Worship August 9, 2020
I welcome you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
We gather together to worship God,
who comes to us when we least expect it,
who calls us out of the safety of our ordered lives and invites us to join Him in the adventure of faith.
Let’s worship God together!
Gracious God, we gather once again to offer You praise and thanksgiving for Your unfailing love and faithfulness,
shown most clearly through Your Son, Jesus Christ.
Grant us grace to worship You in spirit and in truth.
Through the power of Your Holy Spirit, open our eyes to recognize You here among us.
Give us courage to step out in faith to meet You, and confidence to follow where You lead.
For You are our God, and we are Your people, called by Your name.
In the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
And now join together in singing Hymn # 57 verses 1-3, O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing
Hymn UMH # 57 O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing
Children’s Message Ben Ziegler
Scripture Matthew 14: 22-33 (NIV)
Hello, I am Ruth Smith and I am reading Matthew 14:22-33.
Please pray with me
Prepare our hearts, O God, to accept you Word. Silence in us any voices but your own, so that we may hear your Word and also do it; through Christ our Lord. Amen.
22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.
27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
29 “Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Hear what the Spirit is saying. Amen
Last week I told a story shared by Charles Swindoll about a nine-year-old named Danny, I will retell it for those that may have missed it. Danny came bursting out of Sunday school like a wild horse. His eyes were darting in every direction as he tried to locate either mom or dad.
Finally, after a quick search, he grabbed his Daddy by the leg and yelled, “Man, that story of Moses and all those people crossing the Red Sea was great!” His father looked down proudly, smiled, and asked the boy to tell him about it.
“Well, the Israelites got out of Egypt, but Pharaoh and his army chased after them. So the Jews ran as fast as they could until they got to the Red Sea. The Egyptian Army was gettin’ closer and closer. So Moses got on his walkie-talkie and told the Israeli Air Force to bomb the Egyptians. While that was happening, the Israeli Navy built a pontoon bridge so the people could cross over. They made it!
By now old dad was shocked. “Is THAT the way they taught you the story?” Well, no, not exactly,” Danny admitted, “but if I told you the way they told it to us, you’d never believe it, Dad.”
After I shared this tale we talked about Jesus feeding 5000 men plus the women and children with five loaves and 2 fish.
Today the story we are looking at from the book of Matthew is equally puzzling. Today I will be talking about Jesus walking on water.
Many of you know that I love to canoe the Boundary Waters. Almost every trip into the BWCA includes someone finding a rock slightly submerged in the water. Usually without saying anything about what they were doing they step onto the rock and only when positioned perfectly they call out “hey look at me. I’m walking on water”.
Rod and I recently purchased and remodeled a cabin the Alexandria area. Our place and the one next to us both sat empty for many years and during this time others on the lake discovered that there is a really nice sand bar that runs in front of our cabin and the ones on either side.
It is so nice in fact that up to 9 various kinds of watercraft regularly gather right in front of our cabin on this wonderful sandbar.
Some interpreters in the first half of this century suggested that Jesus was walking on a sand bar that ran from where he was on land and just happened to end right next to the disciples’ boat.
Others say that the laws of nature were suspended or that laws were operating that we don’t understand.
The jokesters have had a field day with this story. Someone confronted with a body of water preventing him from getting where he wanted to go and no bridge or boat to get across may joke about putting on his “J.C. shoes”
Proud grandparents are sometimes accused of bragging that their grandchild’s first steps were across the surface of the family bathtub.
I’ve heard “he walks on water” stated as a negative, meaning he thinks he’s so perfect that he walks on water and also as a complement meaning someone is so true, so perfect, almost Jesus-like.
Of course those of us from Minnesota know we can indeed walk on water but not this time of the year.
A girl was told all her life that all the women in her family could walk on water on their 21st birthday. She never believed her mom but when it came time for her 21st birthday, she stepped out onto a lake and promptly fell.
When she came back, she confronted her mom and asked her why she couldn’t walk on water. Her mother said,” All the women in the family were born in December. Honey you were born in July.”
In the scripture from the book of Matthew that Ruth read, Jesus tells his disciples to get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side. It doesn’t sound like he gave them a choice nor do we know how rough the waters were the size of the boat nor what condition the boat was in when the disciples stepped aboard.
