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    Aug 09, 2020

    The 10th Sunday of Pentecost

    Preacher: Maureen Flak

    Series: Year A 2020-2021

    Category: Pentecost

    Detail:

    From the letter to the Romans: “The word is near you, on your lips, and in your heart”.

    May the Spirit be present here and the message made clear. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. AMEN

    Good Morning to all of you. And I thank you for letting me into your homes this Sunday.

     

    I am going to share something personal with all of you. This passage from Matthew is my very favorite. The words are etched in my heart and often pop into my mind. I will tell you why. And, I would like to present a thought that suggests why  this may be the most powerful passage we have…from the word…to us…meant for THIS moment in time.

    As we travel through the Liturgical year, we are given a glimpse of Jesus’s physical time on earth. The Gospels are full of events that were milestones during that time meant to lift up, and educate: THE BIRTH OF THE SAVIOR, THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT, THE LOAVES AND THE FISHES, ALL THE WONDERFUL PARABLES AND THE VISUAL IMAGES OF THE MIRACLES WORKED, The PASSION, CRUCIFIXION AND RESURECTION. All are documentations of Jesus’s encounters with those who believed and those who were skeptical. And all intended to be the foundation of our faith in Him and his new covenant.

    But a few times in the Gospels, the event shared with us is a moment in time that is personal and poignant. A momentary glimpse of those precious, private moments that existed between the chosen 12 Apostles and the Messiah.

    Jesus has them get into a boat and cast off.

    By this time, these dedicated followers were quite used to doing as asked. They were aware of his unique way of teaching.

    And Jesus sets off by himself for prayer.

    By the time Jesus gets back to his group the boat is far from shore, a terrible storm is raging, and fear is rising. Now as Jesus walks across this raging water, the Apostles think they are seeing a Ghost.

    NOW…I must admit, by this point I would have been clinging to the bottom of the boat with my eyes closed.

    Then a familiar voice states…”Take heart, it is I; Do not be afraid”. A simple statement from a familiar voice. ‘It’s OK, I’m here’.

    Now what happens next is Peter being Peter, as only Peter can be. The word “bravado” comes to mind every time I read this. “Command me Lord to come to you”.

    Jesus speaks only one word…” COME.”

    “COME”.

    No fanfare, no booming voices from the skies, no choirs of angles, just one simple, basic invitation ” COME”.

    And Peter gives it his best. But his human fears take over and he sinks. And as we know, he is saved.

    And again, Jesus has a simple statement in this teachable moment… “why did you doubt”.

    “WHY DID YOU DOUBT”?

    And we are told that Jesus gets in the boat with them and the seas calm.

    Now I started all this by saying this was my favorite Gospel. It is because this message from Matthew is the one I have held onto tightly while discerning the call to the Diaconate. My call was not sent by booming voices or big Ah Ha moments.

    Being of Irish decent, I am surprised it was not louder and more booming. I tend to be thick and getting my attention can be a challenge.

    It was the simple invitation… “COME”

    Now, I was then and still am now fearful at times, confused at times and thoroughly convinced at times the message may have been meant for someone else and it hit me by accident.

    The first time I thought I heard the Invitation to Ordination I was on a plane flying from Portland, OR back to NC.

    I had just finished an amazing week of being alone with my granddaughters. I had the joy of experiencing that moment when a Grandparent realizes their little darlings are well on their way to being beautiful young women. Contentment and pride in one feeling.

    But on that plane, by myself, there was this overwhelming feeling that I was being asked to pay attention. There was a message out there.

     “COME.”

    I remember telling someone shortly after that moment, That when I realized what I was being asked to Come to was Ordination I was pretty sure since I was on a plane the message was actually for someone in the seats ahead or behind me. And since we were moving, it was a message given to the wrong passenger.

    It did not take long to realize that the Spirit is very insistent. A better word might be relentless. And eventually I got into the boat with the Spirit, and we began traveling the waters together.

    There have been rough seas and calm waters in the past 4 years, but I have never been alone. “Take heart, it is I. Do not be afraid”.

     

    Now let me get to the part why I feel this is the most wonderful passage to us for right now.

    When Rev. Sarah offered this Sunday, I said yes without seeing what the Gospel would be, or even what would be available to us for the Lesson. And when I went to the Lectionary, and realized it was Matthew’s 14, my first reaction was “thank you Lord”.

    And then I spent the next week with an open mind and heart saying simply, “You got me this far, what message do you need given”?

    Here is what I heard:

    In March, when the virus was declared a Pandemic, the loving thing to do - by - and for the children of God, was to close the physical spaces we call our Church.

    We were asked to avoid our friends, neighbors, families and strangers out of deep love.

    To hold on for a few weeks, maybe a month or so, and care for ourselves and family.

    But the weeks dragged on into a couple of months.

    Holy Week, Good Friday and Easter Sunday would come and go without us gathering in this sacred space.

    School children would finish out the year in their homes.

    And the sacred sacraments and rituals that we hold dear to renew our spirit have remained closed to us.

    We were asked to rethink the needs and function of the Body of Christ. To rethink how we live out our Christian life.

    At first, as I made calls to our church family members, I heard stories of cleaning closets, and reading books that had been collecting dust on nightstands and bookshelves.

    I heard how creative our parents were in balancing working from home and home schooling. (and with that came a new respect for our teachers).

    And we can complied a cookbook with the new recipes’ you guys are trying out.

    Our HS and college Seniors had no graduation.

    And Zoom entered the vocabulary and skill set of all ages. I truly believe this world will never be the same, (watch out) Granny has mastered the Internet on her laptop.

    And during our long days, we have spent our time glued to the TV, where we witnessed the death of man that would change the direction of our country, we hope and pray, forever. We have been given the precious gift of time to evaluate our deeper and often just a little  bit  ugly  selves. It has been hard and uncomfortable. But this expanse of time does not allow us the luxury of running from the need for introspection. We have been given the gift of time to look in the mirror and ask how we feel about equality.

     

    The months drag on and the light at the end of the tunnel remains elusive. And the conversations have changed. Our bravado is failing us. Could we be sinking? Human, like Peter?

     And with that change of conversation, I hear “but what can I do”?

    I hear fatigue and fading of hope.

    “I am only one person”.

    “I miss Church”.

    “Will I live long enough to see my grandchildren, sister, father, mother, children…again”?

     

    What I was asked to bring to you was this,

    we are the disciples in that boat.

    We are sailing in very rough waters and the wind IS whipping all around us.

    We have been asked to accept that we were asked to set off in the boat on the seas of sickness, loss, change, loneliness, and uncertainty.

    And like Peter, when Jesus comes to us on the dangerous waters, we initially show such bravado. But as the storm wears on, we become afraid. We have doubt.

    But here are the words - the from the word…to us…for THIS moment in time

    Across all these centuries, through generations of repeating this event, reading these words, we are told “Take heart.

     It – is - I”.

    After all these many years of hearing these very few words from the New Testament,

    Years of peering through the curtain to an intimate moment with the Apostles,

    we discover we were always invited to witness this moment.

    “COME”

    To hear the simple message “COME”

    For each of us the invitation will be slightly different.

    Some will be called to cook meals for the hungry.

    Some will be asked to sit with others in this Body and take a formal stand for justice for all.

    Some will hear “use your hands. Make masks. Crochet blankets for the upcoming winter”.

    Others will drive food or supplies or medical needs to the door of a stranger.

    Many of us will be asked to call old friends. Reconcile with family members or estranged friends.

    Many of us may not be safe out there in the world just yet, but are asked a call to a shut-in, send a card to someone totally isolated in a skilled facility, or to read to a child over Duo or WhatsApp. And those actions will make someone smile and feel less alone for a moment. Have them know they are part of the greater Body of Christ. They are a child of God. They are beloved.

    And all of us can Pray.

    All of us can take a deep breath and hear the words of solace, “Take heart, it is I. Do not be afraid”.

    All of us can sit and be still and hear the invitation from Thousands of year ago…” COME”.

    “COME”

    And wait for the Spirit to tell us what we can do for the Children of God. What gift we have that is needed by all.

    I would like to share with you the words to a hymn that is the chosen Hymn for the Faith Community Nurses, nation wide through the Health Ministries Association. You do NOT want me to sing this. Trust me you do NOT want me to sing this Hymn, but I would like to share the words. They are powerful:

              Hear I am Lord,

              It is I Lord,

              I have heard you calling in the night.

              I will go Lord where you need me.

              I will hold your people to my heart.

     

    Take a breath. Each of us has a part in the mosaic of life. Even during a Pandemic.

    AMEN