September 27, 2020
The office is reopened
Church Service 9:30 am
WORDS OF WORSHIP
This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it!
Oh God, we praise you, we worship you, we adore you.
You hold the heavens in your hand, all stars rejoice in your glory.
You come in the sunrise and the song of the morn
and bless the splendor of the noonday.
The stars in their courses magnify you,
day and night tell of your glory.
Your peace blows over the earth
and the breath of your mouth fills all space.
Your voice comes in the thunder of the storm
and the song of the wind whispers of your majesty.
You satisfy all things living with your abundance
and our hearts bow at your presence.
Accept us, your children, Eternal God,
and hearken to our prayer.
Bend over us, Eternal Love, and bless us. Amen.
CONFESSION AND PARDON
Merciful God, in your gracious presence, we confess our sin and the sin of this world. Although Christ is among us as our peace, we are a people divided against ourselves as we cling to the values of a broken world. The profit and pleasures we pursue lay waste to the land and pollute the seas. The fears and jealousies we harbor set neighbor against neighbor and nation against nation. We abuse your good gifts of imagination and freedom, of intellect and reason, and have turned them into bonds of oppression. Lord, have mercy upon us; heal and forgive us. Set us free to serve you in the world as agents of your reconciling love in Jesus Christ.
The peace of Christ be with you.
PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION
Guide us, O God, by your Word and Spirit, that in your light we may see light, in your truth find freedom, and in your will discover your peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
Psalm 46: 1-11
1 God is our refuge strength, an ever-present trouble. 2we will not fear, the earth give way and the mountains fall the heart of the sea,3its waters roar foam and the mountains quake their surging.[ c] 4is a river streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High. 5God is within her, will not fall; will help at break of day. 6in uproar,; he lifts his voice, earth melts. 7with us; the God of Jacob our fortress. 8 Come and see what the done, the desolations has brought on the earth. 9makes wars to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; burns the shields[ d]fire. 10He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” 11Lordis with us ;God of Jacob our fortress.
22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. 25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. 27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” 29 “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
SERMON “Walking on Water”
My husband Tom and I just returned from a trip to the Boundary Waters.
- It’s a beautiful wilderness area near the Canadian Border.
- The Boundary Waters experience is a mixed bag
- There’s the wonder and awe at the magnificent beauty and incredible stillness of nature,
- And then there’s the backbreaking work of paddling your canoe through headwinds and carrying your worldly belongings on your back over long portages.
- It’s camping on an island and being bitten by mosquitoes on the long muddy trail to the hole in the ground that serves as your restroom in the middle of the night.
- It’s a trip we’ve taken with various configurations of our family over the years.
You get to know your traveling companions really well.
- Tom had the great fortune to share a canoe with my sister and me on one of our trips.
- He was in the stern steering.
- I was in the bow – apparently that’s supposed to be the “powerhouse” of the canoe – poor Tom.
- And my sister was in the middle seat.
- For some reason, we were far behind everyone else in our group.
- We were on a tight schedule, because the women in the group were planning to spend just part of the time on the water, and then go to a condo in Grand Marais.
- As we paddled, we sang, “Oh happy day, oh happy day, when the ladies go to Grand Marais.
We were out on big water, and heading into a strong wind.
- The water was choppy, and the going was slow.
- My arms were aching.
- Those two-pound weights I’d lifted for a few weeks before the trip hadn’t done the job.
- I started to get sort of a desperate feeling.
- There was water all around, and I was holding the paddle.
- Who else would get us to shore?
- There was nothing to do but keep going.
- Something compelled me to start singing, and I sang that old hymn, “Stand by Me.”
- Elvis Presley does a wonderful soulful version of it:
When the storms of life are raging, stand by me;
When the world is tossing me like a ship out on the sea,
Thou who rules wind and water, stand by me.
When I finished, Tom said, “I guess there’s only one Elvis Presley.”
- Strangely enough, though, the paddling became easier.
- Maybe the extra breath required for singing helped push us forward
- kind of like those tennis players who grunt while they’re hitting the ball.
- Or maybe it just got our mind off the pain.
- Still - and I know this is true – there was a presence.
- As I sent out the words – “Thou who rules' wind and water, stand by me,” I knew that God was.
I said to my sister, “I remember going out on a lake by myself in a rowboat when I was about 14 or so, and getting stuck in a headwind.
- I thought I’d never make it back across the lake to the place we were camping.
- I fought the wind for what seemed like hours, and as I finally rowed into the shore, I saw my Dad standing there.
- He’d been there watching me the whole time.
