Proper 14 Year A, August 13, 2017 "Take Heart, it is I, don't be afraid."

Reverend Deacon Katherine G. Dougherty
Sermon Text: 

August 13, 2017 – Year A

Proper 14

Matthew 14:22-33…“Take heart, it is I, don’t be afraid.” 

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.       

         “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”  What incredible words to hear in our Gospel reading today!!  “It is I…” – we all know the story…the disciples are in the boat…a violent storm erupts…they fear for their lives and call out to Jesus to save them.

         When storms arise in the ocean, everything becomes chaotic.  What may have been peaceful waves become large, powerful, foam-capped walls of water crashing down.  The rhythm of the ocean quickly becomes unpredictable and currents grab whatever is floating…pulling it to and fro… robbing from it any and all control it may have had.  Winds whip over the surface of the sea and roar loudly that a storm is present.  Chaos erupts.  

         The first time we hear of chaos in the Bible is Genesis.  “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.”[1]  A formless void – darkness – wind - water.  Here in Matthew’s Gospel we are once again in the midst of chaos.  Well, not actually us – but the disciples.  These were experienced fishermen.  They knew their way around a boat and understood what storms were like on the sea.  Why in this storm, would they become so afraid?

         One translation of this scripture tells us the storm arose during the “fourth watch of the night.”  That means the seas became violent in the middle of the night roughly between 3am and 6am.  So, unlike a storm during the day, darkness must have completely engulfed them and they had no way of gaining their bearings as they were thrown from side to side in their boat. Darkness…wind…water…chaos.  But as we know, they were not left to die – Jesus joined them in the midst of the chaos and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”   

         Charlottesville and our nation sustained a great trauma this weekend.  We once again witnessed the violence and pain caused by anger, hatred, and evil.  Truly, Charlottesville has been a place of darkness and chaos in the last 48 hours. And though the images and reports out of Charlottesville are both terrifying and utterly heart breaking, we must not lose hope!  Many came together on the side of love and shined God’s light into that darkness.  

         In the midst of chaos yesterday, clergy of all faith traditions joined arms and created a wall between the white separatists/nationalist and the protestors.  Their loving arms and bodies were used to protect both groups – care for both sides.  And throughout the protest, they sang words of love and light.  Their presence was a reminder that God WAS there. 

         Another example of love…a group of Quakers arrived early in the morning and sat together in quiet prayer throughout the conflict – not engaging but praying. They too reminded us that God’s love was present.       Store-owners and businesses throughout the downtown area risked being open so that they could offer their buildings as Safe Havens for the weary and the thirsty. 

         And brave EMS and first responders of every agency cared for the injured and took them to safety. These were ALL acts of love and compassion in the midst of painful chaos. 

         What is timely about today’s reading is that writer of Matthew’s gospel is interested in community.  The writer of this particular gospel is concerned with figuring out what it means to be the church, to be the body of Christ in the world, to gather as a community – as a people who are trying to follow Jesus together.[2] 

         Without Jesus and each other, we will surely drown.  Life is a glorious blessing AND life is hard sometimes.  As we’ve seen throughout history and current day events – the darkness of the night and the beating of the waves against our fragile boat can wear us all down. 

         It is Jesus…who reaches out a hand to us…not out of judgement, because we are scared and doubting…but out of love…grace…and forgiveness.  It is in those moments when anger and hatred seems to win the day…or to be the loudest voice in the room…or when the pain of losing someone we love dearly or getting a diagnosis of illness takes our breath away…or the silence from our own disconnection to God or those we love hurts our hearts…Jesus IS there!  Somehow, someway Jesus’ love and grace appears and pulls us from the chaos. 

         My heart aches over what happened in Charlottesville.  And I am scared about what could happen between North Korea and the United States.  I would guess that many of us are, but we know, as Christians, that the power behind us is FAR GREATER than the evil that confronts us.[3]    

         Regardless of what the challenges are ahead – how stormy the seas may become – Jesus will continue to reach out…into the chaos…with a loving hand saying, “Take heart, it is I, don’t be afraid.” 

         So, in the days ahead…let us reach out to one another in love and reach out to Jesus for comfort, help, and guidance.




[1] NRSV

[2] Sermons that Work

[3] The Reverend Elaine Thomas 2017.

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