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10th Sunday  after Pentecost

Silence, Sheer – and Wonder

Morning Prayer with Sacrament Reserved

 

…And after the fire, a sound of sheer silence.                         I Kings 19:12
 

…Why did you doubt?                                                      Matthew 14:31

 

The Invitatory and Psalter

V.      O Lord, open thou our lips,
R.      And our mouths shall show forth your praise.
V.      Glory be to God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
R.      As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Alleluia

 

Jubilate Psalm 100[1]

1 Be joyful in the LORD, all you lands; *
serve the LORD with gladness and come before his presence with a song.

2 Know this: The LORD himself is God; he himself has made us; we are his *;
we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.

3 Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise; *
give thanks to him and call upon his Name.

4 For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; *
and his faithfulness endures from age to age.

 The mercy of the Lord is everlasting. Come let us adore him.

 

Psalm 85:8-13

 85:8 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.

85:9 Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land.

85:10 Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other.

85:11 Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky.

85:12 The LORD will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase.

85:13 Righteousness will go before him, and will make a path for his steps.

The mercy of the Lord is everlasting. Come let us adore him.

 

The Old Testament Lesson:                         I Kings 9:9-18

19:9 At that place he came to a cave, and spent the night there. Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

19:10 He answered, “I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.”

19:11 He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake;

19:12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.

19:13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

19:14 He answered, “I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.”

19:15 Then the LORD said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram.

19:16 Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place.

19:17 Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall kill; and whoever escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall kill.

19:18 Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”

 The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

 

Hymn: Praise to the Lord.                  Joachim Neander    Hymnal 1982 #390

 Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation;
O my soul, praise him, for he is thy health and salvation:
Join the great throng, psaltery, organ, and song, sounding in glad adoration.

Praise to the Lord; over all things he gloriously reigneth:
Borne as on eagle-wings, safely his saints he sustaineth.
Hast thou not seen, how all thou needest hath been granted in what he ordaineth?

Praise to the Lord, who doth prosper thy way and defend thee;
Surely his goodness and mercy shall ever attend thee;
Ponder anew what the Almighty can do, who with his love doth befriend thee.

Praise to the Lord! O let all that is in me adore him!
All that hath life and breath come now with praises before him!
Let the amen sound from his people again; gladly fore’er adore him.
 
 
The New Testament Lesson:                    Roman 10:5-15

10:5 Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that “the person who does these things will live by them.”

10:6 But the righteousness that comes from faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?'” (that is, to bring Christ down)

10:7 “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?'” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).

10:8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim);

10:9 because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

10:10 For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.

10:11 The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.”

10:12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him.

10:13 For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

10:14 But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him?

10:15 And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

 

Hymn: Give praise and glory unto God      J.J. Schütz         Hymnal #375

Give praise and glory unto God, the Father of all blessing;
His mighty wonders tell abroad, his graciousness confessing.
With balm my inmost heart he fills, his comfort all my anguish stills.
To God be praise and glory.

The host of heaven praiseth thee, O Lord of all dominions;
And mortals then, on land and sea, beneath thy shadowing pinions,
Exult in thy creative might that doeth all things well and right.
To God be praise and glory.

What God hath wrought to show his power he evermore sustaineth;
He watches o’er us every hour, his mercy never faileth.
Through all his kingdom’s wide domain, his righteousness and justice reign.
To God be praise and glory.

 

The Gospel Lesson:                                     Matthew 14:22-23

14:22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds.

14:23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone,

14:24 but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them.

14:25 And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea.

14:26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear.

14:27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”

14:28 Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”

14:29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus.

14:30 But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”

14:31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

14:32 When they got into the boat, the wind ceased.

14:33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

 The Gospel of the Lord. Praise be to you, Lord Christ.

 

Sermon: The Man on the Water

 Well, that’s one way to be alone: send everybody away, but in different directions. Then do what you came to do – and what only you can do.

The Man in the Boat still needed his time alone, his time to rest, his time to pray. If after doing the work of all creation, even God the Father needed to take a Sabbath day to contemplate the wonders and the goodness of creation, and to recharge the divine batteries, it’s no wonder that God the Son would need much the same. He was not making the world, sure – but he was re-making it, re-centering it, getting it back on track to be on track to hope, getting people back on the timeline of faith so that faith would get there in time, and get them in time. So he needed to rest, pray, be alone for a while. To their credit, his disciples and all the other people let him do so, once he had met all their immediate needs and showed them that he not only could to anything – being God – but would to anything – being kind. Anything that was good, that is, and that made a difference.

