|Pentecost 20, Year A||October 18, 2020||Pentecost 20, Proper 24, Year A||I Thessalonians 1:1-10, Psalm 96|
|Pentecost 19, Year A||October 11, 2020||Pentecost 19, Proper 23, Year A||Philippians 4:1-9|
|Pentecost 18, Year A||October 4, 2020||Pentecost 18, Year A||Isaiah 5:1-7, Psalm 80:7-14, Philippians 3:4b-14, Matthew 21:33-46|
|Pentecost 17, Year A – Elizabeth Heimbach||September 27, 2020||Pentecost 17, Proper 21 Year A||Matthew 21:23-32|
|Pentecost 16, Year A||September 20, 2020||Pentecost 16, Proper 20, Year A 2020 The Season of Creation||Matthew 20:1-16|
|Pentecost 15, Year A||September 13, 2020||Pentecost 15, Proper 19||Genesis 50:15-21, Matthew 18:21-35|
|Pentecost 14, Year A||September 6, 2020||Pentecost 14, Proper 18, Year A||Ezekiel 33:7-11, Romans 13:8-14, Matthew 18:15-20|
|Pentecost 13, Year A||August 30, 2020||Pentecost, 13, Proper 17, Year A||Romans 12:9-21, Matthew 16:21-28|
|Pentecost 12, Year A||August 23, 2020||Pentecost 12, , Proper 16, Year A||Isaiah 51:1-6, Ps 138, Romans 12:1-8, Matthew 16:13-20|
|Pentecost 11, Year A||August 16, 2020||Pentecost 11, Proper 15, Year A||Isaiah 56:1, 6-8; Matthew 15:10-28|
|➤Pentecost 10, Year A||August 9, 2020||Pentecost 10, Proper 14, Year A||I Kings 19:9-18, Romans 10:5-15, Matthew 14:22-33|
|Pentecost 9, Year A||August 2, 2020||Pentecost 9, Proper 13, Year A||Psalm 145:8-9, 15-22; Matthew 14:13-21|
|Pentecost 8, Year A||July 26, 2020||Eighth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 12, 2020||Romans 8:26-39, Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52|
|Pentecost 7, Year A||July 19, 2020||Pentecost 7, Proper 11, Year A||Romans 8:12-25, Matthew 13:24-30,36-43|
|Pentecost 6, Year A – Evening||July 12, 2020||Pentecost 6, Proper 10, Year A||Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23|
Pentecost 10, Year A
Sermon Date:August 9, 2020
Scripture: I Kings 19:9-18, Romans 10:5-15, Matthew 14:22-33
Liturgy Calendar: Pentecost 10, Proper 14, Year A
“Jesus Walks on Water” – Ivan Aivazovsky (1888)
“Jesus is Lord!” the Apostle Paul proclaims.
We believe that Jesus is indeed the Lord, and that God raised Jesus from the dead.
As Christians, we have faith that God will also raise us up from the dead and that we too will enjoy eternal life.
We already see signs of eternal life and glimpses of heaven on this earth, through the presence of Jesus with us and the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in the lives of those around us.
But even with signs of salvation surrounding us, we believe that our salvation will only be complete on that last day when—as we say in the Nicene Creed—“Jesus will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.”
So our salvation is an ongoing process, marked by the fact that God raised Jesus from the dead, and marked by our faithful belief that Jesus is Lord.
We live faithfully out of that belief, looking for and participating in the work of the Spirit in and around us, while we pray with all our might for God’s kingdom to come, and for our salvation to be at last fully realized on this earth as it is in heaven.
So every day is one in which we can join heartily in that hymn, “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine. Oh what a foretaste of glory divine.”
The reality, though, is that not every day is one on which we feel blessed assurance. Sometimes, despite our faith, doubt thunders in, or seeps into our hearts and minds, and we’re left wondering if the whole story of God’s love for us is just, in the end, fake news.
But in our doubts, we find ourselves in good company–in great company, in fact–with two giants of the faith, Elijah, one of the most famous of the Old Testament prophets, and the disciple Peter.
Elijah knew God’s might and power, and how that power worked through him. So to find him scared to death by fact that Queen Jezebel is threatening to kill him stretches the imagination.
Instead of offering up his fear to God, Elijah runs, a long, long way and at last comes to rest in a cave in Horeb.
God shows up and asks Elijah what he is doing there. Elijah is full of self pity. “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life to take it away.”
Elijah feels alone, with no other person to help, and he’s questioning God, too. I think that Elijah was wondering why God didn’t just strike Jezebel dead when she threatened Elijah’s life, so that Elijah wouldn’t have to be scared and run from her.
God response to this is to say, “I’m about to pass by, so go stand on the mountain.”
