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A note about the structure of this webpage:
This page is set up to enable you to participate in the Liturgy of The Word, during which you will hear the sermon in its natural liturgical context; or you can scroll down the page to hear the stand-alone sermon webcast accompanied by the written text.
You can also view our return to eucharistic worship by clicking here.
Order of Service for the Liturgy of the Word
The Liturgy of the Word begins on page 355 of the Book of Common Prayer or online Eucharist Rt II here. Podcast was recorded, edited, and produced by Christian Tulungen.
Prelude: Praeludium in D, BuxWV 139, by Dietrich Buxtehude (1637-1707), Steven Young, organ
Welcome: The Rev’d Mark Sutherland, Rector
Introit: “Bread of the World” (Hymn 301) by Heber/Bourgeois, Amanda Neves, soloist
The Greeting: Blessed be God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; and blessed be God’s Kingdom, now and for ever.
Hymn 388 “O worship the King” (vv. 1, 5), The St. Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young, organ
1 O worship the King, all glorious above! O gratefully sing his power and his love! Our Shield and Defender, the Ancient of Days, pavilioned in splendor, and girded with praise. 5 Frail children of dust, and feeble as frail, in thee do we trust, nor find thee to fail; thy mercies how tender! how firm to the end! Our Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and Friend!
Collect for Purity
The Gloria S 273, The St. Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young, organ
The Collect of the Day:
Grant to us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who cannot exist without you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
First Reading: Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28, read by David Blake
Refrain: Show us your mercy, O Lord, and grant us your salvation. 8 I will listen to what the LORD God is saying, for he is speaking peace to his faithful people and to those who turn their hearts to him. 9 Truly, his salvation is very near to those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land. Refrain 10 Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. 11 Truth shall spring up from the earth, and righteousness shall look down from heaven. Refrain 12 The LORD will indeed grant prosperity, and our land will yield its increase. 13 Righteousness shall go before him, and peace shall be a pathway for his feet. Refrain
Second Reading: Romans 10:5-15, read by Laura Bartsch
Hymn 390 “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty” (v. 1), The St. Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young, organ
1 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.
The Gospel: Matthew 14:22-33, proclaimed by Mark+
Hymn 390 (v. 4)
4 Praise to the Lord! O let all that is in me adore him! All that hath breath join with Abraham's seed to adore him! Let the "Amen" sum all our praises again Now as we worship before him.
The Sermon: Linda+ A stand-alone sermon recording and full text also appear below on this page.
The Nicene Creed: We recite together. Please note italicized inclusive language changes.
We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made human.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, God, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified
and has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.
The Anthem: “Over My Head,” Black-America spiritual (arr. Clayton White), The St. Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young, organ
Over my head, I hear music in the air. There must be a God somewhere. Over my head, I see trouble in the air. There must be a God somewhere. Over my head, I feel glory in the air. There must be a God somewhere.
Prayers of the People: led by Linda+
The Lord’s Prayer
The General Thanksgiving
Almighty God, Father of all mercies,
we your unworthy servants
give you humble thanks
for all your goodness and loving-kindness
to us and to all whom you have made.
We bless you for our creation, preservation,
and all the blessings of this life;
but above all for your immeasurable
love in the redemption of the world
by our Lord Jesus Christ;
for the means of grace,
and for the hope of glory.
And, we pray, give us such
an awareness of your mercies,
that with truly thankful hearts
we may show forth your praise,
not only with our lips, but in our lives,
by giving up our selves to your service,
and by walking before you in
holiness and righteousness all our days;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit,
be honor and glory throughout all ages. Amen.
Hymn 414 “God, my King, thy might confessing” (vv. 1, 2, 6), The St. Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young, organ
1 God, my king, thy might confessing, ever will I bless thy name; day by day thy throne addressing, still will I thy praise proclaim. 2 Honor great our God befitteth; who his majesty can reach? Age to age his works transmitteth; age to age his pow'r shall teach. 6 All thy works, O Lord, shall bless thee, thee shall all thy saints adore. King supreme shall they confess thee, and proclaim thy sovereign pow'r.
The Postlude: Fantasie über “Joshua fit the battle of Jericho,” by Jürgen Borstelmann (b. 1963), Steven Young, organ
Permission to podcast/stream the music in this service obtained from ONE LICENSE with license #M-400498. All rights reserved.
Stand-Alone Sermon Podcast:
Taking the Third Step
I ’d like to begin with an oldie but goodie; what might be called a parable for hurricane season: Once there was a big storm coming, and the whole community frantically began to prepare. One man, when offered a ride to evacuate inland, told his friends that he was going to ride it out, saying he had faith that God would look after him. So the wind blew and the rain came, and it began to flood. Some folks came by with a boat and, seeing the man on his front porch looking at the rising water, offered to take him to safety, but he said he had faith that God would save him. And the wind continued to blow and the waters rose still higher until he was up on his roof, and a helicopter came and hovered over his house, lowering a ladder for him to climb up. But he said no, thank you kindly, but he had faith that God would save him. So eventually the storm abated, the water receded, and the man’s neighbors came to his flooded house and found that he had drowned. But his soul had travelled to the afterlife, where he met God face-to-face and said, accusingly, “God! What happened? I had faith that you’d save me, but I ended up drowning!” And God said, “Child, I sent you a ride inland, a boat and a helicopter, what were you waiting for?”