So the Man in the Boat becomes the Man on His Knees, we presume – though we all know that we can pray while sitting down, walking in the woods or the garden, standing on a high place in the desert looking over all the rocks and sand. Prayer is a state of mind and heart, even though the state and posture of one’s body can make it easier or harder to pay prayerful attention, to be sure. Prayer happens whenever we’re attuned to what God is doing and to what God has done – and sometimes we get to sense or even ask for what God will do, or ought to do (in our judgment). The best prayers I know – look at our church’s collects, for several of them – make sure to do three things in order: recognize and celebrate who God is and what God has done; ask God for whatever we need or to help us know and act on what we need, from rain in due season to the strength to stand before persecution to the grace to see God in all God’s works and in one another’s faces; and remind us of God’s care for us, God’s salvation, and God’s completeness. We should imagine, I think, that Jesus prayed in all these ways alone in the wild while his followers walked back to their homes or sailed across the sea in the direction he’d sent them.

As they variously walked and sailed, Jesus prayed as only Jesus could, and I’m only guessing at what it entailed. Who knows? Maybe he had questions he couldn’t answer, such as was it necessary that he drain to the lees the cup of woe that his Father was keen on pouring out for him. Was Peter really the right choice to lead things after he was gone – or should he go with Thomas, the Twin, the one who really understood him? Should he overturn the entire apple cart and make it Mary of Magdala, the woman he loved more than any other even if (and especially as) he never took advantage of his feelings for her or of her devotion to him. Maybe he should try again to get the Nicodemuses of the Sanhedrin, the good Pharisees, on side, help with spreading word of the kingdom, the power of the two great commandments. Maybe he wasn’t sure, even now, that he shouldn’t just take power in the pathetic land of petty states and Roman overlords in which his Father had pleased to have him dwell for good, and with it do good, re-center all humanity within one human lifetime. The power he had – over crowds, over food, over words, over hearts and minds – must’ve taken some getting used to. When we say “recharge,” that’s often what we mean: getting our heads and hearts around what we can do and should do, as well as what we’ve done that was well done, even as we seek to forgive ourselves of what T.S. Eliot stingingly calls “things ill done or done to others harm, which once you took for exercise of virtue.” As the Man in the Boat became the Man on His Knees or just the Man Sitting There Thinking About It – thinking of God and as God, all these things and more might well have coursed through the rapids and eddies of his mind.

I learned something about that this week, taking a few days off to go with my family up to Shenandoah National Park, and down by the river that gives it its name. Being out on the water, variously rowing against or flowing with the current, or resting high on a hilltop after a challenging walk uphill, gives me new perspectives on things – both without and within. I see how beautiful the world can be, despite all that people can do to it to spoil it, and our own complicity in too many of those wrongs. I breathe in the power of air that is cool and clean, along with its beauty. I feel on my feet the running cold of a mountain stream – cool even in August – not yet sullied by industry and waste, though still in need of being purified for me to drink it, water-borne infections being what they are.

But what strikes me most in a forest, or on a river through one, is the abundance and persistence of life, and its inherent and sometimes poignant beauty. You don’t have to look too far in the woods to see dead trees standing or fallen among the living, or to watch a vine slowly choking down an oak or a maple. In any direction, too, you can watch fungi and moss and lichen slowly turn dead wood and stone back into soil, silent as the grave as they do. We noticed on one trail a flower, looking like some type of daisy, with tiny little red shoots coming out of its stem and branches, all the way up. Upon closer inspection, the little red shoots turned out to be insects feeding on the flower stem, likely marking its end. There were many flowers like it in that section of the meadow – more food for the little red insects, themselves likely food for any of the dozens of butterflies and birds we also saw flying about, bent on survival and looking just as good as scripture says God said they were, just after he’d made them all.

We couldn’t fight the river for long, my son and I. The current was too strong for more than half an hour’s upstream rowing, heart-healthy as it was. Stop rowing upstream and you right away head down, and ten minutes later are back on shore, happy, if a little worn. I didn’t think at all as we put the canoe away about the storm on the sea of Galilee or of Peter getting out of the boat to walk with Jesus in the middle of it – that great monument to the adage, “Be careful what you wish for.” Had I done so, I probably have called to mind what the Scout leaders drilled into our heads when I was a boy: “When you’re out on the water, don’t get out of the boat.”

