Stepping out of the boat and taking a risk on answering God’s call

3 Oct 2021 by Gail Hinton in: Sermons

Welcome to the Church

Welcome to this online worship service. This week and for the following two Sundays the worship service will include two or three pre-recorded Zoom interviews. This has been a risk, and it would have been much easier for me to stick to the familiar way of doing things because the technology involved in creating the recordings has been a brand new and slightly daunting experience. I have had to trust God and the IT -skills, gifted Gideon to make it all work.

The three people you will watch in this week’s service also speak about risk. Like the Apostle Peter in today’s reading from Matthew they take a risky first step, because they have been called, prompted, and nudged by God. You will hear each person explain what happened and then reflect on why it is worth stepping out in faith and taking a risk on God. 

Call to Worship: based on Psalm 26.

The Lord’s steadfast love is before our eyes,
and we come to worship in the spirit of faithfulness.

We sing aloud songs of thanksgiving,
and tell of our God’s wondrous deeds.

In your presence O lord, we stand on level ground
and we bless you.

Hymn: 10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord O my soul)

Opening Prayers

Lord, the prophets and the psalmists speak of your steadfast love.

We long to believe them.

We want to trust that you will always be there,
reaching out to save us from sinking,
sinking into the uncertain waves of doubt,
the wild waves of self-hatred and guilt,
the waves of self-ambition and pride
the ebb of meaningless existence,
and the flow of worries and fears.

We are thankful that we are not the only ones
who watch the waves,
instead of keeping our eyes on you.

We give thanks for your disciple Peter,
the sometimes-sinking example of faith,
the sometimes fearful and silent witness,
the one who took a risk
the one who stepped out of the boat to walk on water,
and we give thanks for the gospel that tells us his story.

Above all we give you thanks to you Lord Jesus,
because as soon as we respond to your call,
you are ready to reach out and save us
before we have even taken the first step.

May your endless ocean of mercy and grace wash over us and cleanse us, for in you, through you and because of you, our sins are forgiven.

Thanks be to God.

Bible Reading

Matthew 14:25-32 New Revised Standard Version.

25 And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”

28 Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So, Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God’.


This service does not need the normal type of Sunday sermon because the people I interviewed proclaimed God’s goodness and grace authentically and personally through their testimonies. For those members of the congregation unable to watch the videos a summary of the content is included here as well as a concluding reflection for all of us to consider. All of the speakers were asked the following questions:

1.When have you heard God calling you to do something risky?

2. Is God worth taking a risk on and more importantly why?


Interview with Lyn Graham, Senior’s Pastor West Epping Uniting Church

Summary: Lyn spoke about receiving information for a course in Clinical Pastoral Education while she was working full time at Fairfax. Lyn decided not to pursue studying the course however she continued to be prompted throughout the following year. Eventually Lyn decided to give it a go and enjoyed the course and its emphasis on learning how to listen to others and how to become self-reflective (this is not navel gazing, this means having a good hard look at yourself and discovering hidden agendas and motives, it is opening oneself up to God’s searching Spirit). Lyn thought that was the end of it, but God knew better.

In 2008 just before Lyn was about to retire, she received a number of phone calls from the CPE educator asking her to apply for a position as a chaplain. Lyn tried to make excuses to herself but in the end begrudgingly applied for the job just before the application deadline. Again, she thought that was the end of it, but God knew better. Around that time Lyn remembers hearing the hymn “Here I am Lord. Is it I lord?” Lyn took a risk and took that first step out of her boat, the comfort and security of retirement.

Lyn answered the second question by expressing the fact that God is always there to grab your hand when you feel like you are sinking. Lyn recalled that her first service as a Chaplain went really well until she released, she had left the reflection at home on the printer. She reached out and grabbed God’s hand and all the content of that reflection came back to her on the spot. Lyn finished the interview by reminding us that God promises to walk with us and be right by our side in both the dark valleys, those times when we feel like we are sinking as well as in the green pastures, mountain tops and the water walking moments.


Interview with Trish Rooney, Ministry Exit Candidate

Summary: About ten years ago Trish’s position as a Supply Chaplain was about to come to the end of its term. Trish had an interview lined up for a new position as Chaplain at Westmead Children’s Hospital, a position she was very interested in, but something didn’t feel right. Trish had been advised by several people that this was not a good move and although she found it difficult, she made a phone call to her potential new employer to advise them that she was withdrawing her application. This was a huge risk to take both financially and in terms of Trish’s career path. Trish then wondered how her family would make ends meet. The very next week Trish applied for a position as the coordinator of a Before and After childcare centre and got the job. Trish soon realised that this part time role was a blessing because of the needs of her teenage daughter, who had the first signs of mental health issue. Trish’s daughter was later diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Trish reflected that through the promptings of other people she heard God speaking, telling her that the timing of the job at the Children’s Hospital was not right. However, two years to the day of initially rejecting the job Trish walked into the role of the Children’s Chaplain, ready for its demands and challenges because she was at a much better place in her life.

