August 9, 2020 Gathering
WELCOME AND ANNOUNCEMENTS
Let me remind you quickly of our protocols for everyone’s safety.
Attendance was taken by ushers as you entered
Offerings may be placed in the plate by the doors.
The bulletins were placed specifically for social distancing, one household per pew. Please sit exactly where you found your bulletin.
Please keep your masks on and remain seated through the whole service.
There will be no singing, and no physical contact.
You may read along silently, but today there will be two questions at the end to which I will direct a short out loud response
The office and the rest of the building remain closed, but you can contact Karla during her office hours.
We are having a short congregational meeting on August 23rd before church. This will be an informational meeting only.
WORDS OF WORSHIP
Give thanks to the Lord, proclaim his greatness, tell the nations what God has done.
Sing praise to the Lord!
Be glad that we belong to God, let all who worship him rejoice.
Sing praise to the Lord!
Go to the Lord for help, and worship God continually.
We will sing praise to the Lord!
HYMN: “Sing Praise to God, Who Reigns Above,”
CONFESSION AND PARDON
Gracious God, thank you for your promise not to abandon us. But we confess in this troublesome time that our faith is at times weakened by our worries, our fears, our selfish attitudes, and even our doubts that you care. We gather to be inspired by your promises and to be strengthened by your presence among us. So forgive us, and lead us to renewed trust. We love you, and thank you for your infinite love for us, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
In Christ we are forgiven
Thanks be to God.
May the peace of Christ be with you.
INTERLUDE PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION
God does not ask us for too many leaps of faith,
but for small steps that help us stay with God every day.
Our scriptures today touch on familiar themes:
fear, unknown, and trust but mostly, on the amazing faithfulness of God.
1 Kings 19:4-14
4 while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” 5 Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” 6 He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again. 7 The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” 8 So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. 9 There he went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” 11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 14 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
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.”
“When…” 1 Kings 19:4-14, Matthew 14:22-33
Several years ago, when I was in campus ministry, I was at a conference where the speaker’s text was I Kings 19. Now I had been deeply involved in this particular ministry since my first days as a college freshman, and within months felt called to join the staff after graduation. So now, having been on staff with the ministry since college, I was hearing for the first time, a speaker talk about more than evangelism and discipleship and how great God is and how joyful being a Christian is. That is all good. But, for the first time, I was hearing a speaker talk about depression, using the mighty prophet Elijah as his example. I’m no Elijah, but I was all ears to hear someone finally acknowledge that even the most faithful and successful servants of God can be struck with debilitating sadness, and it is not an abandoning of faith.
(To get the full story, read 1 Kings 18 and 19.) Basically, Elijah has spent a day calling upon the power of God to show the prophets of Baal that God is God, not Baal. Elijah calls down fire and, in a mighty miracle, proves his point. Next, as the nation is enduring a severe drought, Elijah prays for rain. Despite all the signs against it, a cloud appears and soon enough, a torrent. Again, it is a miraculous proof of God’s presence and power. But Queen Jezebel hears about Elijah and sends an army to go kill him. He has undermined her power, made her gods look foolish and weak, and slaughtered her prophets.
Elijah, the miracle-working prophet is now on the run into the desert. He sits down under a little tree and tells God, more or less, “kill me now,” and falls asleep. Angels wake him and provide food, and again he sleeps. He is suffering from exhaustion, fear of the queen, and suicidal depression. This great man of faith is a mess.
As I listened to the speaker share this, I actually felt relief. My chirpy, happy-Christian extrovert colleagues maybe didn’t get it, but I did. Faith is not merely a feeling of euphoria. It is a step by step walk towards the will of God, as God leads. Sometimes God leads us atop mountains of great success, and sometimes through valleys of darkness. Either can produce the exhaustion and sadness that Elijah felt.
But God isn’t through with Elijah yet. After his second meal at the Angels Café under that tree, he goes on in the strength of that meal for the next 40 days, fasting in the wilderness, because God has more for him to do. Sure enough, as Elijah is resting in a cave, there is a big earthquake, then a great wind, then a mighty fire. Elijah has seen God’s power before. But God is not in any of these. Finally, there is “sheer silence,” and out that silence Elijah hears the still, small voice of God.