I have to think that the very last thing Jesus needed after his time away, and this his somewhat self-indulgent night hike across the sea to catch up with his people, was to give a weak-faith follower yet another Lesson in Life, yet that’s what the story tells us. He became the Man on the Water because that was the shortest route to his people. Yet when you take a shortcut you sometimes also take the long way. “Lord, if it’s you out there, make me come to you on the water,” Peter says. (They all feared it was a ghost.) No doubt reminding himself why he’d gone away in the first place, and perhaps sorry he’d let them see all this, Jesus simply says, “Come.”

Peter does. Then he feels the wind, gives into his fear, and starts to sink. Jesus saves him — not for the last time – and asks, “Why did you doubt?” As usual, Peter has no answer. What is there to say? He knows that he did – doubt, that is. He probably knows that he will doubt again, and also be afraid. Jesus knows it, too – yet on this rock he was still to build what would survive him and bear witness to him, if often imperfectly and at dissonance with itself and at times even with God. Salvation, like all other aspects of faith, is a process, often as not, I think, a process of getting in harmony with what is so that we can better trust God to help us turn what is into what could be, what God had in mind for it all to be.

This gospel story does beg one question, though: if Jesus could walk on water, why’d he ever get into the boat in the first place? It might be the same reason that, even though we can technically walk everywhere, we still use horses, wagons, planes, trains, and automobiles – even ships, boats, kayaks, and canoes. It’s just easier. You still have to put one foot in front of the other, whether that foot lands on earth, stone, sand, or water. Walking to the other side of a sea, even if it’s really only a medium-sized lake, would get tiring, even with a wind at your back that you caused to blow. Also, there’s no sense that Jesus’s wagon, if he had one, could drive on water, so he’d have to have carried everything he wanted to have with him if he’d hot-footed it all the way to his retreat. He could’ve dragged a boat as he walked, making a canal-mule of himself, but that would just be silly – as would windsurfing around out there with the disciples watching, fretting about the power of the wind and the weakness of their vessel, and what exactly is the Man from Galilee doing now?

No, the Man on the Water was just trying to get back to his people, knowing that they still needed him, even if he had needed some time away. So he simply walked on the water alone – no cart, no donkey – and, one hopes, with the prayers on his heart having helped him lift the burdens they spoke of. All he wanted was to get back to his people as quickly as he could. It was Peter who made him teach a lesson, and Peter who learned that lesson, as we so often do, the hard way.

The best thing about the forest or the river is the silence – the absence of human noise, to be precise. Frogs, birds, crickets, fish – these do not disturb. They actually enable prayer, the attentive kind – opening oneself to what God is doing, not to what I or we want God to do. It’s the kind of prayer Peter didn’t know how to pray – but one that Elijah did, up on the mountain, in fear for his life, frustrated that he was more zealous for the Lord that the Lord apparently was for him. Elijah knew how to pray by waiting. Sure, he asked the Lord for what he needed, but then he listened and did as he was told: “Wait here.” The earth shook, fire raged, the wind rushed by – and the Lord was in none of those things. Where was he? In the “sheer silence” that waited once all those things had stopped. Such a silence is all the more profound for the Sturm und Drang that precede it, and Elijah knew that silence as the very voice and presence of Almighty God. It matters less what he told him –more of the horror story by which ancient Israel meets its end, no doubt – than how he did so: in silence, in quiet, by means of us calming down, paying attention, not rushing things, waiting.

The Man on the Water knew about waiting, too. Not wading – waiting – as he waited for Peter to maybe get things right, after having insisted on the chance to do so, then waited for his chief fisher of people to most likely get things wrong, as he pretty much always did prior to the resurrection. He waited to do what he knew he would have to do – save someone from himself, from his fears and doubts, and his weakness. He’d done it before. He’d do it again. He understood, perhaps more than he ever had, what God had given him to do, come down in him and as him to do. Only he could do it, he knew – and so also knew that he had to. He also knew – and this may be the fruit of his time away, his time alone – that he would, and that it would be good.

Amen.

