Walking on Water

Matthew 14.22-33


You may have heard the story about a man who gets too close to the edge of a cliff, loses his balance, and falls over the edge.

Just before falling to the rocks below, he grabs onto a root sticking out from the edge.

“Help, help!” he calls, “Is there anyone up there? Help me! Save me! Is there anyone up here?”

A voice answers,

“I am the Lord. I can save you. Do you believe in me? Do you really want me to help you?”

“O yes, Lord”, cries the man, “I believe in you. Please help me”.

“OK”, the Lord says, “I’ll save you. Now, let go”.

“What?” shouts the man, as the tree root begins to give way.

“Just let go of that root you’re holding on to, and I’ll save you”, says the Lord.

“You have to trust me”.

The man pauses for a moment, and then shouts out, “Is there anyone else up there?”.

Faith in times of Difficulty

All of this leads to the question: Where does our faith fit in during the difficult times?

Some claim that if you have faith life will be smooth sailing.

Some also claim that if you have faith God will cure all your ills and guard you from every danger.

However, that’s not been my experience, or the experience of anyone I know, and thankfully our gospel reading today challenges such claims.

Just before the story we’ve heard today Jesus has been having a very long day.

He’s heard about the death of his cousin, John the Baptist, and tried to get away on his own, only to be sought out by crowds of people and ending up feeding more than 5000 of them on only two fish and five loaves of bread.

If you remember, the crowds had gathered, and the disciples wanted to send them away to get food as it was getting late.

But Jesus told them to feed the people themselves.

The disciples are shocked, saying, “We haven’t got enough food! We can’t possibly do it!”.

But Jesus takes the little that is available and provides enough food to leave 12 baskets of leftovers.

I wonder what the disciples made of that.

They were right in the middle of it, after all.

Maybe some in the crowd didn’t see what had happened, but they did.

However, the disciples were rather slow learners, as we see often in the gospels.

After the feeding of the 5000 Jesus finally gets a chance to be on his own, sending both the disciples and the crowds away.

I expect the disciples thought he’d get on another boat to join them or just walk round the lake, which is actually the Sea of Galilee, and catch up.

So, they did exactly what Jesus had told them to do and went out onto the lake to sail over to the other side.

However, despite doing exactly what they’d been told to do they found themselves in the middle of a big storm.

So, do faith and obedience always mean smooth sailing in life?

Apparently not!

Sometimes we follow Jesus and find ourselves in a storm.

Sometimes we’re battered by circumstances beyond our control, far from the safety of land, with the wind and seemingly everything else against us.

We all get our turn in this particular boat, usually when we least expect it.

None of us gets through this life completely un-battered and unscathed.

Returning to our gospel, though, early in the morning, Jesus comes out to join the disciples, walking on the water.

Interestingly, it’s only at this point that the disciples are described as being terrified.

They were familiar with the lake and knew all about the storms that to this day suddenly sweep down out of nowhere there.

I’m sure they were worried about being in a small boat in a big storm, but it was the sight of someone walking across the lake that really scared them.

Were the waves and wind hiding his identity?

Or was it just the sheer impossibility of what was happening – a person walking on water – that was making it impossible for them to know who it was?

But then Jesus called out to them, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid”.

In other words, “It’s me. You know me. I’m not here to frighten you. You can trust me”.

Then Peter, in classic form, blurts out that he wants Jesus to command him to come out onto the water as well.

I don’t know why Peter said this, perhaps he wanted proof, and maybe he regretted it as soon as he’d said it.

Jesus then simply says, “Come”.

It would be like letting go of that tree root you’re hanging onto for dear life, and Peter is probably ready to call out, “Uh, is there anyone else up there?”.

But he’s committed himself now, so he cautiously gets out of the boat, and there he is, walking on the water, just like Jesus!

But then something happens as Peter realises where he is and the impossibility of what he’s doing.

Often, we see in cartoons a moment when a character runs off a cliff and stays suspended in mid-air until he realises what a stupid thing he just did and plunges down to the ground.

