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“Water Walkers Who Refuse to Wait for the Catastrophe”

Pastor Wilbert Miller’s Sermon as We Prayed for Our Nation
“Water Walkers Who Refuse to Wait for the Catastrophe”
Matthew 14: 22-23
Wednesday Evening Mass, August 16, 2017

This wasn’t the first time Peter had said something so preposterous. He was always the big shot, wanting to be at Jesus’ side in glory and telling anyone who would listen that Jesus called him “The Rock.” Like the disciples, we have grown weary of Peter’s antics. When he says, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water,” we, along with James and Andrew, jab each other in the ribs and say to Peter: “Go for it Pizza Pie; take a giant step for mankind, big fella; float like a dragonfly.”

The Bible doesn’t tell us how far Peter walked on water. What’s your guess—two steps, perhaps four? Saint Matthew does write: “Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, be became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’” As Peter screamed, Jesus castigated him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

In the midst of our merriment at Peter the buffoon, aren’t we a bit jealous of his bravado? After all, taking just a few measly steps on a wind-battered lake ain’t exactly shabby. How many steps do you think you could take before sinking into the sea?

In these days, it’s easy to sit in our La-Z Boys and judge those who get out of the boat and try to quell the sickening racism and disgusting anti-Semitism occurring in our nation. We all have our opinions of what is appropriate and inappropriate. Like Olympic diving judges holding up scorecards, we evaluate anyone who takes a step or two off the high dive to try to bring justice to our reeling nation. It’s easy to judge from a safe distance; it is far more dangerous to step into the raging sea with hopes that things might get a bit better.

What do you think: is it better to try and fail or to be rendered impotent by our desire to act perfectly before taking a single step?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer is one of the great saints of the twentieth century. You are probably aware that he had a cushy job teaching just up the street at Union Theological Seminary. But as Hitler began to rear his ugly head, Bonhoeffer had to make difficult decisions: whether to leave the safe confines of United States soil for his beloved German homeland and, eventually, whether to be involved in the plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler. People could and would judge him but Bonhoeffer found it more unbearable to stand idly by as Jewish people faced the slaughter. In the finest of Lutheran tradition, Bonhoeffer “sinned boldly;” he dared to act because he was already saved by a merciful God. Risky, of course, but, for Bonhoeffer there was no alternative. Oh yes, he was hung at Hitler’s Flossenburg Concentration Camp only days before World War II ended….Feels a bit to me like sinking into the sea for what you believe. But we do not forget Saint Dietrich.

Listen to his words and tell me if you have heard anything more timely in recent days: “If I sit next to a madman as he drives a car into a group of innocent bystanders, I can’t, as a Christian, simply wait for the catastrophe, then comfort the wounded and bury the dead. I must try to wrestle the steering wheel out of the hands of the driver.” One thing is clear: there is no room for anti-Semitism and racism in the Christian life. We must take risks and we must do what we can to stop the madness in our own day.

At the beginning of this evening’s worship service, Steve Aurand played one of my favorite liturgical pieces, Stephen Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns.” Steve asked whether this was appropriate for this evening and I said, “More than appropriate, it is perfect!”

Jesus invites us to join the clowns, folks like Saint Peter and Saint Dietrich, those willing, in faith, to jump out of the boat and to walk on water. For my money, Peter is the most faithful clown in the disciple boat—as was Bonhoeffer after him! Their faith was borne of bravery and deep faithfulness, knowing they would be ridiculed when their boats began to sink and yet trusting that Jesus would catch them no matter how wet they got.

I pray that each of us will step out of this boat (this holy space, by the way, is called a nave after the Latin word “navis” which means “ship”). We will leave this boat tonight and, I pray, by faith, boldly and lovingly walk on water. There is far too much hatred these days, far too much vitriol aimed at those with whom we disagree. Let us not be coopted by the haters; let us not use their ugly ways to try to accomplish loving results. Let our biggest risk of water-walking be to love those who think differently than us and to stand with those too easily crushed by the rich and powerful.

Let us dare, in Christ’s name, to build a house where all are welcome, in this congregation and throughout this nation.

Pray for Our Nation at Wednesday Mass, August 16, 6:30 p.m.

Pray for Our Nation at Wednesday Mass, August 16, 6:30 p.m.


Join Us at Holy Trinity’s Wednesday Mass
August 16, 2017
6:30 p.m.

Pray for Our Nation
A peaceful way to end the day during these turbulent times!

Given the horrific events in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend, we will gather around God’s gifts of Word and Sacrament, praying for an end to racism, white supremacy, bigotry, and violence.

 

Sermon: Advent 2b – December 7, 2014

SERMON – Advent 2b – December 7, 2014

The Rev. Dr. William A. Heisley

Lessons: Isaiah 40:1-11; Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13; 2 Peter 3:8-15a; Mark 1:1-8

“Let us attend!”  I began last Sunday’s sermon with those words that are cried out at liturgies in the Orthodox churches.  “Let us attend” calls people to pay attention to the gospel that will be sung.  “Let us attend!” is the strident call to pay attention to the coming of Jesus into the midst of the people.

But attending to God’s coming to the people is not a thing that was new with Jesus.  The ancient Jews were called over and over to attend to their God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Sarah, to attend to their God coming to them throughout their history.  The prophet Isaiah wrote, “Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.”  Comfort…comfort.  In Hebrew linguistics this is called a double imperative.  It is not a longing.  It is a command.  “Comfort my people,” says God.  Do it now.  Do it well. (more…)

Sermon: Advent 1b – November 30, 2014

The Rev. Dr. William Heisley

Lessons: Isaiah 64:1-9; Psalm 80; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9; Mark 13:24-37

“Let us attend!”  The ancient cry goes out in Orthodox liturgies, “Let us attend!”  And people are drawn, people are commanded to listen to the words of Holy Scripture as recorded by one of the four evangelists.

“Let us attend!”  is the Eastern Church’s “The Holy Gospel according to…”  And “Let us attend!” is the Orthodox churches’ “Watch.”  “Keep awake – for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly.”  “Let us attend.”  We do not know the hour of the coming of Christ, but we know that he is coming. (more…)