Welcome to worship for this 10th Sunday after Pentecost, landing on August 6, 2023!
Before we get into that, I want to remind everyone that our worship services are cancelled until September 10th due to me not being in the province for the next few weeks. But there are plenty of services you can catch online or in person. Please contact the office if you would appreciate some suggestions.
The bulletin for this particular service can be found here. In the bulletin you will find the usual: the order of service, the words of the liturgy, the hymn and page numbers out of the ELW, and the full sermon. You will also see all the words you need to you know on your screen and the sermon can be found on this page after the worship video.
If you would like a fuller online worship experience, you are welcome to have a lit candle in your space that can be extinguished at the same time as the altar candles near the end of the service after the sending hymn. You are also welcome to participate in communion by having something small to eat and drink ready to be consumed at the appropriate time. Further instruction will be given in the video.
May God’s abundant love and blessing be upon you this day and always!
God, may your providing Spirit feed us with your Word, that we might be filled and nourished by the bread of life, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
“When it rains, it pours.” Any of us who have lived in the Vancouver area for pretty much any amount of time knows that this is this (almost too true). We’re living in an urbanized rainforest after all, also known as the Lower Rainland. But even though lately the summers have been pretty warm (almost too warm), we continue to spend about half the year here in rainy days. That is just typical Vancouver (almost too Vancouver).
And in those rainy days, it seems like it’s more pouring than not. That once that seal of cloud opens up and lets rain through, it really lets rain through. And it’ll rain, and rain, and rain, and rain. And when that’s done, it might rain some more. Then maybe a quick break for the summer. And then back to the rain. So yeah, the phrase “when it rains, it pours” really holds a lot of water in these here parts. Rain water, that is.
But that saying, although literally true for us, wasn’t meant to be literal. “When it rains, it pours” is a metaphorical saying, meant to say that life can be so tough with its problems all coming in bunches. Any of us who have lived life for almost any amount of time knows how true this is. It’s like life never lets up. If it’s not this thing, then it’s that…. and that… and also that other thing. And it seems like the older we get, the more true this all becomes. When it rains, it pours.
Take my past week for example, this is the last week I had before I leave for the Canadian Lutheran and Anglican Youth Gathering, at which I’ll be one of the main speakers. I’m not saying this to toot my own horn and talk about the honour of being asked to speak, but I’m saying this to tell you how nervous and stressed out I feel. I mean, some of you know that it’s been my dream to speak at one of these Youth Gatherings for a while, but when I started having literal nightmares about it, I just was like, that’s not what I meant about it being my dream.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still excited to go and do this, in spite of all the work it took to prepare, the stress around the travelling, and just the fear of being in front of so many people. Don’t let this calm and cool demeanor fool you, I get anxious. I think my palms are getting sweaty just thinking about it.
And wouldn’t you know it? During this very stressful week I had a bunch of other things that I needed to take care of, some because we’ll be out of town for a while, some because we need to get ready to go out of town, some because of completely unrelated things. So I didn’t have just the Youth Gathering to worry about and have on my mind, but a laundry list of other things that needed my time, attention, and energy.
When it rains, it pours.
So in a way, I kind of empathize with what Jesus is going through in the gospel lesson that we get for today. He just caught wind that John the baptizer, his cousin and some say his mentor, died a gruesome death at the hands of a corrupt king. I mean, death alone is enough to take the wind out of anyone’s sails, but death of a loved one? And an very unjust and easily avoidable death to boot? It totally was raining on Jesus’ day in this story.
And so he did what probably any of us would do when in a situation like this, he retreated. He wanted to just get away. He wanted some time to recoup, regroup, and recover and get ready for whatever life will throw at him next. Who wouldn’t? This would have been quite a blow. I can’t blame anyone, let alone the Messiah, the Saviour of the world, to want a bit of rest after something like this.
But didn’t even get that, did he. I mean he made it as far as a boat and maybe spent a bit of time on the water, but he sure hit that shore running. The people learned that he was in the area and they went and followed him, maybe hoping for some of that goodness and grace that they heard that he might be able to give.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but I would have been super annoyed if this happened to me. I mean, it never actually would happen to me because I don’t have a prophet/baptizer for a cousin that is at risk of being murdered, nor do I have a great following of people who can’t wait to hear me talk, nor do I even have a boat for that matter. But if it did, believe me I’d be annoyed. So if there was ever a reason for Jesus to smite people, I feel like this would be it. Or at least up in the top 5.
Of course, he doesn’t. He doesn’t seem angry or even annoyed. In fact, he doesn’t really do anything according to the text, but feel compassion. Compassion for the pouring storms in their lives. Compassion for their brokenness and pain. Compassion for their need for community and connection. Even though it was well within his rights to tell these people to get lost, he reveals to them that they are valued and welcomed as he heals and cures them and brings them back into wholeness. In his own fatigue and mourning for his cousin, he reminds the people of who they are and whose they are. And even has he had his own needs to be met, he goes and nourishes them with a love that only God can give.
We know the story. The time passes, it gets late, and the disciples urge Jesus to do what he should have done hours ago and tell the people to vamoose. And not for selfish reasons either, the disciples had the people’s best interests in mind as they need to go and find food… that’s what they said, at least. The disciples knew that a group this size would need a lot, a lot more than they could ever provide, to even get close to meeting their needs.
See Jesus had good reason to tell those people to leave him alone. No one would have blamed him if he did and then went back out on the water for another hour or two. He had the power to turn even the rocks into bread and satisfy his need for nourishment, rest, and peace, but he chose to be with the people instead. He chose to heal. He chose the truth and promise of community and fellowship, and allowed his compassion to fill him and nourish him in order to serve others.
So basically, he lived into his identity. He answered the calling for his life. He found fulfillment and satisfaction not in things that don’t last, but rather in being who he is, not denying his gifts, and showing the people the love of God, welcoming them into the community, and feeding them with bread yes, but also with compassion.
It’s in this abundance of blessing and compassion that we too, can find shelter from the storms of life. It’s where we can find nourishment in the scarcity that often comes with our problems and hardships. It’s where we can be reminded of our identity, who we are and whose we are, and have our cups filled with the love and community of God. This isn’t to say that we don’t need to rest or that we should never think about ourselves, but rather it’s to say that even when we ignore the calling in our lives, when we deny our identities, we don’t live into the gifts and talents that we’ve been given to faithfully be God’s people in the world, we continue to be abundantly filled with compassion and care and invited and welcomed into community to be fed and nourished, where we can in turn extend hospitality and love.
See, it’s true that when it rains it pours in terms of our problems and actual literal rain in Vancouver, but it’s also true for the compassion showered down by God’s grace, the truth of God’s promises, and the mercy found in God’s love. It is in this abundance of blessing in which we find rest, healing, and nourishment for our souls.
In this season after Pentecost and for the rest of this summer, may we always be reminded of our identity in God’s love, that we can act with compassion and grace as God’s people in the world. Thanks be to God. Amen.