 

A Statement of Faith, A Song of God’s Love (1 John 4:7-11)

Beloved, let us love one another, *
for love is of God.
Whoever does not love does not know God, *
for God is Love.
In this the love of God was revealed among us, *
that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.
In this is love, not that we loved God, but that God loved us *
and sent his Son that sins might be forgiven.
Beloved, since God loved us so much, *
we ought also to love one another.
For if we love one another, God abides in us, *
and God’s love will be perfected in us.

 

A Collect for 10th Pentecost (Proper 15)

O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that we may both perceive and know what things we ought to do, and have grace and power faithfully to do them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

 A Collect for the Renewal of Life

O God, the King eternal, whose light divides the day from the night and turns the shadow of death into the morning: Drive far from us all wrong desires, incline our hearts to keep your law, and guide our feet into the way of peace; that, having done your will with cheerfulness during the day, we may, when night comes, rejoice to give you thanks; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

A Collect for Help in Times of Trouble

God of mercy and healing, you who hear the cries of those in need, receive these petitions of your people that all who are troubled may know peace, comfort, and courage. Life-giving God, heal our lives, that we may acknowledge your wonderful deeds and offer you thanks from generation to generation through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 A Prayer after St. Alphonsus

O Jesus, you are present to us in the blessed sacrament. We love you above all things, and desire to receive you into our souls. Since we cannot at this time share your sacrament, let your spirit dwell within our hearts. Let us welcome you as one already with us, making us one body and one spirit, never to be parted from you. Amen.

 

Closing Hymn: Guide me O thou great Jehovah, Williams, Hymnal 1982 # 690

Guide me, O thou great Jehovah, pilgrim through this barren land;
I am weak, but thou art mighty; hold me with thy powerful hand;
bread of heaven, feed me now and evermore, [repeat].

Open now the crystal fountain, whence the healing stream doth flow;
let the fire and cloudy pillar lead me all my journey through;
strong deliverer, be thou still my strength and shield, [repeat].

When I tread the verge of Jordan, bid my anxious fears subside;
death of death, and hell’s destruction, land me safe on Canaan’s side;
songs of praises, I will ever give to thee, [repeat].
 

Blessing

The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you.
The Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.

 

Hymn: Spirit of the Living God    Daniel Iverson, alt.

Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me.
Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me.
Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me.
Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me.

  

About our Service

Christian worship is designed to have the congregation gather for prayer, lessons, the Eucharist, and song. In times of contagion and quarantine, the community may not gather or share the Eucharist. We have adapted this service to the conditions of the time, celebrating Morning Prayer in the Presence of the Reserved Sacrament, honoring God with our daily office prayers, thanksgivings, lessons, canticles, and hymns.

We give thanks this morning for our reader, Alta Cannaday, for our organist and music director, Beresford Coker; and for our video compiler and editor, Gabriel Wilkins.

 Resources (available for free online)

Book of Common Prayer, www.bcponline.org

Enriching Our Worship 1, https://www.churchpublishing.org/siteassets/pdf/enriching-our-worship-1/enrichingourworship1.pdf

Enriching Our Worship 2, https://www.churchpublishing.org/siteassets/pdf/enriching-our-worship-2/enrichingourworship2.pdf

These resources contain the prayers and worship services used in The Episcopal Church and by Episcopalians in their daily devotions.

The Revised Common Lectionary and Daily Office, https://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/

This source shows the readings assigned for use in Sunday worship and for daily office use for each day of the year, with links to online biblical texts.

Hymnal 1982: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/EH1982

Hymnal 1940: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/HPEC1940

Lift Every Voice and Sing II: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/LEVS1993

Wonder, Love, and Praise: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/WLP1997

 

The Episcopal Church: www.episcopalchurch.org

Episcopal News Service: www.episcopalnewsservice.org

The Episcopal Diocese of Washington: www.edow.org

St. Mark’s, Fairland: www.stmarks-silverspring.org

 

A Prayer in Times of Sickness and Contagion

Heavenly Father, giver of life and health, source of all wisdom and peace: Comfort and relieve your servants who suffer from sickness or fear, give your power of healing to those who minister to their needs, and let your grace be with all those who work to protect us from contagion and disease. May we be strengthened against any weakness, sickness, fear, and doubt, and place our confidence in your loving care through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

[1] Or Venite, Psalm 95