Well, here is Peter, on the water, taking his eyes off Jesus, realising what he’s just done, and beginning to sink.

The name “Peter” means rock, but now, instead of being a rock of faith, he’s just sinking like a rock.

Panicking, he cries out, “Lord, save me!”.

We’ve all been there.

It’s the cry of every person faced with situations beyond our strength, beyond our ability, and beyond our control.

When all seems lost, we cry out, “Lord, save me!”.

And Jesus’s reaction is immediate.

He reaches out, catches Peter, gets him back into the boat, and the storm calms, to the amazement of the disciples, who’d apparently not realised, even after seeing the feeding of the 5000, that Jesus has power over all things.

Life is full of adventures and encounters and accidents and experiences that remind us, over and over again, that we are not as much in control of life as we’d like to be.

A car accident, a disease, or a relationship that breaks down might throw us off.

We might feel helpless in the face of war, wildfires, and disease.

Things can and do go wrong for all of us, and we’re not always able to stop or fix them.

Some of them are just too big for one person, some are too messy to fix, and some are just beyond our abilities to control or prevent.

And even when we’re certain that we’re doing God’s will, we can’t be sure that everything will go according to our plans.

We’re never guaranteed success in our endeavours, even those done for God.

And we don’t get a pass from heartache or disappointment.

But what we can be certain of is that, if we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, then we will find faith and courage to do things we never thought we could, even when storms are raging all around us.

We can know that even those things we can’t control, or fix are not beyond God, even if sometimes we wish he’d act faster or more decisively.

Sometimes we will take our eyes off Jesus and get overwhelmed by what’s happening around us, because we’re only human.

Sometimes we will find ourselves crying out, “Lord, save me!”.

But it’s then that he reaches out to catch us.

And it’s then that he says, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid”.




The Parable of the Sower

Matthew 13.24-30, 36-43

“Listen!” says Jesus, “a sower went out to sow”.

It’s such a familiar parable, isn’t it?

How many sermons have we heard about the different sorts of ground that the seeds land on and what happens to them.

And maybe some of us wonder what sort of ground we are and whether we’re up to scratch when it comes to producing a good harvest.

But this isn’t the parable of the seeds or the parable of the soils.

Rather, Jesus calls it the parable of the sower, and that suggests this is where our focus needs to be.

So, what can we learn about the sower?

Well, first of all, he’s not a good farmer.

No self-respecting farmer would just fling seeds about all over the place with no preparation or thought for where they might end up.

Good farmers prepare the ground first and carefully sow their seeds in the best possible way and in the best possible places to ensure a good harvest with minimal waste and cost.

They wouldn’t dream of chucking seeds about in unlikely places on the off-chance that something might grow.

Such incompetence and wastefulness on the part of the sower probably made the farmers in Jesus’s audience laugh.

This is obviously not a story about farming methods, though.

Instead, like all parables, it’s trying to tell us something about God and his kingdom by giving us a new perspective.

It’s not meant to be a human view of things, but a God view of things.

And it’s not always easy to understand the God view of things.

When Jesus tells us “Let anyone with ears listen” he’s recognising this, telling us that what he’s saying is something we’re going to have to think about because its meaning isn’t obvious.

What I see in this parable is someone who is recklessly extravagant.

The sower doesn’t care if what he’s doing is efficient or likely to lead to good results.

He just wants to get as much seed out there as possible.

God’s concern is not with cutting costs, being efficient, or concentrating resources in the places that will give the best returns.

Rather, he’s interested in offering the possibility of hope and new life to all, regardless of cost or the likelihood of a good response.

So, he showers his grace and love in the most unlikely of places in the hope of seeing some growth.

God’s generous nature is on show in this parable, and while it might seem reckless, inefficient, or wasteful to us, it seems to be how he works.

Take the wedding at Cana, for example.

The guests had run out of wine.

This was indeed a social disaster for the bride and groom, but really everyone was too drunk to care what they consumed at that point.

But, instead of calculating how much people had already drunk, and assessing whether they really needed good quality alcohol, Jesus provided gallons of the best wine out of sheer generosity.

