Sharing Our Faith Together

Morning Worship for Sunday 20 June 2021

by Anna Forey 20 June 2021

Call to worship

Jesus on the boat in the storm said: ‘Peace! Be still!’…and there was a great calm.
We come to God, just as we are.
Sometimes at ease.
Sometimes confused by life’s storms.
Let us trust God with our big questions, and listen for God’s still small word to restore us to a sense of peace.

A prayer of adoration

Eternal God,
we praise and adore you for all that you are:
for being bigger than even our biggest questions;
for caring more than we can fully comprehend.
We praise and adore you
for your strength and your silence;
for your power and your peace.
We praise and adore you
for being in control and yet not controlling;
for being in the storms and beyond them.
We praise and adore you,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
we praise you for ever. Amen

The Lord’s Prayer

Hymn: As the deer pants for the water

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For the past 15 months or so nature has become a very important part of many people’s lives; walking in the park or countryside, listening to birdsong, gardening even just buying a pot plant or two and trying to keep them alive.

Often in our prayers of thanksgiving we thank God for the wonder and beauty of his creation.

Whenever I hear this, the biologist in me shouts “But Coronavirus is part of creation!”

So did God create the virus?


If so why?


If not God then who?


If God did not create it why does he not stop it?


Lots and lots of questions and no easy answers.


The Bible says that illness or misfortune is a punishment for sin, Jesus even healed some people with the words “Your sins are forgiven.

In medieval times during the plagues many believed that this was punishment for the world’s evil. I’m sure there are a few who still believe that today.

There is one book in the Bible that tries to answer some of these questions, the Book of Job. The fact that such a book was written several hundred years before Christ shows that people have been struggling with such questions for thousands of years, perhaps as soon as men started to believe in one God they also started asking why did this one God allow his people to suffer.

Job was a righteous, God fearing man, we might say a pillar of the community, but then his life is turned upside down, he loses his wife and family, his livelihood and is struck down but a terrible skin disease , his body covered in sores and boils. We find him dressed in sackcloth sitting in the ash heap outside the town.

His friends come to comfort him, presumably wearing face masks and keeping 2 metres away.

They continually ask what sins he has committed and tell him to repent and ask God’s forgiveness.

Job insists he has never sinned and refuses to confess to something he has not done, even if it will end his suffering.

Job wants, demands even, answers from God. he keeps calling on God, shouting at God, but God remains silent.

Eventually God speaks to him, but does not answer his questions, he asks some of his own.

Our Old Testament lesson this morning is from Job 38.1-11

Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said:

 ‘Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge?
Brace yourself like a man, I will question you and you shall answer me.
‘Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
    Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
    Who stretched a measuring line across it?

 On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone – while the morning stars sang together and all the angels  shouted for joy?
 ‘Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb,  when I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness, when I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place, when I said, “This far you may come and no farther;
    here is where your proud waves halt”?

God continues in a similar vein describing all of his creation even great fearful mythical beasts and his power over all his creation.

Eventually Job replies to God
‘I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. You asked,

“Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?”
    Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.

 ‘You said, “Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.” My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes

Job realises just how ignorant he is of God’s power and plan, how little he really knows about God’s creation, and he repents.

The story has a happy ending “the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before”

The New Testament lesson is Mark 4:35-41

 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.”  Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

I suppose many would describe a storm, like a pandemic, as an “Act of God”

Storms were common on Lake Galilee due to the geographical features of the surrounding hills. 

The disciples would have encountered storms before, perhaps this one was especially fierce, perhaps because they had Jesus with them they thought they ought to be safe.

But the boat is filling up with water and Jesus is sleeping

Jesus is their teacher, their master, they have entrusted him with their lives, left their homes and families and livelihoods to follow him and now when they really need him he is asleep. They think they are about to die and Jesus does not care.

They wake him up, but notice, they don’t ask him to grab a bowl and start baleing, they don’t ask him to calm the storm. they ask

“Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

“Don’t you care?” a question most people have asked God at sometime in their life, perhaps you even feel like asking it of him now.

At the beginning of the first lockdown it was said that more people tuned in to various religious services than ever normally attended church.

I don’t know how many continued, how many found comfort or answers, how many found faith

But I am sure that many will have lost their faith or dismissed religion completely because they might say “I cannot believe in a God who allows so much suffering. If there were a God he would have stopped this”   

When they wake him Jesus does not react with something like “Gosh what a terrible storm, you should have woken me earlier” Instead he says “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

The disciples expect Jesus to take away the storm, perhaps they feel that if Jesus is with them this should not be happening, after all they have given up to follow him at least he could keep them safe.

Some people believe that this is what faith is all about, if your belief is strong enough God will protect you from all harm, of course experience tells us that that is not how it works. Christians suffer the trials and tribulations of life just as much as everyone else. Christian faith is not like a Covid injection it does not offer immunity from life’s storms.

Jesus never said that life with him would be easy, just the opposite, but he did promise that he would always be with us.That he would always stand alongside us.

In his distress Job called on God, he did not want to be cured so much as he wanted to be heard, he wanted to know that God had not abandoned him, that God was listening

All of us at some point in our spiritual journey will have difficult questions to ask of God. There will be shouts, protests, denial perhaps we even lose the ability to pray, what is the point of prayer if no one is listening? 

We may know that God can’t rescue us. But what we ask is for assurance that God cares for us in our troubles, that God has heard us!

Knowing we have been heard can make all the difference.
It gives us strength to face the challenges ahead
It  helps us know the really important things in life, 
It can bring us to a new and deeper appreciation of God’s love for us                              

It reminds us of Jesus’ own suffering and death, and a knowledge that he understands what we are going through.

So instead of asking God why he allows such pain and suffering to exist in his world, we should be asking him for assurance that he will be with us through all the storms of life. and if at first God does not answer do what Job did and keep shouting until he does.

Hymn: Faithful one so unchanging

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A prayer of confession
God of our questions and our struggles, when we too quickly mistake silence for indifference: forgive and help us.
When the voice of our own needs silences the voices of others: forgive and help us.
When we abandon others in their storm and watch safely from the shore: forgive and help us.
When we lose faith because things get tough: forgive and help us.
In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Assurance of forgiveness
Lord Jesus,
you do not let us sink when our faith is going under.
You do not let our boats overturn when the seas of our life get rough.
You do not let our questions swamp us or our failures destroy us.
Rather, you forgive us, you save us,
you encourage, challenge and calm us –
and for this we are thankful. Amen.

Prayers of intercession
The response after each bidding is:
Lord, hear our prayer.

We open our hearts to the needs of the world and cry with the tears of the sorrowful.
We mourn with the grieving souls of the world and feel their loss and share their pain.
We share our love with the lonely and loveless and feel the pulse of their life.
We offer our touch to the untouchable folk who are shunned by a passing throng.
We catch the whisper of the unspoken truths that burden the lives of so many.
We decipher the cries of a traumatised world for whom peace is an impossible dream.
Hear our prayers, Lord, and let us be the servants you would have us be. 

Hymn: All I once held dear

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