Listen to the Sermon.
Hello, Emmanuel. It is both wonderful and difficult to stand here with you this morning. My heart is very full. On my first Sunday with you, in September 2016, I reflected on God’s goodness, grace, and humor in bringing me home to ministry with you. And I reminded us that Jesus says to be faithful in the small circumstances of our lives - to live with love for one another, and to meet life’s challenges with faith.
Today’s scripture brings those thoughts full circle.
Reminding us, again, that God works through unexpected people and small circumstances, and that we already possess all that we need to transform our fear to faith.
Starting with the story of David and Goliath: David, the shepherd boy recently anointed as God’s chosen king of Israel, goes to join his brothers fighting on the front. Hearing a mighty enemy lay down a dare, he offers to fight the duel. The king tries to put his own armor on the young boy, but it weighs him down like a child playing dress up.
Rather than be hindered by the heavy armor of war, David chooses to be clothed in his faith. Faith which has saved his life in the past when he faced fierce wild enemies. David arms himself with the things of which he is most accustomed – his shepherd’s staff, his slingshot, and 5 smooth stones picked up from the ground. With his faith for armor, the only weapons he needs are the tools of his daily life.
The giant Goliath taunts David, and David replies by declaring his faith in God. The battle is ended with a single stone from the slingshot of a young, unknown, faithful shepherd.
Saul and his army have been engaged in hand to hand combat, bloody and unpredictable battle on all sides. No time to think, just react to stay alive. Chaos everywhere – and it’s over in the snap of a sling.
In the gospel today, we hear another story of chaos quieted in a moment.
After a long day of teaching the multitudes, Jesus is asleep in the boat as it crosses the sea of Galilee. The wind picks up, and the waves begin to pound the boat. Up and down, in big troughs. It feels like the storm is going to swamp the boat.
Feeling overwhelmed and frightened, the disciples wake Jesus. With the simple words “Peace! Be still!” he rebukes the wind, which in turn calms the sea. Turning to the disciples, he asks, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’ The disciples are too busy being awed by how the wind and sea responded to Jesus to answer him.
In both of these stories, chaos is quieted in but a moment. Something else happens as well. The mere mortals - David and the disciples - the ones who have something to do with quelling the chaos, in their moment of fear they remember their faith in God. David remembers that God has been faithful to him, kept him safe in the face of danger, and equipped him with all that he needs to put evil facedown in the dirt. In the midst of their panic, the disciples remember Jesus - they remember their relationship with the God who is with them as teacher and companion.
Fear transforms to faith. Feet find a sure footing. Panic-inducing wind stills. We remember that we are called Emmanuel: God with us. In spite, or maybe because, of the chaos around us, when there is nothing we can do to settle the seas, we reach out in faith to a God who never leaves us.
The uncertainty of the future often inspires fear. Whether on a battlefield, on the turbulent sea, or in the arrival of a new rector, we don’t know exactly what will happen, and we feel out of control. The gospel today shows us what we can do when God at work in our lives makes us feel afraid or uncertain.
Like David we can trust that God has equipped us already for the challenge, and rather than putting on unfamiliar defenses, we can rely on our faith and the skills of our everyday lives. And, like the disciples in the boat, we can call upon our knowledge of God’s love for us to find peace and calm in the midst of chaos. Living the small circumstances of our lives, like journeying together, with love for one another and supporting one another in faith.
The journey of our lives continues always, as does God’s deep and limitless love for us - even in our moments of unbelief. At times in our journey, we are blessed with companions whose very presence with us reminds us of God’s goodness, grace and humor. In my experience, those companions are treasures of great value.
A few weeks ago I shared with you three points to a ‘good’ good-bye, the kind of farewell you want to say to someone you love and respect: Gratitude, Forgiveness, and Hope. So let’s do this.
Sisters and brothers, I am so very grateful that God, through the mysterious work of the diocese, wardens and vestry, called me to be your interim these last 21 months. It has been a joy to share in your life as a community, to learn with you about living more faithfully into God’s vision for us, and to walk with many of you through the ups and downs of life.
I feel grateful that you welcomed me, and my family, into your life as a community of faithful seekers. You honored the gifts I brought to leadership and helped me learn some new skills and insights about ministry along the way. You welcomed me home to the Pacific Northwest, and to Emmanuel.
With you, I have learned about what makes a great Day of Discovery - and I am so proud of the work we did together that day last May to tell our stories of faith and delight in Emmanuel in ways that captured and named the core of who we are. I learned how to celebrate a 100th birthday, how to bless centuries of marriage, how to honor and celebrate the eternal lives of God’s holy people I didn’t know in their earthly lives. I had the joy of baptizing new members into Christ’s body, of welcoming seekers in faith, of sharing God’s grace with you at the table every Sunday.
I know that I have given you my whole heart, because it hurts to leave. I return to that first sermon with you - to God’s goodness, grace and humor. And I am reminded that God is so good, that you have been gift and grace to me when I needed to be loved for the gifts I brought to you, and that God is in our laughter and our tears.
My gratitude runs deeper than words can say. So, let’s move on to forgiveness.
Every relationship has expectations. Things we hope the other person will ask, know, do, be there for - even if we forget to actually tell the other person about these expectations. I know I have had unmet expectations of you, and I am quite sure you have had expectations I failed to meet. I am so sorry for all the ways I have disappointed you. If I have hurt you, I am sorry.
I believe we are created for love, and that life is too short to spend our precious energy holding onto anger or grudges. I have already forgiven you for any hurts you have caused me. Will you please forgive me for anything I have done that would prevent us from continuing on as beloved sisters and brothers?
Looking forward, I have a few wishes and hopes for you.
First, trust God. We don’t need to be in control of everything. Jesus says be faithful in the small circumstances of our lives. Look for ways to be prayerful, to be just, to be peacemakers, to be less sure of ourselves and the things that feed our egos - and more sure of God. Those small moments of gratitude and faith will be contrary to the ways of the world - and life-giving pieces of joy that grow in our own lives. When we focus ourselves on God’s blessings, we honor our God, and we find our hearts more often turned toward serving others because God loves them.
Second, love your new rector. She brings different gifts than I have, and I am quite sure she is a wonderful priest. Love her and be gentle with her as she gets to know each of you. Nurture her and ask how you personally can support her as she grows into a new role as rector and solo priest.
Third, pray for one another. Pray for God’s continued guidance and inspiration for Emmanuel. Pray for your leaders, your pew-mates, for those who have not yet found Emmanuel as their faith home. Pray for healing, for grace, for forgiveness, and above all pray for the courage to actively bear witness to God’s love in the world.
And please pray for Julien, Esteban, Isabella and I. We, too, are entering into a time of transition that includes some unknowns. We begin this season with a family vacation to the East Coast this week. Pray for us to have a fun summer together, for grace to let God hold onto the stress of unknowns, and for a speedy revelation of the right next job.
My friends, we are here to love. To love one another, as God has loved us - and to turn that love into action. As we finish our ministries together, let us thank God for God’s goodness, grace and humor. And let us pray for open hearts and minds, for patience, and that God will reveal the possibilities and resources for whatever it is that God has in mind for us all, and grant the courage to respond to that invitation when it comes. For today, let us delight in one another.
Farewell. God be with you. Aloha.