Let’s fast forward to the New Testament. Not unlike Elijah, Jesus is also well established in his ministry. And like Elijah, Jesus also finds resistance, but his is from those in his hometown, even his family. Then his cousin, John the Baptist, is put to death. In Matt. 14:13 we read, “When Jesus heard about [the death of John], he withdrew by boat to a deserted place.” But, the crowds follow and find him. He has compassion upon them and heals their sick. After a long day, the disciples suggest Jesus send the crowds away so they can get supper. But, the Lord tells them, “You feed them.” Really? Us? As we know, a few fish and loaves are offered and turned into a banquet for thousands.
Then we read, “Immediately,” Jesus sends the disciples in a boat to the other side of the lake (about a six mile distance across the Sea of Galilee). Jesus finally gets his chance to rest and pray. Even he needs a break from the demands of people as he grieves the death of John. Meanwhile a storm begins to batter the disciples’ boat. Early in the morning they see a ghostly figure coming towards them walking on the surface. They cry out in fear, but the Lord assures them, “Take heart, it is I.”
The group’s spokesman, Peter, says, “Well IF it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.” If? If? What if it was a ghost Peter!! Anyway, Peter sets out walking on the water and begins to sink. “Lord, save me!” he cries. Jesus reaches down, pulls him up, and they walk back to the boat and get in. Jesus asks him, “Why did you doubt?”
Well, it’s obvious to us-- because Peter was sinking! This experienced fisherman was about to drown because he dared obey the Lord’s one word command, “Come.” Peter obeyed. Peter took the Lord at his word.
That is faith, taking God at his word, as a mentor of mine would often say. Jesus asks, “Why did you doubt?” He is asking Peter why his faith waivered. I can’t help but wonder, if it were me, how would I answer? Maybe something like… “Thanks for pulling me out of the water, but did we really have to keep walking through that hurricane to get back to the boat? Couldn’t you have stopped the storm earlier?!” That’s what my faith would expect! I’d rather be protected from peril before sinking into it!
Then we read, “When they got into the boat, the wind ceased.” Why then and not before? The word “when” in this context is not a question, like, “When will the storm stop?” Or, in our context perhaps, “When will I get a job?” Or, “When will this Covid thing subside?” Instead, this little word “when” is an answer. “When they got into the boat, the wind ceased.” Their response? “All in the boat worshipped the Lord.”
When… Elijah wished for death instead of Jezebel’s murder of him, perhaps wondering, “When will God save me from her?” Peter might have wondered, “When will Jesus do something before I drown?” “When” is often a good question, and sometimes it’s a confusing answer. “When they got into the boat, the wind stopped.” That’s when.
I find myself asking God, “When will this raging storm of division in our nation cease? When will our economy get going again? When will we be able to be socially non-distant? When will people stop murdering each other in our streets?” Any of us might ask, “When will my cancer be gone? When will I be able to see my grandchildren again? When will my son get a job?”
Just as our questions of God often begin with that word, so do God’s answers. If God answers at all, it might be: “Your prayer will be answered in this way when it is according to my timing, according to my will, according to my ultimate purposes.” And so in the meantime, we take God at his word. That is, we proceed by faith, not by sight. We step out of our boat into the storm when he says, “Come,” because this is the word of the Lord.
If you think about it, the disciples boarded that boat by faith, because the Lord told them to cross to the other side. The word of the Lord was fulfilled. Verse. 34 says, “When they crossed over, they came to the land of Gennesaret,” thus fulfilling the word of the Lord.
So friends, if the great miracle-working Elijah experienced depression, and the great fisherman Peter found himself drowning, don’t be surprised if you feel overwhelmed. Know that you are not alone. Others share your experience. Know that God is not only with you, God can still use you.
Whether God comes down to us in a display of fire, or speaks in a small voice in the silence, or beckons us to leave the boat and walk through the tempest, let’s have faith. Let’s take God at his word when he says, “Come,” when he says “Go,” when he says “Stay,”. No matter how and when he answers our questions, to us he always says, “I love you. I will not leave you.”
Prayer: God of land and sea, Lord of our hearts, during this time of uncertainty, help us seek you and listen. May we take you, Lord, at your word and walk by faith, led by your Spirit in truth and love. May we seek peace in turmoil, calm in strife, hope in our despair, unity in our divisions. May we be loving and generous to our friends in their tough times, and kind to all, as you, Lord Jesus, would be. Even as we ask, “When will all this bad news stop?,” help us to trust in your timing. May our faith in and love for you grow as you fill us with your presence. 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 at 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.
THE LORD'S PRAYER:
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.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
HYMN: “My faith Looks up to Thee”
CHARGE & BLESSING