August 3, 2020
Precious Lord, take my hand,
lead me on, let me stand,
I am tired, I am weak, I am worn.
Through the storm, through the night,
lead me on to the light.
Take my hand, precious Lord
Lead me home.
[Evangelical Lutheran Worship #773]
The readings for Sunday, August 9, 2020, the Tenth Sunday after Pentecost, are as follows:
This week I intended to reflect solely on the assigned Old Testament reading which speaks of strong winds, earthquakes, and fires. But the Gospel reading adds another element, battering waves. These natural phenomena are powerful metaphors for some of the challenges we face in our lives.
So let me try to tie the two of them together.
The readings from 1 Kings and Matthew also speak of people of little faith: Elijah, so zealous for the Lord, yet so afraid of the threats on his life; and Peter, so willing to try anything but so lacking in focus on the task at hand.
The two men symbolize our human experience.
We know Jesus, his promises to be with us always, his very real presence in every moment of every day. We trust Jesus and his powerful love for us; and yet, despite knowing all this, when we hit stormy weather and the wind and waves threaten to overwhelm us, we find ourselves floundering.
We try so hard but are so easily discouraged. We become overwhelmed by what confronts us. We are more ready to give up than to continue trying.
Our faith and confidence seem to evaporate when we are overcome with hopelessness.
When left to our own devices, we choose the path of least resistance. We are distracted by the least little thing. Fear overwhelms us. Confidence deserts us.
We start to think that no one can help us. Pastors, family members and friends can be supportive but cannot really change what is happening in our lives.
Fear is one of the most paralyzing emotions, if not the most paralyzing emotion that we experience. Sometimes we feel like we are afraid of everything. We are afraid of ourselves. We are afraid of people. We are afraid of the future. We are afraid of the past. We are afraid of life. We are afraid of death.
Yet how many times throughout the gospels have we heard these words: "Do not be afraid?"
Once again this coming Sunday Jesus will repeat this familiar phrase to us amid the tensions that this nation has been experiencing over these past several months. "Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid."
As people of faith, a storm in our life enables us to meet Jesus in the middle of that storm. It is precisely then that he will grab a hold of us and raise us up with a renewed faith and purpose.
Undoubtedly the waters will continue to swirl about us, but we are safe in the arms of the one who has the deepest love for us. Even when it seems that our faith is at its weakest and the troubles are their greatest, Jesus reaches out and grabs a hold of us and helps us rise above the storm. When we are in over our heads, when we feel swamped, when we feel battered, when we have that sinking feeling, our Savior is there.
These experiences serve to remind us over and over again - if our eyes are open to see it - that God alone is God, and we are totally dependent upon the Lord as our source of life and hope and strength.
But I'm especially fascinated by the hopefulness found in the imagery of the psalm reading for this week, Psalm 85. In particular, I am drawn to verse 10:
Steadfast love and faithfulness have met together;
righteousness and peace have kissed each other
In 2015 I visited Berlin, Germany, as part of our Bishops' Academy. I saw this sculpture and this verse came immediately to mind.
The work is titled Reconciliation, by Josefina de Vasconcellos. It is a call for reconciliation following the devastation of the Second World War. There are four copies of the sculpture, all at sites deeply affected by the war. This one is near the Berlin Wall Memorial.
Imagine what would be if righteousness and peace were to kiss? It is a desire that we yearn for. We pray, we struggle, we long to dispel those social, political, racial, and economic differences that divide us as a society.
In the midst of all this, we cannot, we must not forget that we are children of God, created and formed in God's image. God loves each and every one of us, despite our human flaws. God's love lives within us, and we are called to be a reflection of that love toward others. It's that simple, yet that complex.
Sociologists have established that the key question Americans use to evaluate life is, "What's in it for me?" God's truth challenges that line of questioning.
The ways of the Lord call us to reach past our own wants and needs to care for the world God loves, to work tirelessly (even when we're tired) for justice for God's children (all of them, not just some, and certainly not just for ourselves), to risk and to share and to love, to change ourselves and the way the world does things.
My electronic meeting schedule this week is as follows:
Ohio Faith Leaders Prayer Gathering
Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service
St. Michael, Marshallville, Council
NEOS Rostered Ministers Gathering*
Conference of Bishops Weekly Check-in
* Rostered ministers please note that our gatherings are now held once a month on the first Wednesday of the month, beginning at 10 a.m. Please contact the synod office for the link.
This week's closing prayer is actually a reflection by Howard Thurman, taken from his book, Meditations of the Heart(Boston: Beacon Press, 1953, 1981, p.186). This meditation is titled "I Seek Room for Peace."
I seek the enlargement of my heart that there may be room for Peace. Already there is room enough for chaos. There is in every day's experience much that makes for confusion and bewilderment. Often I do not understand quite how my relations with others become frayed and chaotic. Sometimes this chaos is a positive thing; it means that something new, creative and whole is beginning to pull together the tattered fragments of my relationship with a person and to fashion into that which delights the spirit and makes glad the heart. Sometimes the chaos is negative, a sign of degeneration in a relationship once meaningful and good. There is room enough for chaos.
But the need of my heart is for room for Peace: Peace of mind that inspires singleness of purpose; Peace of heart that quiets all fears and uproots all panic; Peace of spirit that filters through all confusions and robs them of their power. These I see now. I know that here in this quietness my life can be infused with Peace.
Therefore, before God, I seek the enlargement of my
Heart at this moment, that there may be room for Peace.
+Bishop Abraham Allende