Now the way I read this passage is that Elijah doesn’t go out and stand on the mountain, but cowers in the cave as a giant wind blows so strong that it splits mountains and rocks, he feels the walls of the cave tremble around him in a fearsome earthquake, and then sees outside the cave the light of a fire so strong that he can feel the heat penetrate the walls of the cave.
And then, sheer silence.
Only in the silence does Elijah come out. He has survived these incredible displays of God’s power that have shaken the foundations of the earth around him, and were much more likely to have killed him than Jezebel. But he survived. And he would have survived if he had stood on the mountain before the Lord as God had asked him to do, and watched the show rather than cowering in the cave.
So now as he stands at the entrance to the cave, with his face wrapped in his mantle, God asks him what he is doing there, and Elijah gives the VERY SAME ANSWER as he did before!
Didn’t Elijah learn ANYTHING from what had just happened? That God would protect him? That God was watching over him? That he had nothing to fear?
Here’s the best part of the story. God doesn’t reprimand Elijah for his cowardice, for his disobedience in not going out to stand on the mountain, for his complete missing of the message that God’s might is greater than that of the bullying queen Jezebel.
God doesn’t scold Elijah for missing the dramatic lesson that God valued Elijah’s life and would protect him through the worst. God doesn’t fire his prophet, even though the prophet is completely clueless even after witnessing God’s power and might up close and personal.
God simply tells Elijah what to do next. God has got a plan for ending the corrupt reign of Ahab and Jezebel and Elijah has a part in that plan that God expects Elijah to carry out.
But at the very end of God’s directions to Elijah, I can’t help but laugh—because God finally does respond to Elijah’s self pity by reminding Elijah that, no, he is not the only one left in Israel who is with God. “Actually, Elijah, there are seven thousand others who are with me. You aren’t the only one after all.”
In Matthew’s gospel, we find Peter in the same metaphorical boat as Elijah.
In this story about Peter, Jesus has dismissed the disciples so that he can have some much needed alone time with God.
The disciples run into a storm, and since the wind is against them, and they can’t make progress as the waves batter their boat. They can’t help themselves in this kind of storm. They’re stuck. This torture goes on all night, and then in the early morning, Jesus comes toward them, walking on the water. They don’t even recognize him because they are already so battered by fear. They think Jesus is a ghost.
And even after Jesus says, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid,” Peter puts Jesus to the test.
“Prove it, Jesus. If it’s really you, command me to come to you on the water.” Right here, I think about that Old Testament commandment of not putting God to the test. But Jesus doesn’t reprimand Peter. Jesus simply says, “Come.”
So Peter gets out of the boat. He is now literally alone, with none of his buddies around him. He starts walking on the water toward Jesus.
But then, like Elijah, he gets overwhelmed by fear. The storm brings him down. He starts sinking.
Peter comes to his senses. Even as he doubts that he will survive, he calls out for Jesus to save him.
And Jesus immediately stretches out his hand and saves Peter.
At this point, Jesus does give Peter a scolding. “You of little faith,” he says to Peter, “Why did you doubt?”
Jesus and Peter get back in the boat with the others, and the storm ceases.
And in the peaceful silence, their fear gone, the disciples worship, and they proclaim, “Jesus, you are Lord.”
They have seen a glimpse of God’s almighty hand at work through Jesus, for only God could calm the storm. Only God through Jesus could have reached out his hand and pulled Peter out of the battering waves. They have just witnessed God’s love for them and protection of them. Their boat rests quiet in the calm. Jesus is with them, and all of them are safe. They know now. Jesus is more than their teacher. Jesus is their Lord.
We human beings cannot help but fear when our lives are at stake, because ultimately, we know that we have no power to save ourselves, and that death will at some point come.
But before our lives come to a close, God will still many a storm, and answer our cries for help, and God’s hand will be there for us pull us out of the depths if we call on God for help.
These passages about Elijah and Peter assure us that God is with us in this life, that God’s love for us is true, that even when we doubt, God has a plan for each one of us. Our salvation is ongoing in the great outworking of the Holy Spirit and the coming of God’s kingdom here on earth. Each of us has an assignment from God, and that God will protect us and see us through our lives and will bring us home to safety and our place in God’s kingdom in heaven when our work is done.
God gives us the faith to profess with our lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised Jesus from the dead. God gives us eyes to see not just a great man when we turn our eyes toward Jesus, but to see, as the disciples did, the very Son of God, and our Savior.
So even though we are dust, and to dust we shall return,
all of us go down to the dust, yet even at the grave we make our song: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia,
because Jesus is Lord and God is with us, both in this life and the next, and we know that our salvation will be complete.