“Now What?”

Romans 10:5-11

Matthew 14:22-33

Rev. Dr. Frederick A. Young

Pastor of Youth, Education and Outreach

 

Prayer:  God, Give us courage, strength, peace and Faith.  Amen. 

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            When I arrived in Cape Cod in July with a friend of ours, Michael to meet up with Kara and Michael’s husband, Scott, it was mid-day and after settling in, the four of us went to dinner, and then off to evening worship at the Craigville Colloquy where Kara and Scott had spent their week.  The theme for their gathering of pastors and theologians surrounded the leap of faith of Martin Luther, celebrating the 500th Anniversary of a Rebellion that would turn into a Reformation. 

            Later, the four of us returned to the cottage we shared together, tea was set on the stove to steep, and we sat talking about their experiences.  The conversation turned to Kara and Scott’s own brush within an impending watery grave earlier that week.  While on the beach, both decided to swim out to a small platform about 25 yards from shore.  It seemed close enough.  The waters seemed calm enough.  As they ventured out, the waves began to get stronger and the force of the water kept them from reaching their short destination.  What appeared to be a brief swim to a relaxing sunbathing spot, turned into a battle to survive.  When they reached the platform, both clung to it, out of breath and barely able to move.  The jerky movement of platform on the water only added to their nausea and exhaustion.  They eventually made it back to the shoreline, bruised and spent. 

            Artist and Theologian, Jan Richardson beautifully depicts our Gospel, especially within verse 31, “Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him,” within her poem entitled:  Blessing that Bears the Wind, the Wave

That we will risk the drenching
by which we are drawn
toward the voice that calls us,
the love that catches us,
the faith that carries us
beyond the wind, the wave.

            What rocks your world?  What in life leaves you asking, “Now what?”  Often it is in the midst of the most challenging times that we see God’s presence most clearly.  Why is that?  Do we only seek God when we need the Divine’s touch or help?  Perhaps these moments of distress remind us that our faith is built on knowing, no matter what, God is there.  That our God not only wants to be in relationship with us, but invites us, draws us closer with every breath we take. 

            The first disciples, those tossed about passengers, knew all too well that it was not always easy to be in relationship with Jesus.  When we define our faith as being in relationship with Christ we too, like those early followers, aren’t’ certain where things are headed, and are often confused and unsure about the future.  One of my heroes in ministry, Pastor Mark Yaconelli, has shared:

If this was the experience of those closet to Jesus, why should we assume our experience of the Christian life would be any less ambiguous?  In response to the disciples’ misinterpretations and doubts, Jesus continually told them to “listen.” Repeatedly Jesus told his friends and followers to turn their attention away from their own fears and plans in order to focus on what he was saying and doing. 

            So it is with our scriptures today which point to chaos in some way.  Paul informs the Romans that they have dismissed Christ all together as the ultimate law, and Jesus defies the laws of nature, gliding his way across the stormy sea.  Both passages speak of faith as a verb, not a possession to acquire.  Faith is an action, not a jewel to be worn around the neck. 

            Within the handbook for the mentors of our confirmation program, here at Christ Church I have written the following:

The church is the place where we come to a realization that we are not traveling through life all alone.  Young people need the chance and a time and place to be able to investigate the mysterious territory of faith, but before they don detective hats, youth need to be able to express what they believe right now.  A wonderful place to begin this research is to take a closer look at what their congregation claims they believe. 

What is that we claim we believe as a church?  What is that we claim about our faith?  We would all like to believe that faith lives and breathes in the community that encompasses us.  Right here.  Right now.  But in order for that to happen, we need to own what we believe. 

That we will risk the drenching
by which we are drawn
toward the voice that calls us,
the love that catches us,
the faith that carries us
beyond the wind, the wave.

What is it that leaves us standing in this sanctuary, dripping wet from that which draws us?  What do we claim as we walk out the door and into the streets, that changes not only us, but also the community around us?  Do you hear the voice calling?  Are you listening? 

            You know, it is true that God is with us in the difficulties, responding to our fears and cries for help.  God’s presence is there offering reassurance, hope, and grace.  But just as Jesus called Peter out of the boat, hoping his faith would keep him afloat, God has hopes and dreams for us and for this community of faith.  God calls us to whole-hearted lives of courage and hope. 

            I asked you last week to take home the image of the loves and fish.  I hope that you were able to identify all of the ways you witnessed God using you or someone else to care for the needs of another.  If you remembered to bring them back today, I invite you to place them in the baskets during our time of offering.  What were some of the things you discovered about how God is using you? 

            (Allow time for sharing)

 I would imagine that these were moments in all of our lives when we needed to step out in faith and up for someone else.  These examples and our scripture passages today do not only speak about ourselves, but tells us a little bit about our God.  No matter what it is that reminds us of our need for God, God still responds with compassion and support. 

            Consider these words from Pastor and Teacher, Matthew Skinner who once said:

When Peter steps out of this boat, he enters a tumult.  His motive isn’t to escape from threat, for he goes into a situation where the threats will now look different, into a place where Jesus is defying and reordering the assumed boundaries.  Isn’t this what history’s most faithful people have demonstrated?  Sometimes the most turbulent places are also “thin places” where God breaks through.  

            My friends, we are here because God called us here!  If the disciples were in the boat in the first place because of a Jesus’ plea, then we in Christ Church because God has called us to be here.  Have you ever thought about it like that?  You are a part of this congregation not because you shopped for us, and found that Christ Church meets your needs, but because God has called you into ministry with Christ Church. 

            Do you remember what I shared last week about the identity of Christ?  That Jesus is Emmanuel, “God with us!”  Jesus’ compassion emulates God’s love for us.  That Christ’s healing and miraculous deeds represent the character of God.  This story about Jesus un-conventionally joining his companions is no different and indeed highlights what kind of God he represents. 

            English Author A.A. Milne best known for creating the Winnie The Pooh series, wrote of two favorite characters…

“Piglet crept up to Pooh from behind.  “Pooh?” he whispered.  ‘Yes, Piglet?’ ‘Nothing,’ said Piglet, taking Pooh’s hand.  ‘I just wanted to be sure it was you.’” 

As the Messiah, Christ is charged and empowered by God to shepherd and care for God’s people.  What is it then that makes us turn our attention and our hopes to other things and other assurances?  Perhaps you feel caught at times, between faith and doubt.  This story reminds us that FAITH speaks of realities that are beyond what we can see and touch.

            Again, I ask, what is it that we as a church believe?  What is Jesus asking us to do?  How is the Still Speaking God gathering disciples together in the life of this congregation, to have faith with a focus on Christ? 

That we will risk the drenching
by which we are drawn
toward the voice that calls us,
the love that catches us,
the faith that carries us
beyond the wind, the wave.

Amen.  

 

 

Prayer for Peace….

Gracious God.  At times, we lose track of who we are.  We forget that you are the God of everyone!  Our church buildings are a comfortable place for us to worship you, but like Peter, there are times that, you motion us to come nearer to you, to leave our own security for the sake of another. 

This is one of those times, God!  We want to stay within the familiar, but hatred and violence has erupted, and once again, you beckon us to respond. 

This is 2017, and in our time and place, there is no room for intolerance, injustice, or inconceivable hatred toward anyone of your children.  What gives us the right? Certainly not you, and definitely not your Son, Jesus, who you sent to us once before to put an end to such separation. 

We pray God for those in Charlottesville who had the courage to stand in opposition of hatred and we pray for those who felt to need protest.  Where do we go from here, God?  How can your Realm be seen through us as we are called to action in your world. 

Remind us who and whose we are! 

Amen.