Aug 10, Walking on the Water

Title:Aug 10, Walking on the Water

  Sunday, Aug. 10, 2014  (full size gallery)

We had only 25 in church today with summer activities taking their toll.

We recognized Roger and Eunice for volunteering to participate in the Staten Island Clothes Distribution. The Moravian church had one group cancel and so Roger and Eunice have stepped in to help from Wednesday through Sunday. Two years ago both participated in our mission team there and Roger and a group organized relief for Hurricane Sandy. 

We also celebrated late Mike’s birthday a week late since he was in Colorado. Joe and Mary Ann are celebrating their 23rd wedding anniversary this week.

This week we announced the church had raised the full $14,000 to cover the cost of the organ bellows. Half of this came from a Diocese of Virginia Mustard Seed Grant. The organ should be returned the week of Aug. 15 or possibly next week.

The sermon was was based on Matthew’s reading on Jesus walking on the water. The readings are here. The sermon interpreted this story as one of hope although it revealed Peter’s failure and criticism of him from Jesus as not having sufficient faith. 

Where is Jesus during our tragedies and difficult times ? The sermon pointed out glimmers of hope

1. Timing. "They saw someone walking toward them on the water. This timing brings with it a tiny glimmer of hope—the early hours of the morning being darkest hour of the night, right before the turning of the earth and the coming of dawn turn the black night first to an inky blue and then, from the pale light of dawn to the brightness of a new day.The darkest hour of the night, right before the dawn, is the hour of the resurrection itself. So the very timing of this story brings with it hints of hope."

2. Jesus is walking to us. "Now here’s something else I love about this story, the fact that Jesus himself, the Son of God, is walking–walking, not running–but walking toward us in the midst of the storm itself, walking toward us over the waves. The fact that Jesus walks to us is comforting. God works like this, in God’s time, patiently, intentionally. As much as we’d like an instant fix in the form of a rescue, which provides an immediate answer to our prayers, God doesn’t rush to bring us at once to the end of our sorrows."

3. "It is I". "In those awful times in which we all will find ourselves, sooner or later, Jesus is still speaking to us with these words that can resurrect the tiniest flame of faith that wavers in the wind, but somehow stays lit in the darkness, even as the waves wash over our boat and threaten to sink us. Jesus calls out these words. “Take heart (take heart, especially you, the broken hearted)—TAKE HEART.” “IT IS I.”"

4. He gets in the boat with us. "When we see Jesus coming toward us and we ask for the strength, the resolve and the courage to walk through the storm to meet him rather than to sink beneath the waves, God will say the same thing to us. Come…And that’s what God does for us when we start sinking down in fear and struggling not to drown—and we cry out. Immediately God comes right into the heart of our fear, reaches out a hand and not only helps us right back into the boat, but also gets in with us. And the wind ceased.

The sermon ended with a quote from Sir. Thomas More, executed in England during Henry VIII’s reigh. "More wrote a book called The Dialogue of Comfort against Tribulation. In this book, More reminds us to gather up what little faith we have into a narrow little room, and to ask God for aid and for comfort as we weather these storms in our lives."

Weekly message from Canon Lance Ousley from the Diocese of Washington:

It takes moving out of our comfort zone to step out and exercise our faith. Faithful stewardship moves us past what is familiar in our culture, exercising our faith in the perspective of living in the heavenly kingdom on earth. This is in stark contrast to living with the perspective of the "kingdom" of the dominant consumerists’ culture. Our reading options this week starkly present this contrast with the reality of life and death. Reflecting deeply on this, one asks if living with a perspective of the "kingdom" of dominant consumerism is really living?

Both of our options for our 1st reading this week are present us with the deadly aspects of following the dominant consumerist perspective of the culture. In the reading from 1st Kings those who live by the sword of conquest die by the sword of consumerism worshipping Baal in a pagan religion of violent scarcity which dominants their culture. Yet, those who subscribe to God’s ways and the culturally less familiar idea of God’s providence find life. Our faith truly is reflected in our actions.

Paul’s letter to the Romans picks up this idea of letting go of the familiar and living with the authenticity of what we say we believe. The Jewish Christians in Rome were clinging to the familiarity of the idea that righteousness comes through living according to the Law. Paul challenges them in this familiar mode of thinking, framing it as a form of works righteousness. Paul, rather, upholds righteousness that is founded in faith that Jesus Christ is Lord and has been raised from the dead. This righteousness is then reflected in integration of faith and action living according to the faith instead of the Law. Thereby, proclaiming that it is Christ that saves, not the Law. Paul’s argument holds true for us today as the contemporary dominant cultural "law" is based in a "works righteousness" that promotes one’s value and worth is derived from the conquest of achievements. But Paul’s position that salvation for all (both Jew and Greek) is founded in Christ establishes that our value and worth is measured by the love of Christ as he stretched out his arms on the cross and conquered death for us! Faith in this truth, then is lived in response to this reality stewarding the gift of love and life for all, above any cultural values that say otherwise.

In our reading from Matthew, Peter steps out of the comfort of the boat to meet Jesus as he was walking toward the disciples on the water, certainly presenting something outside of their experience! Jesus’ walking on the water presented a new reality for the disciples, breaking the stays quo of what was familiar to them, reorienting their trust to the presence of God’s coming kingdom into their world. Peter’s faith moved him to step out of the boat, but doubt overcame him as he clung to what was familiar sinking into the swell of dominant cultural norms. Jesus then challenges Peter and us to stay focused in faith on the heavenly kingdom living into that reality in the here and now. Faithful stewardship is like stepping out of the boat and meeting Jesus on the waters buoyed by faith in God’s kingdom presence, even in the midst of a dominant culture that proclaims otherwise, wanting us to sink into the abyss of scarcity and the winds of sub-concious feelings of insufficiency. But Jesus calms the deadly wind and waves of this dominant cultural perspective to reach out and save us with a life that truly is living.

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