Good morning, may the peace of the Lord be with you all, and may this coming week be a week of outreach. Let us commit ourselves to greeting all God’s children in that peace. Let us now prepare our hearts and minds to worship God.
PRELUDE The Harbor Bell
Everlasting God, in whom we live and move and have our being. You have made us for yourself, so that our hearts are restless until they rest in you. Give us purity of heart and strength of purpose, that no selfish passion may hinder us from knowing your will, no weakness keep from doing it, that in your light, we may see light clearly, and in your service find perfect freedom, through Jesus Christ our Lord,
CALL TO WORSHIP
Precious Lord, take my hand; lead me on help me stand,
I am weak, I am tired I am worn.
Through the storm through the night, lead me on to the light
take my hand precious Lord, lead me home
With those words from that beautiful hymn, as our call to worship, let us continue to praise God, by singing:
CHILDREN’S MESSAGE Laken Franchetti
INTERLUDE Simple Gifts
PRAYER OF ILLUMINATION
O Lord, our God, your word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. Give us grace to receive your truth in faith and love, that we may be obedient in your will and live always for your glory; through Jesus Christ our savior. Amen
SCRIPTURE READING Matthew 14:22-33
SERMON Take My Hand
It is becoming more difficult these days to watch the news – that being said, it is almost impossible to avoid the 24-7 coverage with the covid19 pandemic, civil unrest and politics heading the bill most days.
We are somehow always drawn into it, starting at 5 am and ending about midnight, although options exist for those total insomniacs. The flames of this news epidemic are of course fanned with the flames of a new lifestyle for many of us. We are, for a variety of reasons -one being our health and safety, at home a lot more.
Now, I must admit, that this change in our daily lives; being home so much more has had some very positive aspects. For one, I get to spend more quality time with Rose and that has been a blessing. Another is that I am reading more now than at any other time in my life, which is great, my only fear is that I am becoming the older man in the library in a twilight zone episode.
But still, even with that, there is the news, the updates, the breaking news all of this having basically the same attraction as that of cars inching slowly by an accident or fire on 295. Even after an evening of 2 episodes of Vera or Grantchester, we find time to just check in on our DVRD Anderson Cooper show. And we wonder why sometimes, our sleep is a restless one.
But, let us take hope, for there has come about a new ending to most talk shows or newscasts, which provide us a wonderful message, albeit it one shrouded in the sadness of loss. It is the brief highlighting of a few, lives well lived, stories of people who have succumbed to the virus, but spent most of their lives reaching out to help others; offering people in very dire straits to take their hand. These stories, brief as they might be are almost like mini parables, to help us see and to feel and to know of God’s love.
Such was the way in 1932 for Pastor Thomas Andrew Dorsey. Recently married, he and his wife Nettie were expecting their first child. Dorsey had been invited to be a soloist at a revival meeting in St. Louis and was conflicted over whether or not to go. He would perform just one night and then planned to return. That evening, during a rest period in the performance, a young messenger ran up to him with a western union telegram, which simply said, your wife has died. He left immediately and rushed
to his hometown. His wife had indeed given birth, and then died and he realized he never had the chance to speak with her. Then, later that night, the baby died. Overwhelmed with grief, Dorsey buried his wife and child together and his world seemed to be completely falling apart – but during his worst days, Gods boundless love shown through in the help of countless friends and neighbors, who reached out their hands and helped him through all his travails. Dorsey found an old tune he had loved
and set to putting his own lyrics to it; and it has been a calming, steady hymn of support and God’s love ever since.
What happens to us when these kinds of dramatic changes show up on our doorstep unannounced? Our lives were going so well, we were all ready for Easter and senior trips and then the virus came; but then we would still have prom and graduations and of course spring and summer weddings; but then the virus grew; now, surely we would be ok to go to the shore for a week, or concerts, or maybe even to Europe; but then the virus spiked, of course we will have sports again, and school and —- but
then the virus stayed.
Italians have a wonderful expression for how our lives get upended when we least expect it: lupus in fabula. Fabula means fairy tale. The fabula is the fantasy of our lives, the ideal version, our lives when everything is going right. Lupus means wolf. The lupus is the trouble, the conflict, the big scary thing that threatens to destroy everything around it. Our actual lives in other words.
