(1 Kings 19:9-18, Psalm 85:8-13, Romans 10:5-15)
(watch here: https://youtu.be/yHLX1DTPcOw)
22Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land,* for the wind was against them. 25And early in the morning he came walking towards them on the lake. 26But when the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear. 27But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’
28Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ 29He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came towards Jesus. 30But when he noticed the strong wind,* he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ 31Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ 32When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’
Believe it or not, we’re over 2 months in to this long season of Pentecost. We have another 4 months left to the season but I think it’s safe to say that we’re in the thick of it now. For some of us, it seems like yesterday when we were reflecting on Christ’s resurrection during the 6-week season of Easter. But time marches on: slower for some, quicker for others. In our household and many households in our community, it’s hard to believe that the kids are heading back to school this week! Where has the summer gone?! Of course, for all the households that are unaffected by the rhythms of the school year, the summer keeps plodding away, one hot day after another. And that’s perfectly normal too. In either case, we’re in the thick of it—in the thick of the summer and in the thick of the liturgical year.
I only mention being in the thick of it because I think our readings assigned for this morning intentionally want us to reflect on being in the thick of it. Recall how I told you a few weeks back my belief that this season of Pentecost is a season of discipleship. We aren’t preparing for a major event like Jesus’ birth, death, or resurrection. We aren’t preparing for the coming of the Magi and the awareness of who Jesus is as the Messiah. No, we aren’t preparing. But we are certainly growing and developing and evolving, both individually and congregationally. We are learning what it means to be in relationship with God. We are allowing God to lead and guide us to where he wants us to be. We are trusting that wherever it is He is taking us, it is a place of goodness and wholeness. This is what it means to be a disciple: to place trust in a master and to learn and grow with a master. God wants us to trust him. God wants us love him as He loves us. God wants us to know him as He knows us. After all, God trusts us. God loves us and knows us…each one of us! God trusts and loves and knows like no one else! We ought to gladly seek him out and eagerly work at becoming his faithful disciples. But getting back to being in the thick of it…
Whether you’re young or you’re old, we all eventually end up in the thick of it. And by “it” I’m referring to “life.” We all eventually find ourselves in the thick of life with jobs and careers and marriages and children and BILLS and health and family and homes and BILLS and friends and co-workers and enemies and…oh, BILLS. We all find ourselves juggling any number of things and the carefree days of our childhoods are a thing of the past. If you’re not there yet, you will be soon enough! Life doesn’t get any easier with each passing year. No, life only gets more and more complicated the longer you stick with it. And there is great temptation to believe that the harder life gets, the more isolated we become…from each other and from God. As life becomes more and more complicated, there is greater and greater temptation to believe that no one can fully understand all that we go through. “No one knows where I’ve been or where we’re going.” “No one knows how I’m going to get to where I’m going.” “No one knows why I live the life I live.” There is great temptation to believe these statements. But these statements couldn’t be any further from the truth. No, they are deluded lies meant to isolate us even further from each other and from God. They are meant to destroy us. They are meant to destroy God within us. Truth to be told, we are never alone in this life. God walks with each one of us from the moment of our conception to the last breath we take. We might not feel his presence at times but that doesn’t mean He isn’t there. God is always there! God is always walking beside us, through good times and bad. And God is better than anyone you’ll ever meet because He never leaves you. He is always there, plain and simple!
And what a blessing and a gift! His everlasting presence strengthens and encourages us to do things we never thought possible. All we have to do is ask and God hears our requests and answers our pleas. You’ve heard me say it before but it bears repeating: God does answer prayers, maybe not in the way we’d like him to or at the time we’d like him to but He does answer prayers. God hears our requests and our pleas and He responds to them. All we have to do is ask. Our readings assigned for this morning gave us characters who were not only in the thick of it but also who sought out God in their struggles. In our passage from 1 Kings, we heard the encounter between the prophet, Elijah, and God on the mountain top. Recall the Elijah had spent 40 days and nights in the wilderness fleeing from the wrath of Queen Jezebel. Per God’s command, Elijah had killed all of her prophets because they were worshippers of Baal. This had angered so much that she sought to kill Elijah in revenge. Elijah went to the mountain, exhausted and scared, seeking God’s wisdom and guidance. God says He will come to Elijah and He does come–not as a wind or an earthquake or fire but as sheer silence. God knew that Elijah’s life was loud enough…that Elijah’s life was a big enough mess that He didn’t need to add to its chaos. Elijah’s courage and strength to continue fleeing Jezebel’s wrath is restored and he goes on to continue faithfully leading God’s people.
In our psalm, we similarly hear David cry out to God, “let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts.” David doesn’t make this request as man who feels God’s presence, as a man who is not distressed. No, David is a man in need, a man who feels alone and scared, certainly a man in the thick of it! In crying out to God, David lifts up his fear and doubt and becomes receptive to God’s wisdom and guidance. No doubt God answered his plea just as he answered Elijah’s.
Peter and several of Jesus’ disciples found themselves in a boat while a storm raged on around them. They, too, were scared and hopeless in their situation. Jesus came to them on the waters, beckoning Peter to come to him. Peter stepped out of the boat, walked on water towards Jesus, but began to sink once he allowed the raging storm to break his focus on Jesus. While the story best illustrates the importance of staying focused on Jesus during the storms of life, it also shows how God came to those in need. Again, God hears the plea and responds to it. Peter and the disciples were definitely in the thick of it and God found his way into their situation.
So we continue through this season of Pentecost assured of God’s presence because of the witness in our readings. God knows when we are in the thick of it. After all, God created “it!” God designed life in such a way that none of us can get out of being in the thick of it! We all eventually end up in the thick of it. Our discipleship, our trust in him, is put to the test when we’re in the thick of it. Do we trust him? Do we listen for him? Let us cling to our trust. More importantly, let us listen. The storms of life may rage around us but let us be assured of…God in the midst.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.