Worship for Sunday, August 9, 2020

1 Kings 19:9-18

At that place [Elijah] came to a cave, and spent the night there.

Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ He answered, ‘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.’

He said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’ Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ He answered, ‘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.’ Then the Lord said to him, ‘Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram. Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place. Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall kill; and whoever escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall kill. Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.’

The Word of the Lord.

This mountain always makes me think of the Lord. I know it probably looks nothing like Elijah’s mountain of the Lord.

Psalm 85:8-13

Let me hear what God the Lord will speak,
   for he will speak peace to his people,
   to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts.
Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him,
   that his glory may dwell in our land.
Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet;
   righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
Faithfulness will spring up from the ground,
   and righteousness will look down from the sky.
The Lord will give what is good,
   and our land will yield its increase.
Righteousness will go before him,
   and will make a path for his steps. Amen.

Romans 10:5-15

Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that ‘the person who does these things will live by them.’ But the righteousness that comes from faith says, ‘Do not say in your heart, “Who will ascend into heaven?” ’ (that is, to bring Christ down) ‘or “Who will descend into the abyss?” ’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart’
(that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. The scripture says, ‘No one who believes in him will be put to shame.’ For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’

The Word of the Lord.

A stormy sunset in Fern Creek

The Holy Gospel according to Saint Matthew 14:22-33

Immediately [Jesus] made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking towards them on the lake. But when the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’

Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came towards Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’

The Gospel of our Lord.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

I absolutely – positively love exploring Mayan ruins.  I can’t even begin to explain the joy that fills my nerdy – history loving – tree hugging heart as I explore yet another ancient Mayan ruin.

Many of the really – really good sites are out in the middle of nowhere. 

Being located in more remote areas of Mexico means many of these sights are in the actual jungle!  We see absolutely spectacular plants and trees and animals.  We saw real – honest to goodness wild monkeys hanging out in the trees while eagles soared overhead.  (Yes – the mosquitoes are the size of buzzards – but hey nothing is perfect!)

That isn’t a picture from a zoo my friends! That is a wild monkey!

And I cannot describe how gorgeous and lush and green Mexico’s jungles are.  I have never – ever seen so many shades of green.  I was enchanted.  I was constantly declaring to anyone who would listen – (okay to Jason and Jack) – “Look at all of the GREEN!  Just look at the green!  I love all of the green!  Aren’t you dazzled?  Aren’t you amazed?  Isn’t it gorgeous?”

To which Jason would reply – “Yes Kerri.  It is beautiful – and it is going to rain today at 2:00 o’clock.”

The green just seems to go on forever and ever . . .

And it did.  Every single day of our sabbatical in Mexico.  Great big – scary – wild and crazy storms filled with flashing lightening and crashing – booming thunder and lashing rain that came down in sheets and torrents.  These were storms that made you wish for a basement and we never – ever had a basement.  Storms that left you soaked even if you were wearing your rain poncho!  Storms that caused flash floods.  Storms that turned city streets into rivers and turned trails into mud pits!  Storms that made parents pretend to be brave and act like everything is okay and like no one was about to die.

These storms were just plain awesome and wild and totally terrifying.  Trees would bend and dance in the daytime sky that had gone from a gorgeous blue to a furious black in what always felt like mere seconds.

Over and over and over again.  Day after day.  These wild – terrifying storms would descend on our lives seemingly out of the clear blue sky. 

Storms are part of life.  Even when we are incredibly careful – unexpected things happen.  Fierce storms pop up out of nowhere. 

Which is exactly what happened to the disciples in our Gospel reading for today as they sailed across the Sea of Galilee.  A severe storm popped up out of the middle of nowhere. 

Just a few hours before the disciples had been safe on the shore with Jesus.  Listening to Jesus teach about God’s grace, love, and mercy.  Watching with joy and excitement as Jesus had healed the sick.  And helping Jesus feed 1,000’s of people with 5 dinner rolls and two fish.

But then – just a few hours later – the disciples are in a wildly bobbing boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee – in the middle of a terrifying storm.  They fear they are about to die.  And they are terrified!

Their world was turned upside down and inside out.  One moment the disciples felt safe and secure and deeply content and the next they were being whipped around in a raging storm. 

Sunset on Lake Superior – after a storm

Does that sound familiar to any of you?  Has life ever hit you with a storm out of the clear blue sky?  Can you relate?  Have you felt that sort of fear? 

Maybe it was a phone call that came in the middle of the night.

Perhaps it was the day you lost your job.  Or the day you were asked to take a pay cut just to keep your job?        

Or when your spouse asked for a divorce.

Or when a doctor broke the bad news to you.

Or when a policeman knocked on your door.

Or when your child shocked you with news that broke your heart.

Or as you stood over the grave of a loved one.

Or when a treasured dream died.

Or maybe it was this horrible – frightening pandemic we are all living through right now!

So many of these storm leave us searching for the EXIT sign.

Certainly – everyone here can understand some of what the disciples are feeling as they were being tossed around by that terrifying storm.  Life has a way of bringing storms our way.  And the worst storms often seem to come out of the clear blue sky.

I wish I could be like one of those smooth talking TV preachers (with the really good hair) who promise if you love Jesus enough – bad things won’t happen to you and your loved ones.  But we all know that isn’t true.  I wish I could promise you that as Christians your lives won’t ever be rocked by the storms of this world – but I can’t.  Following Jesus doesn’t mean life will be smooth sailing.  Jesus doesn’t promise us that. 

But Jesus does make us other promises.  Life-giving – life-sustaining promises.  Our Lord gives us hope.  Incredibly awesome hope.

Let’s return to the disciples’ boat.  Yes – there is a raging storm.  Yes – the waves are tossing their boat around.  Yes – the disciples are afraid.  But there is something else happening too.  We see the disciples are not alone.  We see Jesus is with them.  Jesus walked through the raging storm to be with them.  Jesus doesn’t leave his disciples alone to fend for themselves.  Jesus was with his disciples when they needed him the most.

And the same is true for you.  Even when you are being tossed around by the storms of this life you are not alone.  Jesus is with you.  Jesus promises that you are never alone – not even for one single moment.  

Your Lord is with you always. 

The storms of this life will come.  Those storms may crash into your world making a great big mess of things – but even then you are not alone.  Jesus has promised to walk with you and to share in each and every moment of your lives.  You will never be forsaken by God.  God is with you each and every step of the way – even on the stormy seas of life.  Truly this is Good News.  AMEN.

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