Her mother-in-law is in a similar situation and her husband needs to spend time looking after her finances and getting various household chores done. And so it goes on and Sarah is just about at the limit of what she can do.
Then suddenly it all gets worse: the children catch nasty colds, her father has a fall and is admitted to hospital, her mother-in-law has raging toothache and needs to be taken to a dentist, her husband is involved in a road traffic accident. Fortunately no-one is injured but the car is a write-off. The stress triggers one of Sarah’s migraines.
It feels to Sarah as if life has got out of control. She feels like she’s out on the sea in a small boat with giant waves throwing her about so that she’s afraid of falling overboard and drowning.
Jesus’ disciples know exactly what that feels like. Their boat is being battered by wind and waves and they’re making no headway towards land. They’ve been in a storm on the lake before (Matthew 8.23-27) when they feared for their lives. That time Jesus was with them in the boat. He was sleeping but when they woke him up he commanded the wind and the sea to be calm and they obeyed him.
This time, they’re on their own but then early in the morning, while it’s still dark, they think they see Jesus coming towards them except that he can’t be because that would mean he’s walking on the water. They’re terrified, not so much by the weather conditions this time but by the sight of what they believe must be a ghost.
Then they hear a familiar voice saying calmly “take heart, it is I; do not be afraid”. The wind is every bit as strong and the waves still threaten to turn them over but somehow that voice saying those words makes all the difference.
Peter, as always, wants to take things a step further. He wants to walk on the water himself to get to Jesus. He steps forward and does indeed make progress until he realises that the wind and the waves are still a very real danger and allows that fear to overwhelm the faith he had shown in Jesus.
The storm continues until Jesus and Peter are in the boat with the others when the wind ceases, calm is restored and the disciples are left in no doubt that Jesus is indeed the Son of God.
Sarah feels that her life is out of control and the stress is making her ill. She feels as if she is drowning and something inside cries out “Lord, save me!”
During the next week none of the problems go away and life is still chaotic and difficult but Sarah no longer feels so alone or frightened by what’s happening to her. Friends rally round and those with children offer to take care of Sarah’s son and daughter as well. Her father agrees to go into a residential home while he recovers from the fall so Sarah knows he is safe and is being well looked after. A neighbour brings round large pots of soup that can be frozen and takes away with her a pile of laundry to be ironed!
Maybe all of us at some time or another feel, like Sarah, that our lives have got out of control and are unmanageable. In all the chaos and busy-ness we don’t have an opportunity to do more than cry out in distress “Lord, save me”. We may also not see at the time that Jesus immediately reaches out to catch us just as he caught Peter and returned him to safety.
Jesus will reach out to catch us through the presence of friends offering love and support, practical help and a reassurance that we can get through this storm.
He will also, if we let him, use us to reach out to others who have cried out to him in distress.
Whether we speak them or hear them, the words “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid” can make all the difference when someone cries out “Lord, save me”.
- The disciples are caught in a storm as they sail across the lake and Jesus is not with them in the boat. When they see Jesus coming towards them they are afraid because they think he must be a ghost.
- Jesus does not immediately calm the storm but reaches out to save Peter from drowning and they both rejoin the others in the boat. It is now that the storm is calmed.
- Sometimes we go through a stormy period in our lives when we are battered by wind and waves and in danger of being overwhelmed. Like Peter we cry out “Lord, save me”.
- Jesus does reach out to save us, often through the words and actions of friends who are sensitive to our situations and needs. We are called also to reach out to others who are in fear of drowning.
As we come before God in prayer this morning, let’s offer to him in faith and thanksgiving the week just passed. Let’s pray together now and offer ourselves once more to God and to each other.
If we’ve been through troubled and stormy times this week we offer prayers for God’s calming voice to still the storms and bring relief from fear and anxiety. If we’ve been at peace this week, aware of the presence of God and encouraged in our journey we give thanks to God for these blessings.
We thank God for every nation at peace and for every community where people are working together for the common good. We pray for every nation in conflict within itself or with neighbours and for all those who face natural and man-made disasters.
We pray for our own communities that we may be aware of the needs of others and ready to offer ourselves in the service of all who are afraid or overwhelmed by their difficulties.
We pray for all those who are suffering in body, mind and soul, that God may come alongside them bringing courage and hope in their darkness.
We offer these prayers to you, Lord, trusting in your compassion and mercy. We ask that you will use them, and us, to bring this world ever nearer to being your kingdom where your will is done and where your power and glory is known and praised for ever and ever.