Here you will find the initial manuscript for the sermon I preached this weekend. But here's the thing...it was preached three different ways this weekend. Depending on which service you attended, you may have heard something just a little different than what is written here.
The other piece to this is that on Saturday evening I presided at a memorial service for a 37 year old who overdosed on heroin. There will probably be reflections on that in a later post, but the text from Matthew is the one I used at that service as well. So I had the opportunity to share the message of God's love and grace in 4 very different settings all stemming from Jesus walking on water and grabbing Peter. The text is still alive and well with me this morning.
Here's hoping that as you read - or as you heard it this weekend - that a message of love, grace and hope grabs you.
August 10, 2014
9th Sunday after Pentecost
1 Kings 19:9-18
Please pray with me,
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God, our rock, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
Having just left the beach with the water and waves….this text is a good one.
It’s also a fun one to sing. As soon as I read through this text in preparation for preaching this weekend, I kept getting Jesus is walking on a lake, lake, lake….stuck in my head.
It’s a passage you may have heard before. But here’s hoping we can hear it in a new light this day.
Because here’s the way I bet we’ve heard it in the past….and it’s not wrong, but it may leave us wanting something…You see, oftentimes we have focused on Peter, he seems to take the lead in this story.
In the midst of the boat that is being battered by waves…they see Jesus on the water…they think it’s a ghost, but he assures them of who he is. It is I, he says.
Peter says, okay, if it’s you call me out onto the water….so Jesus does.
And Peter walks….well, until he looks around and feels the storm…and then he’s unsure and begins to sink. He calls to Jesus and Jesus reaches out and catches him.
Jesus comments about the ‘little faith’…or doubt that Peter had, but he still caught him….and then they got into the boat.
It seems that the first response…or lesson to be learned from this passage is to keep our eyes on Jesus….to not doubt. Because in those early moments, Peter seems to do just that and in those moments, he steps out onto the sea.
Yet as soon as he looks away, he loses it.
Too easy for us to connect with this right?
Sure, we are to focus on Christ, keep our eyes on Christ, stay focused and all will be well.
Like in the ending of Star Wars when they are trying to take out the Death Star, they have a task to accomplish, even though ships surround them firing at them….you hear the leader: Stay on target.
Stay on target.
But come on…. We just can’t always stay on target.
And we don’t want to or need to focus on our imperfections here.
We all have ‘em. And we want to have the best faith we can and feel rock solid in our faith, like we could just hop out of the boat and walk right to Jesus.
But we’re not there.
Some days we may feel like we are…heck even some weeks or months.
But then something hits.
The loss of a loved one.
A work transition.
Troubles at recess.
A change in how your family looks.
Teammates who are your friend one day and don’t talk to you the next.
The list could go on and on….something…somewhere in your life changes and you lose focus.
And when that happens – BAM – Jesus catches you.
Just like that.
Just like Jesus caught Peter. He didn’t need to be told to look to Jesus or believe….in that hold, in the moment it just happened.
Think of the sense of peace and comfort that must have surrounded Peter in that moment.
You probably have an experience that may be similar to that.
Like when you were learning to swim and just needed an extra hand as you struggled. And BAM – that hand was there and you felt safe.
Just like that, each and every time we face a struggle, trial, tribulation, uncertainty…. BAM! -
Jesus catches us.
And when he does, we don’t have to be told to look to Jesus anymore….as Jesus holds us it’s impossible not to believe that he’s got us. It makes it possible to believe even if we are in the sea of disbelief.
Because that’s it, right? How can you not believe that Jesus is with you throughout everything…when he’s holding you in the midst of the worst possible points?
“Yes, Peter should have kept his eyes on Jesus...and so should we. But when we don't, when we falter, or even fail, Jesus will be there to grab us, to catch us, to support us and set us up straight again, ready to give it another go.”
So I want you to think for a moment…about a place where you have felt vulnerable…lost….alone…you won’t need to share it….but just think about a time or place when you needed God’s presence in your midst. The Greek basanizo - the word in our text for battered) literally means torture, torment or harassment; figuratively it means severe distress.
Because that’s the place where Jesus grabs us.
That’s the place where you are loved, held, embraced.
That’s the place, when you feel most vulnerable Jesus is with you.
That’s the place when you feel most alone, that Jesus is with you.
You need not have the perfect faith. Jesus is there no matter what.
Dr. Timothy Wengert, a former faculty member of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia may not have said this word for word, but I attribute the idea to him. As he was talking about the community of faith, he may have shared a story about how he lost his first wife to cancer. It was someone in his faith community who said to him, that’s okay if you don’t believe….we’ll believe for you.
In the midst of horrible grief, his belief in God was held by those around him as he moved through grief.
In a similar way, one week as we gathered for worship in the campus chapel, our seminary musician had lost his grandmother. As he wept as he played the hymns that day, it was the voice of community song that held him that day. When he didn’t have the voice to sing, we sang for him.
Each of these moments, different, yet similar, echo the situation of Peter this day.
In the midst of stormy waters, and unsteady footing….Christ is all he needs.
In the midst of our own storms, when we feel battered and tossed about.
Christ is all we need.
Will we have the perfect faith? No.
Will we get everything just right? No.
Will we doubt? Most likely more often than we’d like to admit.
But in the midst of all of that…Christ is with us.
Christ is in our midst, as we greet one another with a word, a hand shake or a hug of peace.
Christ is in our midst as we lift others up when they cannot hold themselves up.
As Christ is ever present in this gathering…may we be strengthened and uplifted, fed and nourished, may we be Christ to one another in our midst, healing, loving, caring and supporting.
And may the experience we have here….the fellowship, the word of God, the passing of Christ’s peace, this meal of bread and wine….may all of it continue to carry us back out of this place…into the world…to tell friends and family, neighbors, loved ones and strangers about how we are changed. How we are able to live in a busy, crazy world, because we know Christ is with us….in the midst of the stormiest days…to the days when we feel clarity and peace….and every single day in between.
May others come to know the presence of Christ….the feeling of being grabbed and held, just in the nick of time….just because they are loved by God.
And now may the peace, which passes all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus and let all God’s people say, amen.