Sunday, August 13, 2017

14A 2017

The scripture appointed for today can be found here--note, we are using track 2

Also, please note, this sermon was written in a week where the sitting President used twitter to threaten unprecedented violence against North Korea (implied nuclear holocaust); and white supremacists descended upon the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville, VA, carrying torches, instilling terror, and attacking counter-protesters. 

Here we are. 


Gale Force Winds

You are not walking on the lake like Peter
but on another sea, for this world is a sea;
Trials its waves, temptations its storms,
and men devouring each other as fishes do.
Don't be afraid, step out stoutly lest you sink.
When the gale blows and the waves rise,
and your weakness makes you fear you will be lost,
cry out, 'Lord, I am sinking,'
and he who bade you walk will not let you perish.
-Augustine of Hippo  354-430

Lord, I am sinking.

I read the paper.

I listen to the news.

And, the fishes who are men devour each other.

Lord, I am sinking.

And, the wind over the waters throws salt into the air.

And, the waves crash.

And, the water rises.

Lord, I am sinking.

And the air is hot and hard to breathe.

And, the meteorologists draw arrows and swirls as some storm or another threatens.

Do not let me perish.

Do not let us perish.

Do not let the chaos that overwhelms become the chaos that devours.

Let this be the chaos preceding a new creation.

Where we speak of war, may you O God speak of peace.

Where we speak of fear, may you O God speak of faith.

Where we speak lies, may you O God, speak your truth.

Where the pounding of boots instills terror, may the feet that bring the good news instill hope!

May we, we the people of St. Clement’s be the feet that bring the good news.

The Good news of peace, of faith, and of truth.

The good news that defies the powers of evil in this world, that defies the powers of evil made manifest in acts of hatred, racism and bigotry.  

The good news, carried by the feet that show up, speak up, and wake the dead in Spirit to a new life lived in love.

The good news, that we are not alone in this boat.

The good news that while the wind may be against us, that Christ is for us.

The good news that this moment is not the end.

When I served as a pediatric chaplain, parents would ask me if I had ever seen miracles happen--the blind see, the lame walk, the dead live. They would reach out their hand in hope that I would reach out mine and save them from sinking beneath the waves. Bold enough to step out of the boat, scared enough to turn to a stranger become a sign.

A sign of God’s presence in the wind-swept sea. A sign that there was more to this than this. That the beeping, that the wailing, and the weeping would give way to another day. Of breath. Of hope. Of laughter.

And, so they reached and I reached.

And, our hands would meet. In the boat. Together.

Akin to Christ we were, all of us, the hospital room adrift in an endless sea.

Forsakenness held at bay by the miracle of us, still standing. 

Have you ever seen a miracle?

In fear, faith. In darkness, light. In war, peace.

Have you ever seen a miracle?

From the 2004 interview of the last surviving participant in the Christmas Truce of 1914

“'I remember the silence, the eerie sound of silence,' he said. 'Only the guards were on duty. We all went outside the farm buildings and just stood listening. And, of course, thinking of people back home. All I'd heard for two months in the trenches was the hissing, cracking and whining of bullets in flight, machinegun fire and distant German voices. 'But there was a dead silence that morning, right across the land as far as you could see. We shouted "Merry Christmas", even though nobody felt merry. The silence ended early in the afternoon and the killing started again. It was a short peace in a terrible war. ’”

A short peace, yet there it was, Christ proclaimed in the midst of war.

And, isn’t that where Christ is born?

In the middle of our need, our fear. Entering the boat to silence the storm.

And, in with Jesus the Christ in our midst, we worship.

We worship the God, the God who shows up in our worst moments and our worst hours. The God who shows up in the streets, and in our homes.

We worship the Son, the Son who came away from the mountain so that he might reach out to us in our fear.

We worship the Spirit, the Spirit that brings us together in this boat, in this place, in this time.

So that we will not be alone.

We will not be alone.

In this world that is a sea, we will not be alone.

In this time of twitter threats and nuclear powers, of lit torches and pepper spray. In this time when nothing seems stable and everything is in flux.

In this time, look around, and witness to the truth that we are not alone.

As we extend our hands, in peace, and in hope.

We are not alone.

As we bend our knees, and lift your voices.

We are not alone.

We share the fear and the faith.

The war and the peace.

The light and the dark.

We share this time together and in this time we are asked to be as the disciples were—together.  Together in the boat.

The boat that is an Episcopal church in Charlottesville, Virginia, where the people sang as the torches gather round.

The boat that is a raft of trees on the slopes of Fonds Verrettes.

The boat that is Maxfield Elementary School, where hungry children are fed so that they might learn.

This boat where we gather to worship the Christ whose birth caused the angels to cry, “peace to God’s people on earth!”.  

This boat that carries us from death, and fear, to life and faith.

This passage from the Gospel today is an interlude between death and life. In entering the boat, the disciples had left death behind on land to risk the storm at sea.

Because, on land, John the Baptist had been senselessly felled by a capricious and power-hungry ruler.

On land, politics and powers, riots and rulers, were defying God's love in pursuit of power,

On land, men were devouring each other like fishes.

They left the land of death for the sea of creation.

Where they rocked to and fro in a little boat.

To and fro in the sea, where fear of what could be, gave way to fear of what was,

Which gave way to worship of the God who shows up.

Who shows up in the midst of chaos and transforms that chaos into a new creation.

God’s new creation born in the chaos of the sea. God’s new creation which will confront the organized systems that seek to destroy the children of God. God’s new creation where death becomes life.

And, knowing life without fear, the disciples would be go from sea to land.

Bearing the truth of life, and compassion in the face of death and oppression. A truth that would feed the hungry, not with the blood of their enemies, but on the bread of life.

When the disciples return from the sea, they will gather scarce bread and fish and follow the instruction to feed the 5,000 who would gather in the midst of their fear.

And in this, they reach out their hands as Christ had reached out his.

And, in this, they would not perish.

So light the torches, we will overwhelm them with the light of God. Arm the missiles and we will arm ourselves with the peace of Christ. Threaten creation and we will usher in a new creation.  

We will not forsake nor shall we forsaken.

You are not walking on the lake like Peter
but on another sea, for this world is a sea;
Trials its waves, temptations its storms,
and men devouring each other as fishes do.
Don't be afraid, step out stoutly lest you sink.
When the gale blows and the waves rise,
and your weakness makes you fear you will be lost,
cry out, 'Lord, I am sinking,'
and he who bade you walk will not let you perish.


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