Trish expressed that God is worth taking a risk on because God has taken a risk on us. We didn’t go into the deep theological significance of this in the interview, but we could say that God is the God of risks; fancy making humans and giving them free will and then coming to earth in human form to show them the way to life, talk about risky! Trish concluded our chat by pointing out that Peter only begins to sink when he gets caught up in his thoughts, when he begins to think about the potential of sinking. We also get caught up in our thoughts and fears and this can bog us down so that we never even try to take that first step. Sadly, some of us never get out of the boat.


Interview with Ruth Dicker

Ruth very kindly typed up her written reflection for the printed service. (Incidentally it is just over 66 years to the day that Ruth and Gordon left for West Timor on October 1st, 1955).

In 1954, just after Gordon was ordained, he was asked to go to Samoa to teach theology. After we prayed about it we did not say yes. The Methodist Overseas Missions were celebrating their centenary and wanted to do something new. When Gordon said he might be interested in going to S.E. Asia, they arranged for him to talk to someone from Indonesia. After hearing about the situation there he felt that God was directing him to go to West Timor.

In October 1955 we travelled to West Timor to be co-mission workers with the Evangelical Christian Church in Timor. Being co-mission workers was a new idea too. It meant that we were not meant to set up our own mission, but Gordon would do what the Church there suggested. I remember saying to God, “If you want us to do this I will go into the unknown with your help.” It was risky because it was a poor island, and we did not know much about it.

West Timor was mostly Christian, and the people welcomed us warmly. There were some initial disappointments. The church did not know what to do with Gordon until the Timorese Moderator returned from the Netherlands. As the ministers only had hymn books and Bibles, it was important for Gordon and the Moderator to travel to different areas to teach them. Also, we had to share a house with an American Mennonite agriculturalist and his wife and seven children. Later a house was built for us.

We became used to a different culture and joined in with the life there. I taught English, Maths and Scripture in the schools. We served for two three-year periods with a furlough in between. During that time there were some difficult political events. Firstly, the Indonesians suddenly took over the planes and ships from the Dutch which meant that we only received our airmail every six weeks by ship. Then there was the danger of being bombed because of an internal conflict in Indonesia. Finally, there was the threat of rising Communism but that did not erupt until 1965.

In our second term we nearly lost our first son from amoebic dysentery and six months later I nearly lost Gordon from typhoid fever. In both cases prayers were answered and we received special help and medicine from the doctors. When my two sons were born, I was grateful to have missionary doctors to help me. Altogether, it was clear that God provided for us in many ways.

Is God worth taking a risk on and more importantly why?

From our point of view, it was worth the risk. We learnt to value people from a different culture, and we learnt first-hand what poverty was like for them. Yet in their prayers they always thanked God for his goodness to them. On a broader scale we had been disappointed that the Chinese, who owned the shops, had not become Christians. Twenty years later in Jakarta we met a Chines woman we had known earlier. She told us that many of the Chinese in West Timor had become Christians when they saw that the missionaries had come to help people not to make money.

As we were the first Australians to go there it opened the way for other Australians to go to West Timor and to other parts of Indonesia to serve. It also opened up, later on, for the Uniting Church to form a partnership with the Evangelical Christian Church in Timor. Right now, the Uniting Church has an active relationship and Uniting World has an appeal for donations to help people there recover from a destructive cyclone and other issues.



Lyn, Trish and Ruth have shared with us three inspiring stories about hearing God’s call and taking that risky first step out of the comfort of the know into the unknown. The following reflection from author and pastor John Ortberg is a fitting summary of what we have heard today, and it offers both challenge and good news.

Jesus is still looking for people who will get out of the boat. I don’t know what know what this means for you. If you get out of your boat-whatever your boat happens to be- you will have problems. There is a storm out there, and your faith will not be perfect. Risk always holds the possibility of failure.

But if you get out, I believe two things will happen. The first is that when you fail-and you will fail sometimes-Jesus will be there to pick you up. You will not fail alone. You will find that he is still wholly adequate to save.