- He was supposed to be on “vacation,” or if not vacation, at least a “retreat”
- He’d tried a couple of times to get away for a while
- It wasn’t just that the work had been strenuous, though it was
- Jesus’ time was always in demand
- Jesus was also grieving the loss of his friend John the Baptist
- He’d gone off by himself to pray
- But when the people in the surrounding villages heard that he was in the area, they followed him there.
- Having compassion for them, Jesus healed them and then fed them – 5000 of them- with the loaves and fishes
- It had been a hectic, demanding time, as feeding a large group of people usually is
- Jesus wanted to try for some solitude again
- So, he put his disciples into a boat and sent them on ahead of him across the lake, and he went up to the mountain by himself to pray
When Jesus opened his eyes and looked across the lake, he could see that they were in trouble.
- the boat was already a long way out, and it was being whipped and tossed by the wind.
- In ancient times, the nights were divided into four segments.
- The “fourth watch,” which it was called, would have been from 3 AM to 6AM, so it was at this hour in the middle of the night that Jesus, concerned for his disciples’ safety, went walking toward them across the water.
- The disciples were terrified.
- For one thing, to be caught in a storm in the middle of a lake was a fisherman’s worst nightmare.
- For another thing, in those times, people perceived the sea as a place of monsters and devils.
- They thought Jesus was a ghost.
- Desperate from battling the waves, and spooked by the sight of a figure walking on top of the water toward them in the dark, they cried out in fear.
- But Jesus was quick to calm them, to tell them not to be afraid; it was only him.
Peter wasn’t really sure it was him.
- Hovering in the boat, he asked for proof, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come out on the water to you.”
- And Jesus said, “Come.”
- Peter must have had faith it was the Lord, because he did it.
- He stepped out of the boat and started to walk, to walk toward Jesus like a toddler trying out his legs for the first time as his parent waits.
- He was doing well, walking on water, but then the wind whipped across his face and distracted him, and he began to focus on that instead of on Jesus, and as he did, he started to sink.
- But he must have walked on water just long enough to know that it truly was Jesus out there, because he cried out, “Lord, save me.”
And immediately, Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.
- And looking at Peter, shaking his head a bit, he asked him, “Why did you doubt?”
- Walking together then, they stepped into the boat, and as they did, the wind died down.
- Jesus was back in the boat, back with his disciples, and they were safe.
- It was so good to have the Lord back on board.
- They worshiped him together, praising him and affirming who he was – the ruler of wind and water – the son of God.
How are things in your boat today?
- How are you weathering this storm our world is in?
- The turbulence is unreal – hurricane, fire, violence, pandemic, not to mention the political climate
- We have personal struggles too –
- Friends have gotten sick and some have died
- We can’t reach out or grieve the way we want to
- People we love are sick, or we struggle with illness ourselves.
- Some of us have pain, or disease to deal with
- Some have brokenness in our families.
- Some of us are worried about children and grandchildren
I could go on and on with a whole litany of issues
- But to do that would depress us even more
- And dwelling on our problems is not what our text this morning would encourage us to do
- True, we have to look at our problems so we can see what we’re dealing with
- we can’t just close our eyes and pretend everything’s fine
- that’s not what the text advises either
- what our text this morning does tell us to do is acknowledge that there’s a dreadful storm going on around us, yes
- but also, to look up, away from the waves and see that Jesus is walking on water towards us
- If we look up, away from our problems for even a second, we might be able to see him there in the darkness, extending his hand.
- We might realize he’s been keeping an eye on us from the shore
- He sees we’re in trouble, and now he’s reaching out for us, motioning for us to come to him, to step out of the boat, to trust him.
We’re not sure.
- Maybe it’s not even him.
- The boat is familiar; it’s tangible; it’s what we know.
- We can feel the gunnels under our hands and it gives us something to hold onto.
- We have a tendency to want to fight the storms of our lives ourselves.
- We want to paddle ourselves silly.
- We want to tackle the headwinds ourselves, so we watch the sky; we watch the waves.
- We’re afraid that if we take our eyes off of them, we might capsize.
It’s natural for us as human beings to focus on our problems.
- If we’re thinking about them and worrying about them, we feel like we’re in control.
- But actually, the opposite is true.
- The more we dwell on things, and try to figure things out ourselves, the more serious our situation seems, the more convoluted our thinking becomes.
- We begin to lose perspective when we take our eyes off Jesus.
- Our lives become rockier, and our problems become more complicated when we try to solve them without his help.
- Pretty soon, we’re sinking.