It is interesting that Jesus stayed behind with the crowd
Why did he not have the disciples stay and help him with these crowds? After all, there are 5,000 men and probably twice as many women and children that had followed them.
You might recall that it was the disciples who wanted Jesus to get rid of the crowds before he commanded them to feed the 5000 men plus women and children with just the two loaves and five fish.
Only after all had eaten does Jesus send everyone away: the disciples and then the crowds.
As had done at other times he retreats to the mountain. The mountain in Matthew’s Gospel is a quiet place for meeting and talking with God.
Similar to what we know about Moses from the Old Testament, Jesus proves that he is both the leader of the crowds and the link to God. He goes alone to the mountain to be with his Father.
Jesus stays on the mountain to pray. Twice in verse 23 the writer states that Jesus is by himself. While Jesus is alone conversing with the Father, the disciples find themselves in a life-threatening situation.
I can recall twice in my adventures have I been really afraid in the water. About 30 years ago Rod and I were leaders of a youth group canoe trip. We were on a large lake in the BWCA and the winds were getting pretty strong. As the waves picked up so did the sound of Chris. Chris was a screamer, she screamed about everything. She screamed on land and she screamed in the canoe. I was fearful for our group and each time I heard her scream I imagined her in the water. We all had life jackets on so I wasn’t fearful for what could happen to me but I sure was for our kids. Eventually we paddled up to her canoe and I told if I heard her scream one more time she better be in the water. I don’t remember anything after that so she must have quieted down.
The second time I experienced fear from water was during a free day on a mission trip. Our group was in Keye Caulker, Belize. We took a boat out fairly far and went snorkeling. I did ok while we were in the deep water looking at the sea life.
While we were enjoying the underwater sights the boat captain threw some food into the water that attacked a type of stingray. After the fact we were told that this type of stingray was only interested in the food that had been thrown in and wouldn’t bother us.
As I swam closer to the boat a combination of fatigue and stingray fear set in and for a moment, I didn’t think I could get back to the boat. This all happened while I was probably no more than three feet from the boat. I remember reaching for the ladder and thinking if I didn’t reach I was going under.
The disciples are about 200 yards from the land, and the boat is being thrown around — or, more literally, being tormented by the waves.
The situation is similar to the story from Matthew 8 of Jesus’ calming of the sea. In that story, Jesus led the disciples into the boat and stayed with them, even though he was asleep. When the storm arose and the waves covered the boat, the disciples cried out, “Save, Lord; we are perishing”. Jesus questions, “Why are you afraid, O men of little faith?” Then, he reprimands the wind, and the story ends with the disciples being amazed and saying, “What sort of man is this, that even the winds and sea obey him?”.
In our passage this week the disciples can’t just awaken Jesus. Jesus is not there. Remember he is on the mountain.
Some versions of the text say that the disciples had struggled to keep afloat for most of the night. The text says that it is not until the fourth watch of the night that Jesus decides to come to them in the middle of the sea. That puts the timing in the early morning hours (3 a.m. to 6 a.m.), while it is still dark, that Jesus is seen walking on the water.
The disciples, though, do not recognize Jesus right away. I can imagine how tired they are and how afraid they might be. They have been working together fighting the waves for hours and suddenly Jesus appears on the water.
Initially they think they see a ghost and who could blame them.
The common perception of the sea at that time was of evil and chaos, it is hard to blame them for initially mistaking the figure of Jesus for a threat of death.
Over their likely cries of fear, Jesus calls to them, “Take heart, it is I; have no fear”.
Jesus is displaying his power in the death-defying stunt of walking on the sea.
The disciple Peter does the bizarre: he says, “if it is you, command me to come to you”. The text does not say that Jesus calmed the seas to make Peter’s steps easier, but rough water or not imagine the trust it would take to take that step.
Ultimately it is the wind that frightens Peter and causes him to sink. It is when Peter fears the wind more than he trusts Jesus that he went down.
Can you imagine having faith enough to walk on water or to heal the sick or to make any sacrifice?
Jesus comes to us exactly when we are rowing against the wind and making no headway toward the goals we have chosen.
