Worship Service for the 5th Sunday after Pentecost

Hi everyone,

Welcome to worship for this 5th Sunday after Pentecost, landing on June 23, 2024!

The bulletin for this service can be found here. In it you’ll find the order and words of the liturgy, and the full sermon manuscript that you can use to follow along with the service. Otherwise, you can just use the words that will appear on your screen and the sermon is on this page below the worship video.

If you’d like a fuller worship experience online, you can have a lit candle in your space that can be extinguished near the end of the service after the sending hymn when the altar candles are put out. And you’re welcome to participate in communion if you are comfortable by preparing something small to eat and drink to be consumed at the right time during the service. Further instruction will be given then.

May God’s everlasting peace reign in your hearts and lives, now and always!

Holy God, we know that compared to you, our knowledge is foolishness.  Draw us to your presence and drown us in your love and grace, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

So as you all know, this weekend was Convention weekend for our Synod, and it was to be a special one for us for a number of reasons.  Not only was it the first one with our relatively new bishop who was elected at our last Convention just under 3 years ago; not only are we the only Synod of the ELCIC meeting this year not electing a new bishop; and not only was it the first one with the recently set lower term limits for members of the Synod Council resulting in a possible 100% turnover in the council; but this is also the first time that we’ve met in person since like, 2 Conventions ago.

I know, that doesn’t sound that bad, but since our Conventions are on a 3-year cycle, that means we haven’t had an in-person Convention in 6 years.  Sounds like a long time now, doesn’t it? 

So this was a special one.  While it was good to meet in person, in fact it was honestly better than I had anticipated, we were still in the midst of a lot of transition.  It was familiar, but also unfamiliar.  Comfortable, but also a bit uncomfortable.  Encouraging, but also kind of scary.

Did I mention that we’re also looking ahead to elect a new National Bishop next year at the National Convention?  So by the end of next year, our BC Synod bishop, who again was just elected at our 2021 Synod Convention, will be the 2nd most experienced bishop out of the 6 ELCIC bishops.  That means that by the end of next year, we will have 4 brand new bishops out of the possible 6.  That’s a lot of new leadership.  That’s a lot of transition.  That’s a lot of… maybe… fear.

Fear of the uncertain future.  Fear of what we don’t yet know or have seen.  Fear of change.

Sure, it might seem that the change on the National and other Synodical levels won’t affect us, but we can’t deny that there are changes all around us.  Change in our political climate, our environmental climate, and in the demographic and ethos of the city that we reside in.  There is change in how matters of faith are regarded and the role that it plays in one’s life.  There is change on what we feel is an acceptable way of spending a Sunday morning.  So it’s there in all areas of life.

However, all things considered, we’ve been pretty fortunate here at Grace in that we aren’t facing debilitating financial hardship or under threat of closing our doors, and we have a pastor that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.  But still change is upon us.  I mean, just look at us.  Even though we aren’t really in danger of going broke, we still aren’t as numerous as we once were.  Even though we keep somewhat busy with our own things, we don’t seem to offer the same kinds of programs and engagement with the community as we once did.  And even though sure, our pastor doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, we have to admit that his sermons aren’t as funny and lighthearted as they used to be, and he certainly isn’t getting any younger.  Still pretty good looking though.

So there is still this change that is kind of forced upon us.  Maybe it’s a bit subtle but we really aren’t who we were before.  Even if we don’t always see it or admit to it, there is a peculiar fear among us that, under the guise of being realistic, might hold us back from trying new things, exploring experiments, or being open to change.

And I wonder if this fear is the actual fear that the disciples had in today’s gospel reading.  Sure, at first glance it seems obvious that the fear came from the raging wind and waves that threatened to literally kill them, but I wonder if it goes deeper than that.  I know, you might think that there’s no need to dig deeper than a threatening storm as a source of fear, but still, I wonder. 

I mean, these are seasoned fishermen, who probably spent a lot of their lives on the water.  Maybe even a “learned to row before they learned to walk,” type thing.  I would think that being in a boat would actually be their comfort zone, what they’re familiar with, their safe and happy place.  So would a little wind and some waves really shake them up the way that it sounds like they’re shaken up?  Well, it’s a possibility I guess, but looking at the story a bit closer than I ever have before, I noticed something.

We’re familiar with the story, Jesus tells the disciples to get on some boats and head to the other side of the water and a storm hit while he slept at the back of the boat.  But notice how the disciple wake Jesus up.  They weren’t like, “Jesus wake up, we’re about to die!” or “Jesus, here take a bucket and help us bail water so we don’t die!” or “Jesus, how tired must you be that you aren’t already awake because we’re about to die?”

No, their impending death doesn’t seem to be the focus of their fear.  See, in their world, the danger of the seas come and go.  In that climate, from what I’ve read, these flash storms aren’t unusual.  Really for a bunch of fishermen who we’d think would be well versed with how to navigate troubled waters, this should have been a walk in the park for them.  So I don’t think they were afraid of the storm.  I don’t even think they were really afraid of capsizing or the possibility of drowning, that just comes with the territory. 

See, I think the focus of their fear is seen in how they woke Jesus up.  They ask him, “Teacher, don’t you care?”  

It sounds to me like they were afraid not that they might die, but that Jesus didn’t care if they did or not.  Like Jesus abandoned them in their time of need.  Like Jesus allowed hardship on them for the sake of a nap.

Isn’t that sometimes our fear as well?  I mean, we know that things change all the time, so why do we resist it so much?  Why do we look at how we are now and lament that we aren’t how we were?  Why does it seem like we do everything in our power to keep things the way that they’ve always been or at least look like it?

Are we afraid that in the change, we might lose ourselves?  Lose our identity?  Perhaps even lose Jesus?

But just as the disciples soon found out, that just isn’t possible.  Even when Jesus seems absent and asleep, he remains with us.  Even when our lives are rocked to their core, Jesus remains steady.  Even when our fears and insecurities bubble up to the surface and we begin to question what we know and believe and even our faith, Jesus stands up and blesses us with peace.

Peace that quells our fear.  Peace that puts aside our questions and doubts and strengthens our faith.  Peace that sparks in us hope.

At the Synod Convention, the highlight for me was the sharing that our youth delegation to the Lutheran World Federation Assembly last year gave.  They spoke of the hope that we as a global church share.  Hope in who we are, hope in whose we are, and hope as one body joined by one Spirit.  That while we look at how different things are now compared to before, that we can still be united in God’s kingdom.

This doesn’t mean that the transitions and changes that we go through in our National Church, Synod, congregation, or even our personal lives aren’t uncomfortable at all, but it does mean that they can be bearable and even good.  For even in those times of little faith, God remains strong.  In those times of fear and doubt, God still controls the winds and seas that beat and batter our lives and worldviews.  In those times when it seems like God doesn’t care and is just asleep at the wheel, God is present, with us and among us, reminding us of our connection, community, and peace.

So whatever life’s troubles might come, whatever storms rock our boats, whatever surprising or perhaps unwanted changes and transitions happen, we can lean on the resilient strength, the identifying love, and the faith-producing peace of God who carries us with arms of grace and blessing.

As we continue through this season after Pentecost, a season of growth, change, and formation, may we rely on God’s wisdom and might to reveal to us the love in spite of fear, the truth in spite of doubt, and the peace that surpasses all comprehension and understanding.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.