And the feeding of the 5,000.

Jesus didn’t carefully ration out the food so that everyone had their daily recommended amount of bread and fish.

Rather, he provided so much that many baskets could be filled with the leftovers.

Throughout Jesus’s ministry we see him offering the words of God to everyone, not just those who are best prepared and ready to receive it.

We see him loving, healing, and teaching to all, even helping ten lepers when only one would come back to thank him.

Jesus doesn’t make people sit tests or prove themselves ready to receive what he has to offer.
He doesn’t ask them to recite creeds or prove they know the ten commandments.

Instead, he throws out his gifts of grace, forgiveness, and acceptance recklessly in the hope that some will accept them.

We can turn to nature for more examples of God’s character, as well.

Plants produce millions more seeds than they need, so that the world can be filled with colour and life.

Birds and animals exist in an amazing array of types, colours, and sizes, from the tiniest insects to the huge blue whale.

The universe contains billions upon billions of stars and planets.

And every human being is unique and special.

Is all this necessary or efficient?

Probably not, but it makes life richer and more fulfilling.

Of course, there are different ways to respond to God’s offer of grace and new life.

Some just sneer and turn away.

Some are enthusiastic at first but quickly find it all too hard and give up.

Others are sincere and dedicated but then other things get in the way, and they are lost in a maze of worries and other concerns.

And then there are those who receive faith, deepen it, and do good things for God and neighbour.

I don’t say this to be judgemental.

If truth be told we’re probably all different sorts of ground at different stages in our faith journey.

There may be times when the claims and demands of faith seem ridiculous to us.

There may be times when seeds of a deepening faith are snatched away from us when we’re not paying attention to them.

Or when a mountain top experience like a particularly uplifting service or reflective quiet day is followed by a return to earth with a thump – to our ordinary everyday lives with their stresses and strains and challenges to our faith.

Or when we get caught up in what Jesus calls the cares of this world which can choke, stifle, or drain the life energy from our hearts and souls.

But then there are the times when we do gain new insights, learn more about our faith and ourselves.

And there are times when we do continue to change and grow so that we are always coming closer to being the people God means us to be.

I also believe that our loving and merciful God knows and understands the difference between seeds that can’t grow because of the conditions they find themselves in and seeds that refuse to grow, and that he responds with grace, mercy, and justice.

So, if we follow a ridiculously generous God who wants as many people as possible to come to him, and will go anywhere to try to draw others in, what does this mean for us?

Well, for one thing it means that we are, in the words of Mother Theresa, called to be faithful, not successful.

Just as the sower threw his seeds all over the place without knowing the outcome, and while understanding that some wouldn’t grow, we too are called to offer our gifts generously to the world regardless of the results.

Such an approach challenges us to live without judging others, without wondering whether someone deserves our help, without knowing whether our efforts are likely to work, and without knowing what the fruits of our labours will be.

And it challenges us also to go out and find those who need that sort of love and acceptance from us and offer it freely and without conditions.

This isn’t an easy path at times, but we can rely on God’s help and strengthening along the way.

And we can take heart from the fact that with every effort we make and every seed we plant we are taking part in the glorious and joyful generosity and love of our God, who gives without counting the cost and rejoices over every sprouting seed.


New Book: Thoughts Through the Year

Front and back covers of this book


It’s been a while, but here is a new post!

You may have seen my “Thought for the Day” posts on this site.

Now all these, and more, by both me and my vicar, Annette Reed, are available in handy book form!

Click here to find out more about this book  – perfect for Advent reading, Christmas gifts, and more!

Also, let me know if you’d like to see more posts – not all advertising books.

Take care



A Thought for the Day for Black Cat Radio – May 2022


We’ve recently started a wildflower area in our garden at home. I hesitate to call it a meadow because to me that suggests a much bigger area than we’ve got. The ground is cleared of rubbish, raked over, and sown with seeds, which are already beginning to sprout. We’ve been watering as well, although the recent downpours of rain have also helped with that.

