We began our worship by reading some verses from Psalm 65:5-9
You answer us with awesome and righteous deeds,
God our Saviour,
the hope of all the ends of the earth
and of the farthest seas,
who formed the mountains by your power,
having armed yourself with strength,
who stilled the roaring of the seas,
the roaring of their waves,
and the turmoil of the nations.
The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders;
where morning dawns, where evening fades,
you call forth songs of joy.
You care for the land and water it;
you enrich it abundantly.
The streams of God are filled with water
to provide the people with grain,
for so you have ordained it.
We focused on being in God’s presence and giving thanks for the gifts of this day. Simple things – the first cup of tea of the day; the smell of fresh coffee; a good night’s sleep; a good breakfast; a smile from friend or stranger; the beauty of the world around us. We thought of these things as God’s gifts to us.
“Attention All Shipping.” I’ve always found this a very dramatic announcement. Even though I’m not involved in shipping I still listen, fascinated, intrigued.
I’ve been fascinated by the shipping forecast since I was a child. For me it conjures up images of ships on stormy seas. The shipping forecast has all the qualities of the sea itself –unfathomable, mysterious, fascinating, intriguing, even lulling. It has a poetry all of its own. Carol Ann Duffy in her poem Prayer, wrote: “Darkness outside. Inside, the radio’s prayer – Rockall. Malin. Dogger. Finisterre.” (Finisterre was renamed FitzRoy in 2002.)
Every day on LW we can hear the familiar liturgy of the names for each shipping area, with its weather information, announced in the same order with the same deliberate delivery – rhythmical, hypnotic, almost prayerful. There is on the one hand a loneliness and a bleakness about it, but it’s also reassuring and familiar – Rockall. Malin. Dogger. Fair Isle. Irish Sea.’
Amazingly it seems to hold our attention even if it doesn’t directly apply to us. So we keep listening to the soothingly monotonous delivery, perhaps engrossed and fascinated: Moderate, occasionally slight later, showers or rain, good, occasionally moderate…………
Origin of the names of Shipping Forecast areas:
- Viking,Forties, Dogger, Fisher, Sole and Bailey are named after sandbanks.
- Cromarty,Forth, Tyne, Humber, Thames and Shannon are named after river estuaries.
- Wight,Lundy, Fair Isle, Faeroes, Portland, Hebrides, South-East Iceland and North & South Utsire are named after islands.
- German Bight is named after the indented German coastline.
- Doverand Plymouth are named after towns.
- Rockall and Fastnet are both named after small rocky islands.
- Malin is named after Malin Head, the northernmost point of Ireland.
- Biscay is named after the Bay of Biscay.
- Irish Sea is named after the Irish Sea.
- Trafalgar after Cape Trafalgar.
- FitzRoy is named after Robert FitzRoy, the first professional weatherman, captain of HMS Beagle and founder of the Met Office.
The story of the stilling of the storm was read from Mark 4:
35 That day when evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 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?”
39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!”
Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
Mark’s gospel gives us a very graphic description of the storm, with the waves breaking over the boat so it began to fill with water, and the contrast between the calmness of Jesus and the terror of the disciples.
What’s the seas significance in Jewish though?
The Jews were not great seafarers and regarded the sea with fear, as it symbolised chaos and evil – that’s why in Rev 21 when the new heaven and earth are described v1 says “there was no longer any sea.” It does not mean there will be no sea in the new earth, but is picture language saying evil will not be present.
What’s the significance of the geography? The Sea of Galilee is 680 ft below sea level and therefore prone to sudden storms sweeping down off the surrounding hills. The storms could appear very quickly and cease just as quickly!
I have a problem with nature miracles – the stilling of the storm and walking on water. ‘Did they really happen? Some Christians understand them as the proof of Jesus’ divinity. From my understanding of the gospels Jesus did not perform miracles to prove his divinity or to cause people to be amazed at his actions. I think Jesus miracles were primarily acts of compassion towards those in need; and also signs of a new age breaking through, the coming of the Kingdom of God.
Perhaps the storm in Mark 4 was just a normal Sea of Galilee storm event which sprung up in just a few minutes and died down just as quickly.
What might my post-evangelical understanding of storms and earthquakes be?
I reject any idea that God sends storms or earthquakes. I also reject the idea that they are manifestations of evil – for me they are just how the world works. If the Earth wasn’t dynamic and ever changing then it would not be able to support life.
So where is God in the storms of life?
I believe God is present in every aspect of nature, in every aspect of life. God therefore is present with those who suffer; he is present even in deadly storms.
God is all and in all, not as cause but as presence.
The Shipping forecast and the Arts.
The forecast sounds poetic, it has a rhythm of its own, it’s eccentric, it’s unique, it’s mysterious and it’s very, very British. It is a litany of the sea; it somehow reinforces our sense of being islanders, and fires our imaginations.
The Shipping Forecast has a history of sparking the imagination and creativity in people – all kinds of music and poetry have been inspired by it.
From the poetry of Seamus Heaney, Sean Street and Carol Ann Duffy to the music of Radiohead, Blur, Jethro Tull, folk singer Lisa Knapp, and classical composer Cecilia McDowall the forecast has ignited their imaginations and inspired their creativity. They have used the Shipping Forecast’s natural rhythm to conjure up feelings of familiarity and strangeness, of safety and danger, of loneliness and mystery.
We then had a poetry and prayer activity around the park – we each had copies of Seamus Heaney’s and Sean Street’s poems on the Shipping Forecast to read and enjoy. We used them to encourage a sense of thanksgiving and prayer. Then we prayed for people whose lives are “all at sea”, particularly individuals known to us, the family of Jo Cox and refugees fleeing war and persecution.
On returning to the Bandstand we shared bread and wine with the following words:
Life giver, blame taker, scroll reader, truth wielder,
Temple clearer, mask exposer, sea calmer, crowd amazer,
Life enhancer, party prancer, drinker, dancer…..
Cross bearer, sight restorer, sin forgiver, wine renewer,
Story weaver, hurt healer, death drinker, God revealer….
Justice speaker, bondage breaker, bone straightener, peacemaker….
Death defeater, grace ladler, spirit breather, heart burner,
Tempest husher, bread breaker, wine sharer, table turner…..
As usual we retired to Cool River for Fairtade coffee and much discussion.