August 13, 2023
11th Sunday after Pentecost
Please join us in Calvin Hall following worship today for a time of fellowship.
While the United Way picked up our School Supply items this week, We are still accepting donations for Our Christmas in July Drive. Your gifts will help us to give a gift card to local schools to purchase things they did not receive from the United Way.
The Gathering Place continues to serve the needs of people for connection and socialization. Tell your friends. Come assist and join with this thing that Christ is doing in our midst. Please speak to Pastor Joyce to sign up to assist in the near future.
JoAnn Grimm who struggles with health problems.
Joan Pinkston, on hospice.
Walter Metzger who is recovering from pneumonia
*CALL TO WORSHIP (adapted from Psalm 105: 1-4)
O give thanks to the Lord, call on his name,
Make known his deeds among the peoples.
Sing to him, sing praises to tell of his wonderful works.
Glory in his holy name.
Let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
Let us gather this day to seek the Lord and his strength.
May we know his presence today and for all our days. Amen.
How often it feels that we are in a storm tossed boat. The waves are crashing around us, and we are so afraid! Come to us, O Savior. Walk upon the waters of our worry and, quiet our hearts. Show us your amazing love that offers life and meaning and hope for all the world. Amen.
*HYMN To God Be the Glory #485
(You may be seated.)
CALL TO CONFESSION
“Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” How often Jesus offered those words of comfort to his disciples. He continues to offer them to modern day disciples, to you and to me. Let us lean on those words as we together to confess our failings.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
Forgive us, Gracious Lord, for the snarky comments, hurtful behaviors and lack of forgiveness that we have extended to our brothers and sisters and to members of our church family. Families can be messy, and while we’ve not put our brother into a pit or sold him into slavery, we confess that we’ve not always lived your call to grace as fully as we might. Help us to recognize the ways that we contribute to conflicts and tension. Help us to amend our ways and to be more loving and accepting as we go forward. Thank you, Lord, that even in the midst of our own worst moments you still love us. Amen.
Assurance of Pardon
In Christ Jesus we are forgiven and drawn near. The storm in our hearts is calmed and in God’s love we are free to be our best and most loving self. Thank you, Lord. Amen.
SONG OF PRAISE Gloria Patri #579
PASSING THE PEACE
May the peace of Christ be with you.
And also with you.
PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION
We come to hear your holy word, Gracious Lord. Let us set aside our worries and sorrows that we might gather new insights for healing and hope. May your love pull us up from the pit and into the light of your glory. Amen.
Genesis 37: 1-4, 12-28
37 Jacob lived in the land where his father had stayed, the land of Canaan.
2 This is the account of Jacob’s family line. Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives, and he brought their father a bad report about them. 3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made an ornate[a] robe for him. 4 When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.
12 Now his brothers had gone to graze their father’s flocks near Shechem, 13 and Israel said to Joseph, “As you know, your brothers are grazing the flocks near Shechem. Come, I am going to send you to them.” “Very well,” he replied. 14 So he said to him, “Go and see if all is well with your brothers and with the flocks, and bring word back to me.” Then he sent him off from the Valley of Hebron. When Joseph arrived at Shechem, 15 a man found him wandering around in the fields and asked him, “What are you looking for? 16 He replied, “I’m looking for my brothers. Can you tell me where they are grazing their flocks?” 17 “They have moved on from here,” the man answered. “I heard them say, ‘Let’s go to Dothan.’” So Joseph went after his brothers and found them near Dothan. 18 But they saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him. 19 “Here comes that dreamer!” they said to each other. 20 “Come now, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we’ll see what comes of his dreams.” 21 When Reuben heard this, he tried to rescue him from their hands. “Let’s not take his life,” he said. 22 “Don’t shed any blood. Throw him into this cistern here in the wilderness, but don’t lay a hand on him.” Reuben said this to rescue him from them and take him back to his father. 23 So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe—the ornate robe he was wearing— 24 and they took him and threw him into the cistern. The cistern was empty; there was no water in it.25 As they sat down to eat their meal, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were loaded with spices, balm and myrrh, and they were on their way to take them down to Egypt. 26 Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? 27 Come, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.” His brothers agreed. 28 So when the Midianite merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt.