Audrey Hepburn is supposed to have said that “To plant a garden is to hope for tomorrow”. I don’t know if she really did, because internet quotes aren’t always reliable, but it’s a lovely thought, nonetheless. I think it’s important to remember that idea of hope. There’s a lot of bad stuff going on in the world, including the truly horrific school shooting this week in America, and hope doesn’t pretend it’s not there. What hope does do is believe that things will one day get better. Whether you believe in God working in the world to put things right, or in the power of human beings to work together for good, or some combination of those, hope is an important part of being a human being.

Gardens also involve work, though, and so does making our hope into a reality. It’s no good just looking at the ground and wishing something will grow how we want. We have to make the place ready, provide the right conditions, get rid of anything that might choke or stunt the plants we want. Similarly, if we want a better world then we all have something to do. It might be as small as helping a neighbour, or as big as changing our lives to work in a far-off country. Either way, anything we can do is a step in the right direction.

Our attempts might not work out, and sometimes it can all seem too difficult, and we need a break. At those times, maybe the best we do is remember another quote, by Mary Anne Radmacher: “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow”.

Take care


Easter 2022

A Thought for the Day for Black Cat Radio

The American writer Hal Borland is credited with saying “No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn”. I love this, as it reminds me that however dark a day might be, either literally or emotionally, there will always be a better time coming up.

It’s especially fitting for this Easter weekend, I think. Having Easter in the spring makes a lot of sense, as it’s a festival about new life and new hope, about seeing the start of something beautiful growing. We’ve had all the darkness of winter and the darkness of Good Friday, and now the light and happiness of spring and new life are here for Easter Day. So many of us celebrate, maybe with chocolate eggs, maybe with a roast dinner, maybe in church.  I’ve also been celebrating by filling the garden with new flowers and plants so that it looks colourful and cheerful (even if something has been eating my parsley!). The birds are out and about, squabbling over nests and mates, and I even spotted a couple of hedgehogs on the patio.

All these things are signs that spring is not skipping its turn. They don’t undo the negative things happening in the world, but they do remind us that there’s still a lot of good to be found. Similarly, Easter Day doesn’t pretend that there aren’t problems to be sorted out, but it does say that, despite the worst the world can throw at us, goodness and love will always eventually win out, just as they did on the first Easter Day.

I hope you find joy, blessing and hope this Easter weekend, however you celebrate, and even if you don’t. (And if you know who the parsley thief might be, please let me know!)

Take care


Easter Day

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.’ Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.

Luke 24.1-12

Holy Saturday

After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

John 19.38-42


Good Friday

As soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate. Pilate asked him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ He answered him, ‘You say so.’ Then the chief priests accused him of many things. Pilate asked him again, ‘Have you no answer? See how many charges they bring against you.’ But Jesus made no further reply, so that Pilate was amazed.

Now at the festival he used to release a prisoner for them, anyone for whom they asked. Now a man called Barabbas was in prison with the rebels who had committed murder during the insurrection. So the crowd came and began to ask Pilate to do for them according to his custom. Then he answered them, ‘Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?’ For he realized that it was out of jealousy that the chief priests had handed him over. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead. Pilate spoke to them again, ‘Then what do you wish me to do with the man you call the King of the Jews?’ They shouted back, ‘Crucify him!’ Pilate asked them, ‘Why, what evil has he done?’ But they shouted all the more, ‘Crucify him!’ So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.

Then the soldiers led him into the courtyard of the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters); and they called together the whole cohort. And they clothed him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him. And they began saluting him, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ They struck his head with a reed, spat upon him, and knelt down in homage to him. After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.

They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus. Then they brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull). And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh; but he did not take it. And they crucified him, and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take.

It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. The inscription of the charge against him read, ‘The King of the Jews.’ And with him they crucified two bandits, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, ‘Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!’ In the same way the chief priests, along with the scribes, were also mocking him among themselves and saying, ‘He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from the cross now, so that we may see and believe.’ Those who were crucified with him also taunted him.

When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, ‘Listen, he is calling for Elijah.’ And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, ‘Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.’ Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, ‘Truly this man was God’s Son!’

Mark 15.1-39