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Sermon Matthew 14 – The Black Night

August 20, 2020

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We are living in troubled and unquiet times.

The Night around us seem black as a raven’s wing.

There is an Environmental crisis, The Exit from Europe, an Economic slump,
& this great pandemic..

The boats we cling to offer no sure security

Any moment, it seems, a great sea wave,
some sudden further cataclysm,
may destroy them and overwhelm us.

This storm season is not going to pass soon.
Indeed the next wave looks to be on the horizon.
So we ought to ask ourselves-
how does the Christian fare in that inky darkness?
How do we get ready?
How do we prepare to navigate across that risky way?

If we look up- we can perhaps learn from that other inky darkness… of space….

Did you know, there are multitudes of stars,
with which we are now familiar,
but which have never been seen with the human eye.

They are mapped and charted in their definite locations
but no mariner has ever beheld them.

The only way they are discovered- still- is by patient attention.

The very wide field cameras on Hubble and other space telescopes
keep their steady focus on one fixed point for minutes, even hours.

And gradually through the dark of space
the great eye of the telescope that has gazed into the infinite,
filters its secrets down for us to understand.

Friends -the religious life operates in just the same way.
The great moments of vision have always come in the quiet hours
And because of steady, sustained, attention.

For those wanting to ride these waves, without sinking altogether,
That is what is called for…

Jacob was alone in Bethel when he dreamed of the ladder.

Moses was alone in the wilderness when the bush began to burn.

The Psalmist spoke of solitude when he said: Be still and know that I am God

Religion- one theologian has put it- is what one does with one’s solitude.

Or to put it the other way around
without sustained prayerful attention on the Divine
there can be no great, deep, spiritual life and no way through the storm.

It seems to me that the impact Jesus made upon history
Can be measured by the heights he rose above it.

Remember the Gospel?
“Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds.
And after he had dismissed the crowds,
he went up the mountain by himself to pray.
When evening came, (AND THE STORM WITH IT)
he was there alone”

Jesus’ effect on the squall is equal to his experience of the prior stillness
Friends- the good news for us- as we face our own multiple storms is this:

that the limits of our own faith, and of our vision,
and of our capacity to ride the waves
are exactly the same as his.

They are not set by our circumstances
They are not expanded by our exertions.

The limits of our faith are only affected
by our capacity to appropriate the power of God.

And that, only by our willingness to attend to, what Wordsworth called
“that inward eye, which is the bliss of solitude”

To put it another way- and very simply-
The only thing stopping us knowing the power of such a faith
As the disciples witnessed in their dark night on that lake
are the pains we are willing to take in pursuit of it.

God knows the world needs people of deep faith.
And to navigate the treacherous waters round about us
(and the next wave whatever that is and whenever it comes)

God knows – we need such FAITH ourselves…

So let us determine to pursue to together.

Let us decide again this morning- in some significant way – every day-
That we will make a time, and have a place
and to try to let God speak to us.

Lets commit again NOW to shut out the world & be shut in with God…each day

So that our littleness may be taken up into God’s largeness,
and that all our scattered purposes
may be brought into a focus in our consciousness of Him
(whom even the wind and waves obey), who says to you and me: