Prayer of the Day
O God our defender, storms rage around and within us and cause us to be afraid. Rescue your people from despair, deliver your sons and daughters from fear, and preserve us in the faith of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
Readings and Psalm
1 Kings 19:9-18 The Lord speaks to Elijah on Mount Horeb
Romans 10:5-15 Hearing and confessing the word of faith
Matthew 14:22-33 Jesus walking on the sea
Sermon – with two plays
Title: Walking In Faith
Ask Elijah about walking in faith. He’s not having an easy time of it. Sure, he has zeal for the God of Israel. He’s coming off a big win for the home team against the prophets of Baal. But things are not going easy for him. Queen Jezebel has put out a contract on his life. Sacred places are being defiled. There are few and few communities of faith through which he can be strengthened and supported. And his colleagues are dropping like flies in the face of this growing menace. Where is this God of power and strength that the prophet is striving to walk in faith with?
Peter’s not having an easy time of either. Standing in the middle of the boat dripping wet with failure having flunked the faith test when he eagerly, and with all good intentions, stepped out of the boat to do the impossible in response to Jesus’ calling.
And while Paul may make it sound easy to those Christians in Rome, just confess Jesus with your lips and believe in God with your heart, he also knows that nothing is happening, there is no forward movement with this body of Christ, community of faith, unless folks whose knees are knocking with fear, and whose minds are filled with questions and doubts, in spite of it all, proclaim the good news of Jesus.
Walking in faith. It’s not easy. Just ask anyone who has tried it.
(Two Short Plays on Faith)
HEAVEN SENT by Mark Erson
4: Again with the manna
1: It’s fresh.
2: Of course it’s fresh. It comes every morning.
3: Every morning
2: Every morning the same
4: Manna. (Pause) What are we doing out here?
1: It’s called freedom.
4: I call it abandonment.
4: Yeah. We had it all in Egypt. A roof over our heads, food on our plates, clothes on our back. Looking back on it, it wasn’t so bad.
2: We were slaves.
4: But we had work.
3: We were whipped.
4: We had discipline.
1: We were dictated to in all things.
4: We had structure. What do we have now? Manna
3: Again with the manna.
4: I’m going back.
2: Back there?
3: Are you sure that you want to do that?
4: Of course I’m sure. I just gave you plenty of reasons why. Is anybody coming with me?
3: I don’t know
1: I don’t think you can go back.
4: What do you mean? You said this was freedom. Well, I’m exercising my freedom and I’m going back.
1: What about the Red Sea?
3: Oh, yeah. Good thought.
2: I had forgotten about that.
1: We came across the Red Sea on dry land.
3: Between the walls of water.
2: What a sight that was.
2: A miracle.
1: God did a mighty work that day. He saved us.
4: Yeah, he did, didn’t he? Well, I can get across. I’ll hire a boat.
2: That would work.
3: Not as impressive. But it will get you there.
4: So, no one’s coming with me? You’re gonna continue to settle for this manna?
2: I think so.
3: Yeah, I’m staying.
1: Good luck.
4: See ya.
1: Hey, don’t forget to fill up with water at that bitter spring.
2: Oh, yeah, the one that Moses threw the wood into and it became drinkable.
3: That water was sooo good.
2: After the wood.
3: Definitely after the wood. Did you taste it before God told him to do that?
2: No way, I took one look at your face after you tasted it and said, no way.
1: You’ll need some of that water for the journey.
4: Thanks. Do you think I could take some manna also? I’m gonna get hungry.
3: I thought you didn’t like it.
4: Hey, it’s better than nothing.
1: You can’t take it.
4: Why not?
1: Don’t you remember what happened to the manna that people kept over night?
2: Oh yeah, it was rotten.
3: And had worms.
4: That’s right. So if I go, I’m on my own.
1: It looks that way.
4: But if I stay, I’ll get manna.
3: As much as you want.
2: Every day.
1: God hasn’t disappointed us yet.
2: The plagues.
3: The Red Sea
1: The good water
2: The manna
3: The quails
2: Now they tasted good.
4: Okay, okay. I get the point.
1: So you’re staying?
4: I’m no fool. You want to pass the manna.
2: Here have some of mine. I have plenty.
3: We all do.
4: Ya know, I didn’t notice it before, but this is good. It’s sweet. With a gentle hint of honey.
1: Come on, there’s lots more where this came from.
MOUNTAIN TOP HESITATIONS by Mark Erson
James Three of the Twelve. Witnesses to the Transfiguration.
Scene takes place on the mountaintop immediately following the Transfiguration of Our Lord.
James: That’s an understatement.
John: What wouldn’t be an understatement? Beyond words.
James: My eyes.
James: They’re…(can’t find the word)
James: Yeah. Good word for it. They’re full.
John: It’s my heart. It feels as if…as if
James/Peter: It will burst.
John: Yes. It feels big. Bigger.
James: Beyond words.
John: Can’t even hope to…express.
Peter: Yeah, good thing he told us to say nothing. I wouldn’t know where to begin.
James: That was obvious.
Peter: What do you mean?
James: I mean did you hear yourself?
Peter: Yes. What?
James: “Lord, it is well that we are here.” Okay, tell him something he doesn’t know. Then, this was a gem, “If you wish, I will make three booths here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.”
John: (Can’t wrap his brain around it.) That was Moses. We saw Elijah!
James: Yeah, but that’s not my point. (Back to Peter.) Booths? Booths?
Come on, Peter. Even you.
James: Why would they need booths?
James: So that Elijah and Moses could get out of the sun?
John: Who could even see the sun? Oh, the glory that shown round about him! Around them.
Around all of us.
James: Yeah, but that’s not my point.
Peter: I didn’t know what else to say.
James: That was painfully obvious.
John: I didn’t want to say anything. I just wanted to bask in that light. It was so warm.
Not hot like the sun, but warm. Did you feel it? Peter? James?
James: Of course I felt it.
Peter: Yeah. Yeah, I felt it.
John: How could you not, right?
Peter: Right. (Pause.) James, I suggested the booths because I thought maybe we were going
to be here for a while. I was hoping we would just stay up here awhile.
John: (Euphoric, not catching Peter’s concern.) I want to stay up here forever. I love it up here.
Peter: (Moves to James.) You’ve heard what he’s been saying lately. All that talk about
Jerusalem, and suffering and dying.
James: Oh, yeah, I’ve heard. (Imitating Peter) “Don’t worry Lord, we won’t let that happen.
We’ll fight for you.” Another foot in the mouth moment for you. Boy, did he let you have it.
(Stepping back) Satan!
Peter: All right, all right. Sometimes I don’t think before I speak.
Peter: Lay off. Please. (Slight pause) Especially up here.
Peter: It’s been too perfect.
John: You can say that again.
James: Yeah, it has, hasn’t it?
Peter: I’m with John. I want to stay up here.
James: I know.
John: Can we?
(James and Peter look at each other. Neither can answer John. They both turn away. There is a silence.)
James: (Looking down the hill.) It looks like he’s down there with the others. We should get going.
Peter: (Exploding) Why did he bring us up here?
John: (Finally coming out of his euphoric state.) What?
Peter: What was the point? If we just have to go back down there. If we just have to follow him
to, to what…what he said lies ahead.\
James: Why us?
John: Maybe we needed this to get through what lies ahead. (Pause) Come on, we best follow him. (Playfully) Come on. You’re the rock. Remember?
Peter: Well, this rock is staying put.
John: Come on. He said you’ve got some building to do. The booth idea didn’t work up here.
Let’s try building down there.
Peter: Do you remember everything he said?
John: Somebody’s got to. (Looks down.) He’s waving to us to follow. Let’s go.
(John exits. Peter starts to follow. James stops him with his line.)
James: Peter. I’m scared, too.
Peter: We gotta hold on brother. Hold on to this. (Indicates the mountaintop.)
And hold on to each other.
James: Will it be enough?
Peter: When it’s not, there he is. Let’s go. He’s calling to us.
Faith. It is not signing on to a collection of doctrines and dogmas. It is not measured by the boldness of our beliefs. It is not something we create in ourselves that we bring to God for approval and validation. It is not a bubble that, if we believe enough, protects us from the woes and wars of the world.
Faith is wrapped up in our fragile understanding that God is with us. Faith is constantly conversing with our challenged trust that Jesus is walking with us. Faith is fingertips clinging to the mystery that the Spirit who creates faith is also guiding us in through wilderness and garden, up to mountaintops and in deep dark valleys, guiding us on impossible walks on water and seemingly mundane shuffles down everyday streets. All the while, in all these things, we experience a power and peace that is beyond understanding, AND knee knocking and doubts that leave us dripping wet with questions and fears.
We are saved by grace through faith. Putting it another way, our merciful God scoops us up and holds us in a love that will never deteriorate, diminish, or die – and, since we do nothing to earn it, all we can do, through Christ and with the leading of the Holy Spirit, is trust it. And even if you can’t always trust. It’s still there. Walking in faith. Not faith in ourselves. Faith in God. So go ahead, lean. Lean hard. And walk on, in faith.
The Rev. Mark Erson,