Worship Service for the 6th Sunday after Pentecost

Hi everyone,

Welcome to worship for this 6th Sunday after Pentecost, which lands on June 30th, 2024!

The bulletin for this service can be found here. You can use it to follow along with the service, as it has the words and order of worship, as well as the full sermon manuscript. Alternatively, the words that you need to know will also appear on your screen, and the sermon can be found on this page below the video.

For a fuller online worship experience, you are invited to have a lit candle in your space for the duration of the service and extinguished near the end after the sending hymn. If you are comfortable, you are also welcome to participate in communion by having something small to eat and drink prepared for consumption. Further instruction will be given at the appropriate time.

May the hope in God’s love and promises fuel you into strength and joy, now and forever!

Loving God, your Word has the power to restore lives.  May we see and hear this redemptive restoration today, through the life and teachings of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

This weather… am I right?  Each week for the past couple months now, I’ve been hoping that the weather would make up its mind as to what season we’re in, because honestly my wardrobe is confused.  Not my Sunday wardrobe, mind you, I wear the same thing like every week.  But on the non-Sunday days, I never know what jacket or shoes to wear or if I should bring an umbrella with me or not.  It’s just so unpredictable.  I know, we should always expect rain around these here parts, so I guess even when we get that little bit of sun that fills us with so much hope for the summer, we should know that the rain is just around the corner… and with reinforcements.

Don’t get me wrong, I know rain is good for the earth and all that, I just don’t like it very much because… well… it keeps my car dirty, ok?  All this rain, a clean car doesn’t make.  So needless to say, my car has been pretty dirty as of late.

The rain was actually so bad this week that one day when I got here to the church, I heard the kids from the daycare downstairs chanting “rain, rain, go away, come again another day.”  Well, less chanting and more screaming at the top of their lungs, but that’s kids for you.  I thought it was pretty funny.  Well, it was for the first 4 and a half minutes of them chanting, but after that I thought that maybe they’d get the hint.  It clearly wasn’t going to stop raining just because they were asking not-so-nicely.

Their futile chanting reminded me of this time when I was still pretty active in the church youth group that I grew up in.  We were getting ready for a car wash fundraiser that day, and I think you can see where this is going.  The forecast called for sun all week, but on the day of the car wash we woke up to a very overcast sky and a bit of rain that soon turned into a lot of rain.  I already educated you all about the correlation between rain and the cleanliness of cars, so this weather was a bit of a downer for our youth group and threatened to ruin this fundraiser.  I remember trying to lift up the spirits of the group, saying, “let’s spend some time in prayer for the weather, and hopefully we’ll get some sun.” 

One of the youth leaders at the time sort of burst my bubble by telling the group that praying for something that likely won’t happen isn’t really a good use of our time, and that we needn’t waste our breath.

Of course, I wasn’t all that happy with him.  Not only did he take my good-hearted and very Christian-like suggestion and stomp on it with the force of a thousand suns, but I felt like this youth leader had just lost all faith.  Like can’t he believe that God is able to part the clouds like what happened at Jesus’ baptism?  Doesn’t he believe that God can stop the rains like we read about last week?  Won’t he believe that God cares enough about our carwash to provide us with a miracle so we can raise a bit more money for our summer camp?  Is that too much faith to ask?

Well, I guess if we put it that way, maybe he wasn’t all that wrong.

Now, I’m not saying that we should give up on prayer, I’m just saying that it can sometimes be discouraging, can’t it?  I mean, sure we can have faith that God can move mountains, but practically speaking we don’t see those mountains move very often, no matter how hard we pray for it to happen.  We don’t see very many inexplicable miracles, at least not ones we ask for, not in this day and age.  We don’t always experience our prayers… answered. 

And that’s why I feel like it’s sometimes hard for us to hear stories like the ones we get in today’s gospel reading.  And I do mean “stories”, plural, as there are two different threads going on here, but both involve a desperation that might resonate with us.  Both stories have a faith that might sound familiar.  And both of these accounts have a miraculous and instant healing that I have a feeling is completely foreign to anyone here aside from these and other readings from the bible.

So perhaps after reading stories like these, we’re left disillusioned, deflated, or discouraged.  Thinking that maybe prayer doesn’t work after all, so we probably should just stop trying.  It’s not practical.  Not effective.  Not really realistic.

And we wouldn’t be the only ones that think this.

Look at those disciples. The ones that were supposed to be closest to Jesus, learned the most from him, perhaps the ones that were to pick up wherever Jesus left off.  If anyone would have faith, it would be them.  But time and again, we see that they actually don’t, or at least, what they have isn’t very strong.

They’re scared of everything.  They don’t believe in anything.  And they constantly say that they can’t.

Can’t feed the hungry, because they don’t have enough food.  Can’t help the needy, because there are just too many of them.  Can’t find the one who touched Jesus’ cloak, because the crowd is too great.  Can’t go to this man’s house, his daughter is already dead.

We can’t, we can’t, we can’t.  It’s hopeless.

And we might have a similar attitude from time to time, don’t we?  Never mind prayer not working, but it’s like nothing we try can beat the odds that are so stacked against us.  Like, we can’t do all the things, can’t say all the words, and can’t help in all the ways, because we aren’t the right age, the right demographic, or don’t have the right skills, resources, or people power at our disposal.  We just can’t.

And so the rains keep raining no matter how many cars we want to wash… but it’s far from hopeless.

Because even when the rains fall, God remains faithful.  Even when nothing seems to be going our way, God makes a way.  Even when we say we can’t, God totally can.

Of course, things still might not go for us the way they did for those in this story, we still very likely won’t experience that level of miraculous physical healing.  But we can and have probably have experienced a kind of spiritual healing, a relationship healing through reconciliation, a wholistic healing that reminded us of who we are and whose we are.  Not all healings have to be supernatural.  Not all prayers have to be answered with miracles.  Not all faith will move physical and literal mountains.

But in the face of debilitating brokenness there is still healing.  In spite of the futility and hopelessness in the world, there are still miracles.  Even when it seems like our prayers aren’t answered, it is still faith.

And again, God doesn’t promise us that faith will get us what we want, per se, but faith will heal us.  Faith will remind us of how we’re lifted up to stand tall even when we are beaten down.  Faith tells us not to pray for what we want because it suits us, but instead faith teaches us how to pray for others and shows us how we can be the answer to those prayers in the most miraculous of ways.

Of course, we might not be able to bring people back from the dead.  We likely aren’t able to cure someone who has been bleeding for 12 years.  Heck, I can barely stop a kid from waking up in the middle of the night because they’re feeling nauseous.  But we can see each other for who we are and appreciate the contribution that is brought out in the community.  We can learn the value of the other and see how we can, in small tiny ways, make their day better.  We can recognise the calling that we all share to be God’s people in the world, and instead of denying it and saying that it can’t be, we can lift up that promise and say yes it can, it totally can.

So while we might still pray for the things that are most convenient to us, let’s not be discouraged when it doesn’t happen.  But rather, we can be encouraged to see how God has worked, is working, and will continue to work for the good of all, in and around our lives and community.  We can see how God answers prayers through redemption, reconciliation, and reformation.  We can see just how God can.

In this season after Pentecost, let us be reminded of the faith that we’ve been given and recognise how it helps us, heals us, and brings us back to wholeness in ways that, while might seem normal and mundane, but could only be described as miraculous.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

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