He calls to us telling us not to be afraid.
He calls us to come to him. Some of us get out of the boat and test the water.
Some of us take a step or two into that future.
Peter was okay as long as he had his eyes on Jesus. It was when he looked at the waves that he began to sink.
Then Jesus pulled him out and asked, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
There is a note of sadness in that question. We have the sense that not just Peter, but maybe humanity itself missed an opportunity to move to a new level of faith.
This story shows us that Jesus is not like us, but Peter’s excursion on the water, as short as it was, implies that we can become like Jesus — except we don’t. We are people of little faith. What hope is there for us? Our only hope is Jesus.
I want you to ponder these thoughts in the days ahead.
The storms of life hit us at inconvenient times…in the midst of them, we just need to fight to survive. To survive emotionally, to survive physically, to survive spiritually – to “not lose faith” keep your eyes on Jesus.
Jesus is there in the midst of our storms. But He may show up in unusual ways. The disciples thought he was a ghost, they experienced fear and still Jesus commanded them to take courage, do not fear, keep your eyes on Jesus!
Peter was “all in” – his faith was absolute.. There wasn’t a second thought about the impossibilities of walking on water. There was just his admiration for Jesus, and his own impulsiveness that allowed him to step out of that boat and walk on water toward his Rabbi. Do you enough faith to ask crazy things from God? Go for it keeping your eyes on Jesus…
Don’t take your eyes off Jesus , don’t start doubting when you see the wind and waves, as Peter did. But know that even in your moment of weakness, Jesus will reach out his hand. Keep your faith. Keep your eyes on Jesus.
A missionary once had to cross a river on a plank of wood to reach the place where he was to preach. He hesitated. His hosts urged him, saying that hundreds of people had crossed the plank that day ahead of him. The missionary argued that, as a westerner, he was probably bigger and heavier than anyone else. His hosts, to reassure him, sent two strong men together out on the plank, which bore their weight easily. So the missionary slowly and hesitantly crossed the river on the plank. When he reached the other side, his hosts asked him why he hadn’t just taken their word and trusted their judgment. The missionary replied, “Because my faith is weak. It wasn’t the strength of my faith that took me across, but the strength of the plank.”
It isn’t the strength of our faith that we walk on in life. It’s the strength of Jesus’ faith.
God I know I can rely too much on myself and, like Peter, lose sight of where I am going.
Help me, Jesus, to keep my eyes fixed on you and to trust that you reach out to me, offering me loving help. Amen
Pastoral Prayer and Lord’s Prayer
Based on Psalm 146
There are days when all that keep me praying is the decision to trust you, O God.
To trust that You are still in charge, that You are watching over my way,
that You care about truth, even when the liars seem so strong.
So, for today, I choose to trust in your faithfulness
in your power to create new beginnings where none seem possible
in your watchful care over the oppressed the stranger the orphan
Open my eyes to see You
lifting up those who are bowed down
upholding orphans and widows
bringing the way of the wicked to ruin.
Let me see Your reign
Then, summon me to join the praise of Your people
echoing through the generations
Praise the LORD!
~ written by Christine Jerrett, and posted on Christine Jerrett: Reflections on being the Church in God’s new creation. http://christinejerrett.wordpress.com/
And now in the words Jesus taught His disciples, we too pray…
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen
Hymn UMH # 496 Sweet Hour of Prayer verses 1-2
Lead us not into temptation,
but toward your will.
Lead us not into temptation,
but to the sharing of our gifts.
Lead us not into temptation,
but to love through actions and through how we spend our money and talents.
We will now take up our morning offering.
Prayer of Dedication
We promise to use these gifts for good. We promise to use these gifts in furthering God ’s realm. We commit to using these gifts in love and mercy for others. Amen.
HYMN UMH # 593 Here I am Lord
Benediction May our God grant you grace to abide in His love, give you peace to abide in His forgiveness, and the power to live in God’s faithfulness. Amen.
Lawn Chair Worship continues through August (weather permitting) at 10:30 Sunday morning. Online worship and mailings also continue so please if you have health conditions that put you at a higher risk for contracting the COVID virus, please allow yourself the privilege of staying home.