Jesus is walking on water, and he wants us to let go of the sides of the boat, to let go of the defense mechanisms and ways we have found to cope with things ourselves, to step out, and walk toward him.
- He wants us to trust him.
- When we keep our eyes on Jesus, we see perfect love, perfect forgiveness, perfect peace.
- He embodies everything we need for our lives, whatever we’re going through.
- When we keep looking at him instead of looking at our circumstances, our lives begin to change.
- We begin to embody the same thing he does – love, forgiveness, and peace.
The same is true for the church.
- In Matthew’s gospel, many scholars believe that the boat is a metaphor for the church.
- It was a community of new believers in the process of growing in faith.
- It was easy for them to take their eyes off of Jesus, to fail to trust him.
- If we see the boat as being symbolic of the church, the point is obvious.
- The church that takes its eyes off of Jesus and focuses on the storm around it is in serious danger of sinking.
- Or when a church focuses on its own internal problems and tries to solve them apart from Jesus it also gets into trouble.
- When we operate apart from Jesus we’re no longer the church, but simply another group of people battling it out our own way, under our own power.
There’s another possibility in this text too.
- Matthew says that Jesus “made the disciples get into the boat, and he sent them ahead across the lake.”
- The place they were headed to was an area associated with the Gentiles.
- Jesus seemed to be stressing the necessity of extending the mission beyond Israel.
- The storm on the lake is symbolic of the opposition that the early church encountered when they tried to take their mission to others.
- It’s the same opposition we encounter today.
- Offering Jesus to others, extending the mission is difficult.
- But we’re called to keep stepping out of the boat, reaching out to others, offering to others the strength and peace that’s been offered to us
- He’s walking on water toward us, holding out his hand, ready to catch us.
- How much easier and more satisfying life is when we look at him instead of focusing on our problems
- It takes a constant effort to keep our eyes on Jesus.
- The enemy wants to sink us by making us look at all the disasters around us.
Take some time, every day, to close your eyes, to picture Jesus walking toward you across the water.
- It can be early in the morning; it can be before you go to bed; it can be anytime.
- Any time you feel yourself sinking, go to Jesus.
- Don’t try to battle the headwinds yourself.
- Don’t hold so tightly onto the side of the boat.
- Step out, trust him.
- He is perfect love, perfect forgiveness, perfect peace.
- That’s what he wants us to be too.
- And we can be, if we keep our eyes on him.
So what lake are you paddling on today? What’s in your boat? What do you need to step out of your boat to do with Jesus’ help?
- Whatever it is, one thing is sure ~ Jesus is there
- Jesus is always watching over us
- Jesus is always ready to help us walk on water
- Always ready to reach out and catch us, to keep us from falling
- Jesus is always willing to step into our boat, to still the wind and waves, even in the most serious of headwinds
The amazing thing is that when we let go and take the risk to trust him, we find the courage for whatever we’re facing.
- Out on those great, pristine waters, in that incredible stillness, we remember who’s in control
- Thou who rules wind and water, stand by me.
Prayers of the People and the Lord’s Prayer
O God, maker of the sun and the moon, the earth and the sky, ruler of wind and water, our maker, we know that you hear our prayer and we trust you with our lives.
Walk with us in the hour of our grief – for we have lost much – people we love, former ways of living and being. Hold us close and comfort us.
Walk with us in our pain, whether physical, emotional, or spiritual. Lay hands on us and heal us from the diseases we battle, from conditions that affect our sight, our hearing, our movement, our breath.
Walk with our families and friends and give us joy in the presence of one another. Release us from our worries and fears and help us to surrender our loved ones into your care. Bring reconciliation where there is discord and help us to honor you in the way we honor others.
Walk with your church in these challenging times and keep us focused on your love. Keep us reaching outward instead of looking inward. Make us a beacon of light to show the way, an extended hand to a hungry crowd or a faltering neighbor or stranger.
Walk with our country in these turbulent times. Still the flood waters and restore your divine order to your creation. Tame the words of hatred that come from careless speech and heartless acts.
Walk with our world, tossed in the sea of chaos. Shine down your love that we might receive your brilliance. You tell us you have overcome the world and so we place it and everything in it in your hands.
Walk with us Lord, in greater trust, in greater service, in greater love for Christ, who taught us to pray, “Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come, thy will be done on 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.
AFFIRMATION Apostle’s Creed, Ecumenical Version
I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary,
Suffered under Pontius Pilate,
Was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven,
He is seated on the right hand of the Father,
And he will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION AND THANKSGIVING AND THE LORD’S PRAYER
CHARGE & BLESSING