The basic premise of Bruce Feiler’s new book, Life is in the Transitions, Mastering Change at Any Age, is that our lives are not linear, there is no predictability. Gail Sheehy, famously addressed this in a different way in her 1970’s book Passages. In both books we need to recognize that our lives will go through transitions, we will come in contact with a host of disruptors; and in some cases, major disruptors called lifequakes — it is in how we deal with those disruptors and lifequakes, which will
mark what transition we may be able to make to steer a new course.
Referenced throughout Feiler’s book are countless examples of the need to be aware of the hands reaching out to us, in our darkest valleys, to help us up, to steady us and then, sometimes, arm in arm walk with us as we begin anew. And then, there is that need for us to be able to reach out for others, who seek that help as well. We cannot simply shrink into the darkness, or hide under the blanket, but we must risk at least some vulnerability to seek even the faintest light to guide us out.
That brings us back to today’s scripture. Peter, after stepping out of the boat, (his darkness), walks on the sea, but becomes frightened by the wind – a kind of disruptor you might say. Some critics of Peter have long pointed out his lack of faith, which leads to his descent into the sea. But let’s remember, the walking on water, was Peter’s idea. Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.
One could argue this is a foolish idea. You do not step out of a boat in the middle of a storm. You batten down the hatches, you put on your life jacket, you hunker down in the belly of the boat and pray the waves do not get bigger nor the wind any stronger.
Sadly, is this what most followers of Jesus hope to do in rough times? Is this what our church, our community, our nation hope to do as the waves of secularism, postmodern uncertainty and shrinking membership beat against our aging hull?
Meanwhile, the world has hope beaten out of it by economies that cannot recover, by bigotry and prejudice, by violence that never seems to end and poverty and starvation that has become the accepted status quo; accepted, especially among us who have been more than blessed.
The safest way to avoid getting hurt is to simply stay in the boat, to not offer a hand to anyone else, and certainly not to take the hand, even the hand of our precious Lord as Peter did.
Now, at this point, I don’t want anyone to confuse staying in the boat with staying in your house. That guideline is one given to us to protect ourselves and others it is truly lending a hand to save even using two hands to simply put on a mask
The stepping out I am referring to is for us as individuals, as a nation, indeed as a church to risk preaching news that might disrupt the way we have always done things in our community, in our political life, in our congregation. We are living in an unusual time, one fraught with epic disruptors on many levels, but with these come the incredible opportunity for exciting transitions beyond our wildest expectations. We can no longer just sit on the sidelines watching the game, we have to
participate. Why? Because life is not a game, it is so much more valuable and it is a gift from God we should cherish each day and not just our life, but the life of each of God’s children.
Let us even risk our own well-being, if needed, to try something some might consider foolish, even crazy in the midst of all these raging storms around us. Let us be willing to step out of the boat, driven by an impulsive desire to get closer to Jesus, even when he is miles from solid ground, for he is truly the rock on which we will stand.
This seems like the perfect time to sing a hymn, but not yet, as I feel there are some questions out there. What if I take the greatest risk of my faith and God does not meet me? What if the suffering I encounter responding to God’s call is larger than the hope my faith is supposed to offer? What if I step out and discover that my faith is not strong enough?
These are not only questions for us as individuals, but for us as a congregation and a nation as well. For there are no guarantees, that all our questions will be answered now, that all our fears dispelled, even as a nation going through the worst pandemic in 100 years, struggles with depression and anxiety. We cannot say that the storms in every life in every home will be calmed totally.
But what we can say is that the words of Jesus are clear, as He said to Peter. Take heart, it is I, do not be afraid. With Jesus, there will be the courage to engage every change or disruptor, every uncertainty, every fear. For our hope is built on nothing less.
We do need to be like Peter. We need to get out of our boats to take the risk; but hopefully with the assurance of faith and to ask our precious Lord, “take my hand”.
And let us not forget the real message to us by our Lord as disciples. We need to be like Jesus and offer our hands to anyone who is sinking, and struggling and seeking the rock on which they will stand.
ANTHEM: Take My Hand Precious Lord Wendy Hill
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE AND THE LORD’S PRAYER
BENEDICTION AND SENDING
Go out into the world in peace; have courage; hold on to what is good;
Return no one evil for evil; strengthen the fainthearted; support the weak, and help the suffering;
honor all people; love and serve the Lord, rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit.
May the Lord bless you and keep you
May the Lord be kind and gracious to you,
May the Lord look upon you with favor and give you peace
Alleluia and Amen.