A sermon preached at the Mint Methodist Church, Exeter,
I want to
reflect on the call of Simon Peter and
then say a few words to you Amanda on your confirmation day.
But let me begin elsewhere,
with a record player, a train journey and a party.
For many years I was the proud owner
of a blue Dansette Record Player – cost 29/11d.
It sat on the floor of my student room next to a pile of LPs –
if memory serves me aright a mix of
Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel, the Beatles and Tchaikovsky .
A number of years later I went up market
and exchanged by old mono Dansette
for a Stereo Hi Fi system with great big speakers.
I put on my favourite LPs – and was gob-smacked –
suddenly in crisp stereo I heard things I’d never heard before –
subtle chords, bass notes, whole backing instruments
which I had never picked up before…..
You know what its like on a inter city express train –
if you look out at the trackside, all you see is a fleeting impression,
a blur, as telegraph posts and sheds and bushes go whizzing by.
Then gradually the train slows down –
a signal is against it and it comes to a halt –
and suddenly you see the trackside with new clarity -
you can make out each trackside cinder,
a tiny weed sprouting by a fence,
paint peeling on a battered sign….
There again, imagine you are in a crowded room
full of people and the buzz of conversation all around you,
washing over you.
You can hardly hear yourself think.
Then suddenly you hear something special –
you realize that amidst the hubbub someone has been calling your name –
just one word out of a thousand,
but you catch it and the whole situation is changed –
you turn and look for the one who called you..
I wonder in your life: How aware of God you are??
He is of
course always there – didn’t God say
“I knew you when you were still in the womb”
and Jesus says to Nathaniel
“I saw you under the fig tree” before you even knew I existed….
God is always there, always speaking to us –
he is waiting for us to slow down
from the hustle and bustle of our helter skelter lives,
· waiting for us to attune our ears to his voice,
· waiting for us to pick out his call amidst the hubbub of our existence.
But do we hear and see him?
Are we like Moses, able to see the
There are plenty of burning bushes if you will be see them -
Do you remember the words of Elizabeth Barrett Browning –
Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
And only ~he who sees~ takes off his shoes,
rest sit round it and pluck blackberries
And we –
do we recognize God speaking to us
from every place and every bush? –
or do we just sit round making blackberry jam??
We have heard the story of Peter’s
We don’t know whether Peter already knew Jesus –
maybe they had grown up and played together
in the streets of Bethsaida or Nazareth,
maybe Simon Peter had been a face in the crowd
when Jesus first spoke in Galilee.
Maybe Peter’s wife had cooked fish for Simon’s friend
the rabbi Jesus bar Joseph,
and Simon and Jesus had sat watching the moon rise
talking of what was to come for the people of Israel….
Or there again, maybe they had never met before that particular day.
know what came before –
what we do know is that on one fateful day
Simon Peter was suddenly confronted by Jesus
and God’s demands in a way he had never experienced before.
“Follow Me” says Jesus.
doesn’t know it yet, but this lakeside meeting
is just the first of a number of occasions
when God will suddenly break through his deafness and blindness,
his petty preoccupations and trivial concerns.
to know his life rocked again and again
by the challenge and promise of Jesus –
on a stormy sea, on the mountain top,
in a courtyard at cockcrow, in a garden at dawn,
finally at the end of the Gospel story back by the sea of Galilee with his nets –
God still calling him, still saying follow me,
again and again calling him to hear, commit, act…
course was pretty stupid a lot of
the time –
normally saying the wrong thing - as someone once said,
Peter only opened his mouth to change feet.
But God didn’t give up on Peter –
he kept talking to him so that even Peter would get the message.
begin to think (it is a wonderful and a frightening thought)
well maybe if we listen out, God might have things to say to us,
things to rock our lives from time to time…
the story of Peter teaches us anything, it is this –
God always has more to say to us, more to share with us,
more to ask of us –
if we will but attend and allow him to work in our lives.
Its like that poster of a half built building – all metal
underneath the words “Be patient – God hasn’t finished with me yet”
Amanda, we rejoice in your presence her
This is far from the beginning of your Christian journey –
you have already like Simon Peter heard God’s call of old,
and have been a part of his people for many a year.
rejoice that you have come here tonight –
not to start your journey, but rather to pause,
to affirm and give thanks for where God has brought you thus far,
and publicly to commit yourself to journeys still to come.
that this will be an occasion to give thanks
for all the ways in which God has spoken to you
and been with you up to this day.
the way in which he knew you and
loved you before you knew anything about it
· For the way he has always surrounded you, closer than breathing
the way in which at special points in your life up
till now he has already spoken and you have
recognized his generous hand in moments of joy,
and perhaps too sensed his loving arms in moments of sorrow
prayer is that this day will be for you one of your
mountain top burning bush empty tomb Galilean lakeside moments.
As you kneel here this night
(sharing in the mysteries hallowed by 2000 years of Christian tradition)
may you know yourself surrounded
not only by the love and prayers of the Church and Circuit,
but also by the love and prayers of the Saints
down the ages gathered at your side.
May you find here a still point in the busyness of life,
and hear afresh (as Peter heard long ago by the sea shore)
Christ speaking your name
And I wonder what Christ has to say to you tonight?
That perhaps is for you to hear and know.
But I do
remember what our Lord said to Peter long long ago –
He said “Cast out into deeper water”.
seldom calls us to dip our toes into the paddling pool of life –
he bids us crew with him amidst the storms of sin and death.
You remember how when Columbus hired his crew
to sail West from Spain towards the New World,
his crew did not know whether the new world even existed –
some feared literally that they would sail over the edge of the world.
Christ call us to cast out into the deep -
into the unknown maybe to the edge of the world & beyond –
just trusting in our captain….
course is what it means to be a member of the Church –
for you Amanda and for everyone of us here –
to sail in the ship of the Church,
to be part of Christ’s crew together,
to be ever attentive to the Captain’s command,
to sail through the waters of this life and even through the waters of death –
knowing that the Christ who calls us will ever guard us.
So to you
- and to all of us who this night reaffirm our baptismal vows –
may God bless you and keep you,
And may you
know his guiding voice and his powerful arm
on all God’s voyages in this life and in the life to come.
ORDER OF SERVICE
12 Aug 2007 6.30 p.m. Worship led by Rev Andrew Sails
Hymn 617 “Lord Jesus Christ”
Reading Luke 5:1-11
Hymn 141 “Jesus calls us”
Hymn 801 “O God what offering”
Baptism and Confirmation of Amanda Hough (MWB pp.77-84)
Hymn (including Collection) 704 “O Jesus I have promised” (Tune 784 Thornbury)
Prayers of Intercession
Communion (MWB pp.179-184) led by Rev John Carne
Hymn 648 “The day thou gavest”