Sermon for Tenth Sunday after Pentecost, August 9, 2020
Read Pastor Julie's sermon as shared on Facebook Live. Visit https://www.facebook.com/saronstrasburg each Sunday at 8:30 a.m. for a brief live service of scripture, prayer, and a sermon by Pastor Julie.
1 Kings 3:5–12 | Matthew 13:31–33, 4–52
The waves are have been bouncing the boat around all night (a nightmare thought for those of with motion-sickness) and then there’s all this hubbub from the other disciples as they freak out when they see a someone out there on the water. I think I finally understand why Peter got out of the boat: When Jesus speaks, Peter sees his opportunity. It sounds so formal here: “Lord, command me to come to you on the water” might be more like Peter saying, “Lord, get me out of here!” “Take me in!” This boat is just too much right now: Too crowded and dizzying and filled with alarm. And to hear those words: Take heart. It is I. Do not be afraid. Peter was drawn to Jesus. (Mo…)
In places where there is more water; where it has long been a means of transportation—there are always stories of storms and wrecks and people lost. In Scandinavian churches, you often see a model or “votive” ships, which have been hung in the “nave” of churches since the middle ages as an expression of trust in God for those on the sea; and trust in God for those lost on the sea. In fact, the word “nave” (the central body of the church where the people sit) is from the same root as “navy” and conjures the image of the church as boat; people (when we can gather) as the crew. (There’s even a viking church in Honfleur, France, where the literal bottom of the boat is the ceiling of the church.) So the boat keeps us above water and going despite deep water and dangerous storms. But there we all are, stuck in it together—for better or worse.
I think we could extend this metaphor a little. After all, the context of this wonderful reading from 1 Kings is a troubled nation: Elijah has just re-directed the people of Israel away from worshiping Baal and very soon, will be told to go and appoint new leadership—two kings and a prophet. We might say that Elijah has also “bailed” from the boat as he hides out in the wilderness because the queen wants to kill him. He’s in a pretty rough space, before this reading, questioning if he even wants to be alive. He then has this encounter with God: One that happens in the wake of the dramatic wind and earthquake and fire. In the “sound” of sheer silence. NOW, he can answer the question that God keeps asking of him. “What are you doing here, Elijah?” “What ARE you doing here, Elijah?”
“What are you doing here, Julie, Saron, Colorado, U.S.?” We could ask of ourselves. And if we were to think of our towns and cities and states and country and world—or any group or organization—each as a boat; there are times we want to bail out because of the hubbub and fear—times, maybe, when we are the ones perpetuating that fear. In this second stormy-sea experience and a soon-to-be panic over a lack of food (after the feeding of the 5,000), the Elijah and disciples are clearly still not in the “kingdom” mentality: There wasn’t enough. There’s isn’t be enough. There will never be enough. And maybe Peter is thinking; “there’s got to be something better.” And also, he’s the one who sees quickly that it’s really Jesus out there. He’s able to process the words: Take heart. It is I. Do not be afraid. So off to Jesus he goes, even in the middle of a windy sea.
Of course, the “not enough” catches up to Peter: There’s not enough buoyancy; there’s not enough faith to stay up. But Jesus catches him—and contrary to what we tend to think, doesn’t lecture him about his short falling so much point something out: You of “little” faith—which according to the parables like the mustard seed, is still enough—why did you not have faith? (lit.) In other words, it’s there, so you needn’t in the future think that’s its not. That is, your faith is enough: Because really—as we hear elsewhere in scripture—faith doesn’t depend on your own effort or worthiness, but on God. Who is a deep enough source.
And then, they both GET BACK IN. Jesus and Peter get into the boat to continue the journey. For now, the storm subsides. And they all say, “Truly you are the son of God.” … As the ‘gathered’ people of Christ, the boat has an important role—as we just “sit” in our common life together.
We are reminded in those times of fear, the greater “enoughness” that encompasses the ones in the boat who also yearn for the presence of Jesus; or the society that is trying to kill Elijah, who needs direction and administration: Which he promptly goes to help with. It’s a reminder to “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting their own battle.” Think about that boat that holds us; that is God’s gift to the church and to our society. We need one another and we are responsible for each other, too. Think about the ceiling at Saron and other churches that you’ve been in; the beams that are like the support in a ship’s hull: God’s promises in the midst of the storm to be in relationship with us, still. Thanks be to God. Amen.