Matthew 14: 22-33
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 Tossed by The Storm
Did you catch the story this week about the young man who was rescued about 12 miles off the coast of Florida? The video showed his small boat about 90% filled with sea water. It was being pushed this way and that by the waves and seemed about to sink when the Coast Guard pulled our hapless sailor from the sinking boat. It seems that he had lost not just the motor but his emergency kit, so he had no radio, flares, water or even a life vest! Luckily he was found and rescued.
I’ve never personally been on a boat that was in trouble. I remember losing one oar in a canoe, but weren’t that far from shore and there was no real danger. But in our story today, there was a storm that was tossing the disciples’ boat this way and that. I can imagine that they were terrified. In the very dim light of predawn a figure came toward them over the waves. A ghost? A sea monster? Some other unknown but probably dangerous phenomenon? No. It was Jesus! It was Jesus coming to his disciples.
Walking on water. It’s become the tongue in cheek test for any who would claim to be a Messiah. It’s also a major stumbling block for those who might otherwise be inclined to explore the faith of Jesus Christ. Our scientifically trained minds just can’t go there. It makes people question how much of the gospel can they really trust.
This morning I want to dig into this tory to see if we can make sense of Matthew’s account. In the first place, the people of Matthew’s day would be much less likely to ask “Could it happen?” They had been steeped in the concept of God who could set aside the rules of nature to achieve his purposes. Think about God turning the waters of the Nile to blood or raining frogs to convince Pharaoh to let his slaves go free. Moses parted the Red Sea so they could cross on dry land. He struck a rock and water came gushing out. He instructed Moses to set a bronze snake on a pole so that any who had been bitten by poisonous snakes could look at it and be saved. Think about Elijah calling down an instantaneous fire onto the altar in that test between him and the prophets of Baal. All of these things would be contrary to the world of science as we know it, but the people in Matthew’s time accepted that God could manage such things.
Matthew’s people were much more likely to ask, “What does it mean?” So let’s consider that. There are about three major themes here and I think all three have validity for us today. The first of those themes regards the question, “Who is this Jesus?”
As I mentioned, the Bible is full of examples of God controlling nature. Here it is Jesus controlling the waters. He not only walks on top of the waves, he also quiets the storm. He is in control. When the disciples are alarmed he says, “Take heart. It is I. Do not be afraid.” “It is I.” In Hebrew that would be “eigo eime.” Those words would be very familiar to the readers of the day because those were the words that God offered to Moses at the burning bush. Moses had complained that he didn’t even know God’s name and God had responded, “Ego eimi.” Which is translated “I am who I am.” Tell the people that I AM sent you.” Ego Eime. I AM.
So we can see that Matthew is making a statement about who Jesus is. That’s further emphasized by the response of the disciple once the wind had subsided. “They worshipped him saying truly you are the Son of God.” Two chapters further along Peter would make that declaration of faith when Jesus asks, “But who do you say that I am?” He will respond, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” This is a bit of a preview!
Here’s the second part of this story that is important. Jesus is coming to his disciples because they are in trouble. The storm is raging and they are at risk of sinking, just like our young man from Florida. Jesus is coming to rescue them. He’s coming to save them because that’s his role. That’s his job. He cares. He saves. He is there for them. Matthew is showing us the nature of Jesus and what he’s all about. To be our Savior.
But Jesus isn’t the only one in this story. Matthew is telling us something about the church. The church exists in a world, even in Matthew’s day, where there are dangers out there. Disbelieve, hostility to the faith, persecution, difficulties and danger from an alienated world. The boat is the church being tossed this way and that, in danger of the waves that prevail.
The disciples were afraid. Even before they saw Jesus they were wondering if they would make it to the other side. Could their boat survive the storm? It was dark. They didn’t know how close they were to shore. They didn’t know what other dangers were out there. They didn’t know if they could swim for it if need be. I imagine they were feeling very much like the young man from Florida. “Oh, help us, Lord!”
