Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sermon: June 21

In the silence of the stars,
In the quiet of the hills,
In the heaving of the sea,
Speak, Lord.

In the stillness of this room,
In the calming of our minds,
In the longing of our hearts,
Speak, Lord.

In the voice of a friend,
In the chatter of a child,
In the words of a stranger,
Speak, Lord.

In our service of word & sacrament
Speak, Lord, for your servant listens. Amen.

[adapted from a prayer by David Adam]

To have Faith in the midst of stormy times, be on it a boat being swamped or facing an enemy much larger than oneself, is what we are called to have as disciples of Jesus. It is to have an open heart (as St. Paul said in his letter to the Corinthians) and hear the voice of Jesus calling to us…

It is Faith that compelled David to stand before Goliath and proclaim his faith and to defend his people. David had felt God had saved him from perils before and was with him now. Goliath, however, underestimated the faith of the small and young David and it cost him his life. They say faith can move mountains, but it is not mountains we must move, but ourselves. It is faith like David that reminds us to stand up for our faith, to remember how God has been with us, even when others may be hostile to it.

We live our faith as Jesus taught us, not out of resentment, not out of pride or arrogance, but out of love & humility. Because we also know that even the disciples, those closest to him, didn’t always have the faith that Jesus asked of them. The 12 had witnessed so many healings, had heard Jesus teach the crowds, and confront those who questioned his actions. They had seen and heard so much…

But as they traveled by boat that night, the wind comes up and the boat begins to be swamped. Some of the 12 must have experienced this before but fear sets in, and they all fear for their lives. It is dark, it is stormy and they cannot see the land and Jesus is asleep in the back of the boat! They wake Jesus up and Jesus rebukes the sea, Peace! Be still! and all becomes calm again. Why are you afraid? he asks, have you still no faith? They are amazed at Jesus…

And it is as if Jesus tested his disciples, not only their faith in him, but of how they are to live into that faith.
Such faith is as Martin Luther put it, “Faith is a living, daring confidence in God's grace. It is so sure and certain that a man could stake his life on it a thousand times.”
Such daring confidence is a challenge to us in the best and worst of times. In the best, because we often forget about God, to give thanks for what we have, and in the worst of times, because we often blame God for what has befallen us, asking why God doesn’t act when our own faith has remained in the boat afraid of the waves and the storm.
“Tis not the dying for a faith that's so hard,...every man of every nation has done that -- 'tis the living up to it that's difficult.” Thackery
It is our living faith, a faith that compels us to stand up against the injustices of our world, to have faith even as the worst of storms (illness, unemployment, addiction, harassment, loss, bereavement) beat against us. It is to hold on to see things through believing that indeed God will give us strength, and there will come a time when indeed we will find that peace again and skies will turn blue. As one poet has put it: What God Has Promised by Annie Johnson Flint
God has not promised
Skies always blue,
Flower-strewn pathways
All our lives through;

God has not promised
Sun without rain
Joy without sorrow,
Peace without pain.

But God has promised
Strength for the day,
Rest for the labor,
Light for the way,
Grace for the trials,
Help from above,
Unfailing sympathy,
Undying love.
We will all face storms in our lives and we may even face an enemy, foe or an injustice standing in our way, it is then we hold to our faith to help us walk, knowing God will see us through whatever is before us, for God has promised and we who have experienced it, believe! For we have heard about David’s faith and his overcoming of Goliath and we heard the words of Jesus on that stormy boat, peace, be still, and we know that our faith can be that way too by the grace of God and by the Spirit’s help. Let us pray.

Give us Lord the grace to walk by faith, through every storm of life to keep our eyes on you. And when we fail to see, or start to sink, stretch out your hand to raise us up. So may we learn to hold to you through good and ill, until we come to the haven where we would be, in everlasting joy and peace. Amen. [prayer by Jeffrey John]

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