And the other thing is, every once in a while, you will walk on water. So do something religious. Get out of the boat.

(John Ortberg, If You Want To Walk On Water, You’ve got to Get Out Of the Boat. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001.)

Hymn: Here I am Lord

Offering Prayer

We bring out gifts to you, Lord God,
in gratitude and hope,
in dedicating them, we dedicate ourselves again
to be your people in the world,
in the strength and enabling power
of Jesus Christ our Lord.


Prayers of Intercession

I have been reflecting on my prayers for this Sunday, and have taken some excerpts and thoughts from a pastoral letter from the NSW Moderator of the Uniting Church, Rev Simon Hansford. 

Dear Lord, as we prepare for the resumption of public worship and service activities, and the reopening of church buildings, we look forward to the prospect of being together again for conversations, meals, prayer, and worship, we are filled with hope.

Yet alongside that joyful anticipation, we remember at the same time the immense sadness   brought upon so many people and families by this pandemic. The loss of life around us and across the world has been heartbreaking. There is also the loss of work, livelihoods, opportunities, and dreams. The toll on the emotional and spiritual wellbeing of countless millions of people cannot be calculated. Very few have been untouched by some form of anguish.

Gracious God, we pray for your blessing to be upon our congregation here as we listen and watch online.  We pray that your joy and your love will flow freely in, and through us.

We are not alone for God is with us.: You are not alone, and our church community is not alone, for God is with us. We are a people to whom God in Jesus Christ has promised. ‘I am with you always, to the end of the age’. This is not the first period of history during which Christians have been called to find ways to witness to the love of God in a time of widespread disease.

Almighty God, our heavenly Father, you promised through your Son Jesus Christ to hear us when we pray in faith.

We pray for all people who seek to follow your way in their lives. Let your church speak your word of truth with confidence, and in unity, so that those who are searching and listening will be able to see and hear clearly your message of love and peace. Lord as we resume a somewhat normal life after Covid 19, we ask you to be in our way forward, in our thoughts and conversations with others.

Creator God, help us recognise our part in the tensions and injustices of the world: heal the resentment between people, and intervene in the world’s conflicts.

Heavenly Father, we ask you to be with our families and our friends, we thank you for the love we share with them.

Lord, we ask you to lead us into the coming week, help us to believe that you are close by us, keep us from making mistakes and help us never to disappoint you. When we face hard decisions or difficult work, when we enjoy ourselves and have fun with others, may we know that you share these times with us. Lord as our Church Council ponders the future   direction of our Church, as we pray together in faith, may we be uplifted by the way in which we can meet by Zoom meetings, to discuss, talk, and support each other in decisions we are making with your guidance Lord, for our future direction. Almighty God, we know we are not alone, you promised through your Son Jesus Christ to hear us when we pray in faith.

As we pray God’s word changes us, unites our heart to people and places, it renews our hope and faith, as we pray, we feel humble, your spirit unites us and blesses us. We remember those in countries at war, surviving disease, famine and death look after them Lord.

We lift up our neighbours, wherever we live. They probably are the only people with whom we have made contact in the last months of lockdown. May they know of the love we have for you, and the praises we sing of you.

We pray for teachers, for students, and for all those in authority and leadership, both locally and throughout the world.  May the lives of those returning to school very soon, be changed as they meet once more with friends, and resume classroom teaching once more. We thank you for what parents have done these last months with home schooling.

Father, we pray for ourselves. Help us, with Your Holy Spirit, to examine our hearts and hear from you... May we seek God first, putting aside our own desires. Let us then put others first and serve our brothers and sisters in Christ. May we pray more and criticize less.

We ask you to accept these prayers, and our own silent prayers, as we pray the prayer Jesus taught us.

Our Father in Heaven, Hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who have sinned against us,

Save us from the time of trial, and deliver us from evil,

For the kingdom, the power and the glory are all yours, forever and ever. Amen


Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
be strong and of good courage, do not be afraid;
for it is the Lord who goes with you;
your God will not fail you or forsake you.

May the love of God embrace you,
the peace of the lord Jesus Christ surround you
and God’s Holy Spirit encourage and refresh you.


Hymn: Jesus calls us !O’er the tumult

Next Week: 10 October, 2021
Theme: Taking a Risk with Your Talents
Readings: Psalm 139: 1, 13-16, Matthew 25:14-30, 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 and 1 Peter 4:10-11
Lectionary Readings: Job 23:1-9, 16-17, Psalm 22:1-15, Hebrews 4:12-16 and Mark 10: 17-31