But they weren’t alone. Jesus hadn’t abandoned them. Jesus could reach them, even if he had no boat. Even if the storm and the dark hid them. He could see. He could reach them.
What does that tell us about our adventures as the church? Jesus was there for them. Jesus is here for us, too. The dangers and unknown of our world is no match for the love of our Lord.
The disciples were amazed, of course to see their teacher coming to them that way. Peter wanted to try it, too. Peter wanted to feel the power of God carrying him over the waves. Jesus agreed. “Ok, Peter, come to me.” I give Peter a lot of credit. I’m not sure I could do it—to crawl over the side of that boat? The first couple steps went good. Then a strong gust of wind chased an especially big wave at him and he was reminded of where he was and what he was doing. Yikes! He’d been OK when he was focusing his attention on Jesus, but now he was going down. He cried out, “Lord save me!” And of course Jesus reached out to grab hold of him before he sank into the sea. “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
Matthew is offering us this story or maybe we should call it a parable? He wants us to see ourselves in Peter’s place. The church is the boat on a stormy sea. Even in our society where Christianity is the accepted faith, still there are doubters. There are people who selfishly push for their own advantage. There are people filled with hate and violence. There are those who are so afraid of anyone who is different that they can’t stand that the church accepts and loves all people. Sin and evil, disease and fear, despair and apathy, ignorance and injustice. Those are the things that today’s church must stand against.
We can’t do it on our own. We need to keep our eye on Jesus. He’s the one who calls us into being. He’s the one who gives us our marching orders. He’s the one who invites us to step out of the relative safety of the church in order to join him on the waves. When we keep our focus on him, we will be able to manage. When we start thinking about all that stands in our way, we’ll sink every time! But even then, when we call, “Save me, Lord.” our savior will be there to offer up his hand. We’ll get back in the boat to be re-energized so we can try again to walk with Jesus.
Sometimes when we’ve had a moment of sinking into the waves we say, “Never again. That is too risky, too dangerous, too scary.” At other times we might say, ”Well that obviously didn’t work, so I never need try anything like that again.” That would be too bad, because even in those situations, God is at work. God is using us to move the needle towards health and healing for our world.
Think about Joseph down in that pit. He was wishing for God’s hand to reach down and pull him out. When it was the hand of a brother who pulled him from the depths in order to sell him into slavery, what a bitter moment. It seemed that God had forgotten him. This youngest and most favored of sons might be forgiven for thinking that. But as the story moves forward we realize that God had very much NOT forgotten him. God was at work in his life. It all happened so slowly that our eyes couldn’t see it in the moment, but God was molding Joseph into a major player who would hold the future in his hands. It was the future for his family, but also for Egypt.
We have two stories, two examples of God at work to save his people. Jesus who came to his disciples rescue and God who crafted Joseph into the one who would save his family. The disciples were very aware of their Lord’s care for them. Joseph was almost certainly oblivious to what God was doing. We are probably somewhere in the middle. Or maybe we jump back and forth between being aware and being oblivious of God’s hand leading us. The bottom line is that we need to be ready to get out of the boat when Jesus calls us. We need to keep our eye on our Lord. We need to know that even if we start to sink, Jesus will pull us up and help us back to the boat.
So as you go forth from this place, I hope you will consider your own life. When have there been those Joseph moments where you are blind to God leading you forward, but he was there. And when have you been in Peter’s shoes, walking to our Lord and serving him.
In either situation God holds us close and calls us to be in the business of bringing new life and new hope to our world. Let’s be a part of that. Praise to our Lord. Amen.
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.
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, now and forever. Amen.
OFFERING OUR GIFTS TO GOD
*DOXOLOGY Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow #592
PRAYER OF DEDICATION
*HYMN "We Come As Guests Invited" #517.
(you may be seated.)
INVITATION TO THE LORD’S TABLE
THE GREAT THANKSGIVING ( by Pastor)
RECEIVING THE BREAD AND THE CUP
*HYMN This Is My Father’s World #293
(You may be seated.)
*CHARGE & BLESSING
* Sections of the service preceded with * are times to stand if you are able to do so.
Bold text is to be read together aloud as a congregation.