Sunday 11th July is Sea Sunday
The Lord on high is mightier than the noise of great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea.
Almighty God, most blessed and most holy, before the brightness of whose presence the angels veil their faces; with lowly reverence and adoring love we acknowledge Your infinite glory, and worship You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, eternal Trinity. Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power be unto our God, for ever and ever.
God, you are infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, glorious in holiness, full of love and compassion, abundant in grace and truth; all Your works praise You in all parts of Your dominion; and Your glory is revealed in Jesus Christ Your Son. Wherefore we praise You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God, blessed forever.
Almighty and Merciful God, the Fountain of all goodness, who knows the thoughts of our hearts, we confess unto you that we have sinned against you, and done evil in your sight. Wash us, we pray, from the stains of our past sins, and give us grace and power to put away all hurtful things; so that, being delivered from the bondage of sin, we may bring forth worthy fruits of repentance. O Eternal Light, shine into our hearts. 0 Eternal Goodness, deliver us from evil. 0 Eternal Power, be our support. Grant unto us that with all our hearts, and minds, and strength, we may ever more seek your face; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Grant us, 0 Lord, a mind set free from self; a steadfast and cheerful spirit; and an understanding heart, that we may speak the helpful word and do the Christ-like deed. In our duties grant us Your help; in our difficulties, Your counsel; in our dangers, Your protection; and in all our sorrows, Your peace; and bring us in the end, beyond all shadows of our mortal night, to behold the glory of Your presence; through Him who lives and reigns, and is worshipped and glorified, with You, 0 Father, and the Holy Spirit, world without end. Our Father which art in Heaven, Hallowed be thy Name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For Thine is the Kingdom, and the Power and the Glory, Forever. Amen.
St Mark 4:36-5:1
A thought for today
This morning we began with verses from Psalm 84. Its words always remind us of a visit to Goa many years ago. The Portuguese built a great church there in the early 1500s. It is very European in style, but as a concession to the tropical climate it has wide overhanging eaves and beneath them a row of large square windows which are unglazed to allow cooling draughts into the church. The eaves keep out the rain but not the birds. Many of the smaller birds fly in and out and even make nests in the rafters. It is as though they seek sanctuary from the larger predators whose wide wingspans stops them from going through the windows.
Today in Sea Sunday, so how is the church at Goa relevant? In the 15th century, under Henry the Navigator, Portugal became the leading maritime nation in Europe. In 1499 Vasco da Gama became the first European to voyage to India round the Cape of Good Hope. As a result of the exploration by the Portuguese Goa became a Portuguese colony.
Vasco da Gama was only one of the many Portuguese explorers who filled in the blanks of the map of the oceans. Apart from the Canary Islands first discovered by the Spanish, it was the Portuguese who first found the other Atlantic Islands, Ascension, St Helena and the most isolated inhabited Island in the world, Tristan da Cunha.
Finding them took no great skill for they came upon them by accident on voyages seeking the way to India and the far east round the two great capes at the end of Africa and South America What did take great skill was being able to find them again! These islands came to assume great importance as watering and provisioning places on the extended voyages of exploration and were soon settled.
This lasted throughout the days of sail and continued into the early days of steam as coaling stations were established on some of them to enable the early steamers to extend their range. Now that that need has gone most of these islands have become tourist attractions.
As well as his sponsoring of many expeditions we are indebted to Prince Henry for the development of navigation as he established the first maritime college in Lisbon where the skills were developed that enables accurate navigation across the seas.
Coastal navigation is usually fairly simple as courses are set from one landmark to another, but when ships venture out of sight of land things are very different. In the book of Acts we find a fascinating account of Paul’s voyage when he was sent to Rome as a prisoner, having appealed to the emperor as was his right as a Roman citizen. The irony is that had he not appealed Festus would have rejected the charges brought against Paul and set him free. It is interesting to speculate how things might have been different had Paul been able to continue his preaching and outreach for longer.
It was late in the season when the ship sailed from Caesarea. Paul urged the captain to delay to the spring because the Mediterranean can be unpredictable in winter. Roman ships only had a square sail which meant they really only ran before the wind and at that time of year they could expect headwinds. The intention was to sail along the Turkish coast but the winds forced them south to Crete where they hoped to spend the winter in a safe harbour. Unfortunately adverse winds drove the ship out to sea and all the crew could do was to allow the ship to run before the wind. As the storm grew they had to jettison the cargo and cut adrift the sail leaving the ship to run under bare poles. Soon they were far from land and had no idea where they might be. As the days passed everyone on board, except Paul, gave up hope. He tried to reassure them that God had promised that all would be saved to no avail. Eventually they became aware that land was near and cast out 4 anchors to try to keep the ship off the rocks until daybreak. In the morning the ship was driven on to the beach and all managed to get ashore on Malta.
This vivid account in Acts reveals something of the dangers sailors faced. Now thanks to modern aids to navigation things are very different, though going to sea can still be hazardous. Even a short journey across a lake can present dangers as we saw in our Gospel reading. Despite being fishermen well familiar with the Sea of Galilee and its moods, on this occasion the disciples were caught out as they took Jesus across the lake. Suddenly out of nowhere a storm blew up. This was not unusual but on this occasion the disciples panicked as the waves broke over the boat. In their fear they wakened Jesus demanding he do something, and he did, commanding the wind and waves to be still..
Both readings remind us that as we navigate the sea of life we should place our trust in God to bring us safe to our journey’s end. If nothing else these last months of pandemic restrictions have shown the difficulties of plotting a safe course. We have been buffeted by the storm of the virus but gradually are coming through to the other side. The words of peace Jesus spoke to the disciples have helped us on our way – Peace, be still..
As an island nation we are dependent on sea transport. We found out the truth of that recently when the container ship ran aground and blocked the Suez Canal bringing a halt to trade with Asia. It appears that even now things are not back to normal as ships and containers are not where they should be.
We do owe a debt of gratitude to all who go down to the sea in ships, not forgetting our fishermen who are going through difficult times. It is right that we take time to acknowledge them.
A closing prayer
Almighty God, the father of all mercies, though we are unworthy we would give to you our most humble and hearty thanks for all your goodness and loving kindness.
We bless you for our creation and preservation and for all the blessings we enjoy in this life. But above all we thank you for the love that sent our Lord Jesus Christ to live in the world as we live. Give us we pray such a sense of all your mercies, that with truly thankful hearts we may show forth your praise not just with our words but in the living of our lives, by giving up ourselves to your service. So may we walk before you in holiness and righteousness all our days.
We pray for all who in their various callings serve the needs of men and women and children. Hear our prayer for all who work in the NHS seeking to keep us safe in this time of pandemic. Equip them as your fellow workers and strengthen them to share in the task of making life whole, for the glory of your name.
On this Sea Sunday we remember before God all who go down to the sea in ships. Protect them from danger of storm and tempest, fire and shipwreck that they may always come safely to port at the end of their voyage. Be with our fishermen as they wrest their harvest from the deep. Give strength to all who volunteer in the RNLI to save life at sea.
We pray for all who travel at this season, whether on business, or for pleasure. Uphold them along the way; enfold them in your peace; protect them in every peril of land and air and sea, and bring them safely to their journey’s end.
O God, maker of our minds and healer of our ills, whose compassion never fails, we commend to your generous goodness all those who are in any way afflicted or distressed in mind, body, or circumstances and those whom we name in our hearts before you. May your presence be with them in the storms of life, to relieve suffering and distress and to restore them to fullness of life, for your great love’s sake. Dear Lord and Father, bless and uphold the Church. Bring peace in the world and lead all your children in your ways that all might strive to make this world a better place.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us always.