Wednesday, October 3, 2012

walking on water

May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

first of all, thanks to your Chaplain for the invitation to speak to you today, & to the Monsignor for making me welcome … it's great to have such a big crowd of people here today … to see such a large church so full … so I thought we might begin by letting ourselves and the Lord know just how full this building is … did you ever see in movies when they're in a church in the American South and the preacher says: can I have an Amen? Perhaps we could do that now & see just what a joyful noise we can make: can I have an Amen? Oh, please! The first years on their own should be able to do better than that! Again: can I have an Amen? Better … but still room for improvement! So deep breath … let it out … another deep breath … let it out … slowly now! One last deep breath … deeper … ready? Can I get an Amen?

What are you trying to do? Deafen me? Seriously, well done … during the course of the next few minutes I might ask you all to try that again … we'll see who's paying attention!

Now, our Gospel reading put me in mind of a story I once heard. It wasn't long after the Ascension; Peter, his brother Andrew, and a couple of the other disciples were out fishing one day … the fish weren't jumping so they got to talking … and as they had before, they got to talking about which of them was better than the other …
'You all know I'm the man,' said St Peter. 
'yeah right,' said one of the others. 'You had so much faith that when our Lord asked you to walk on water with him you nearly drowned … if he hadn't taken your hand, you would have!' 
'True,' said St Peter. 'But that was then. I'm much better at it now. Just watch me.' And he got out of the boat and started walking on the water. The other disciples gasped in amazement. His brother Andrew just rolled his eyes and told him to stop showing off! 
'Now,' said St Peter to the one who had challenged him. 'Let's see how strong your faith is. Out of the boat and walk … if you can.' 
'well, my faith is at least as strong as yours … so if you can, I can.' So out of the boat he stepped … and sank like a stone! Peter of course rolled around laughing. And while the other disciple was pulling the poor fellow out, Andrew leaned over to his brother and whispered: 
'Sometimes I wonder about you … do you not think you should have told him about the stepping stones?' 

Can I get an Amen? Just checking!

Now that wasn't a true story of course! But it seemed apt given the miracle we heard about in our Gospel reading … Now miracle stories in the Gospels are, as you know, about showing Jesus' power and authority. But they have also been called parables in action … and parables are stories designed to teach us something … so what can we learn from our Gospel reading today?

Well I thought we try a little experiment to see if we can tease the meaning out of it. Could I have some volunteers … maybe two boys and two girls from the first years? Now to make this more realistic, I would have liked to flood the church, but the Monsignor wouldn't let me … so you'll just have to pretend that the floor is covered in water … deep, deep water … now, without getting wet, I'd like you to walk from the chancel steps down to the back of the church … girls are always much better than boys, so ladies first? No?
Too hard? Well how about getting from the step to the middle of the aisle there … it's only about 20 feet … can one of you jump … no, you can't get behind the altar and take a run at it from there! The step there is your boat and you're stuck there!

Hmm … not working out too well, is it? Maybe we need some help … Maybe they need some encouragement? How about if we all gave them a great big Amen? Can I get an Amen? Again! Again!

Still not working! Let's think about this … you're being the disciples in this experiment … how did St Peter manage to stay out of the water? Jesus took him by the hand … well, obviously we don't have him here today, but maybe we could get someone else to be his angels? Could I have 8 big strong sixth years up here please? No one with bad backs or dodgy knees now! Look at those fine angels! Could I get an Amen for the Angels? Excellent! Now big strong angels, if you put your arms together & carry these poor disciples over the water and put them back in their pews … carefully now … I'm not sure the Monsignor's insurance will cover it if you drop someone! Well done … didn't they do well? Can I get an Amen for that?

And the point of our experiment is much the same as the one the little story I told earlier makes and the one that our Gospel reading makes … sometimes we can't do it on our own … sometimes we need a little help … and that help is available … and what our Gospel reading is telling us is that when we need that help, it is there … all we have to do is reach out our hands and Jesus will take it and help us … whether we just need help to get through the day … or help to do something extraordinary with our lives … can I get an Amen?

And if I may finish with a prayer: Lord, I pray that all here will find the strength, the faith, & the courage to reach out their hands to you when ever they need it, & know that you are always there for them … this I pray in the name of the Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

Oh, go on … give me another Amen! 

Sermon notes for 3 October 2012 (Community School Ecumenical Service) 


  1. :) Amen.

    Definitely, Amen.

    I really hope you had those 6th graders come over to help. What a sight! A brilliant illustration of that point (and considering the feast of Guardian Angels, very fitting).


  2. Thanks Gina ... I'm slightly vague on the differing terminology for US & Irish schools - I was using 6th class students, who would have been between 17 and 18 years approx. Would that be older than 6th graders?

    Oh, & yes it went pretty much according to plan ... they took some encouragement to come up, but I am nothing if not persistent! Some of them said it was the best service they'd ever gone to & that they'd loved the 'Amens'! I only pray that they took the message in & it wasn't just an entertainment to them ...

  3. Oh wow - DEFINITELY a lot older, then. Ha ha.

    My apologies. I was thinking in US terms. First graders being about 6 or 7, sixth graders being about 12ish.

    But knowing they were older... I have to admit that I'm more impressed that you got such feedback and participation. YAY! That's great!