Do we laugh in recognition? Do we see in this silly man our own misunderstanding of faith? Do we see, in his overly specific expectation of what God’s help would look like, our own blindness to God’s saving grace right in front of our noses, if only we would—have faith?
What does it mean to have faith?
Today’s Gospel passage is one of the most familiar in the New Testament. It is also one of the ones that we think we know: Big storm, Jesus walking on water, Peter jumping out and taking a couple of steps, falling beneath the waves and then saved by Jesus, who tells him he just didn’t have enough faith. So the lesson is that we need to have more faith. Right? But like the man in the hurricane, we might benefit from another look at what we think we see.
Let’s look at the story with fresh eyes, as though we’ve never heard it before. Lay aside all assumptions and begin, not with what we think about faith, but what we know—about fear.
We surely know, either literally or metaphorically, what it’s like to feel like we’re in a very tiny boat in a very big storm, buffeted by wind and waves, rocking back and forth, to and fro, water splashing over the gunwales, hard to keep our balance. Even for those who–like the disciples who were fishermen—have sea legs for tempestuous times, this is a frightening moment—a storm of day-to-day bad news washing over us, over and over.
For the occupants of the boat it was hard enough just to stay on their feet, so the mysterious appearance of Jesus coming toward them on the water was a new kind of assault. We minimize their terror because think we know the story, but consider the fundamental existential fear that comes from living in unsettled times—when the baseline emotional state for most people is that of deep anxiety. Consider now the disciples, confronted with the possibility that the one person who they had followed, trusted, and given their lives to, wasn’t even real. What a horrifying punch in the gut.
. . . [T]hey were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear.
But not Peter. He was the only one with just the right amount of—chutzpah—to actually challenge his Teacher.
“Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”
And Jesus took Peter up on it: “Come,” he says.
And Peter had just enough—chutzpah—to do it.
Would you? Sit on the gunwale of a rocking boat, lift your legs over, brush the windblown hair out of your eyes, take a deep breath—and stand up?
Stand with Peter for a moment, perhaps ankle deep, lifting one foot and then the other. Does it take your breath away? Feel for a moment the amazement. The joy.
The power of your small self, accomplishing the seemingly impossible.
And then the wind, a little loss of balance, a gust of the reality of the challenge you have accepted, and it’s all over; you’re in over your head.
“Lord, save me!”
We think we know the story. We think we hear accusation in Jesus’ voice, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
But that’s not how Matthew says that Jesus describes faith. Jesus says in a later chapter that faith the size of a tiny mustard seed can move mountains; that the Dream of God itself is to be imaged in the power of that same mustard seed to grow like crazy into a bountiful shelter for God’s creatures.
Little, for Jesus, isn’t a problem.
Peter had “little faith.” Just enough to challenge Jesus, enough to get out of the boat, and enough to take a couple of steps on the water.
We think we know the story. But what did Jesus first say to the terrified occupants of the storm-tossed boat? Did he mention faith? No.
He said, Do. Not. Be. Afraid.
Here’s another oldie but goodie: The opposite of faith isn’t doubt; it’s fear.
Was Peter afraid he would sink below the waves?
Or was he afraid that he wouldn’t?
Might he have been suddenly overwhelmed by a lightning flash understanding of what it would mean to cross the water to Jesus and stand with him? The sudden understanding of what it would truly mean to realize his full power and potential as a follower of Jesus and partner in the inbreaking Dream of God?
Oh, Peter, you of plenty of faith.
Getting out of the boat, and taking the first and second steps, are part of having faith. The tougher challenge lies in the third and fourth steps, which is being faithful.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in The Cost of Discipleship, puts it in terms of obedience. He writes, “The road to faith passes through obedience to the call of Jesus. Unless a definite step is demanded, the call vanishes into thin air, and if [people] imagine that they can follow Jesus without taking this step, they are deluding themselves…”
Strong words from a man who knew the risk and cost of being faithful.
Bonhoeffer jumps us past what I think is the useless question of the precise quantity of faith we need, and takes us into the much more fruitful territory of how to live out the faith that we have; to ask ourselves what is calling to our deepest and truest selves, challenging us, as individuals, communities, and as a church, to have the courage, not just to have faith, but to be faithful. To act faithfully.
What calls us? What holds us back? Is it fear of failure, or of success? What could this storm-tossed world look like if we took, not just the first and second steps, but the third and fourth, living joyfully into Jesus’ invitation, wherever it may lead?
Take a deep breath.
Jesus says, “Come.”
If you are not a regular St. Martin’s supporter, we invite you to
Thank you for supporting our ministry during this period of physical distancing.