Greetings! For today’s service we’ll be using the Matins liturgy from the hymnal. The service is led by Christy & Jeff Wetzig and Carolyn Saunders, along with music from Chris & Harry Johansen. The readings for today, along with Carolyn’s sermon, are printed below.
Jesus Walks on the Water
22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. 25 And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. 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. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”
28 Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
2 Kings 5:1-14
The Healing of Naaman
5 Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man and in high favor with his master, because by him the Lord had given victory to Aram. The man, though a mighty warrior, suffered from leprosy. 2 Now the Arameans on one of their raids had taken a young girl captive from the land of Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. 3 She said to her mistress, “If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” 4 So Naaman went in and told his lord just what the girl from the land of Israel had said. 5 And the king of Aram said, “Go then, and I will send along a letter to the king of Israel.”
He went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten sets of garments. 6 He brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, “When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you my servant Naaman, that you may cure him of his leprosy.” 7 When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to give death or life, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Just look and see how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me.”
8 But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent a message to the king, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come to me, that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel.” 9 So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and halted at the entrance of Elisha’s house. 10 Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.” 11 But Naaman became angry and went away, saying, “I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy! 12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them, and be clean?” He turned and went away in a rage. 13 But his servants approached and said to him, “Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” 14 So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean.
Isn’t it nice to be outside this morning?
Up here in the Northwoods, we truly appreciate nature and its beauty: green grass, spring flowers, the mesmerizing sound of a rippling stream, whistling wind in tall pines, birdsong, pollinators, gentle breezes.
As I was contemplating the lessons for today, another text came to mind: Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” In the beginning, truly a time of chaos, God was…
Both of today’s lessons tell of times of personal chaos.
In Matthew, Jesus learns that John the Baptizer has been beheaded. In an effort to find a quiet space, he gets into a boat. But thousands of people follow and soon he and the disciples are enveloped by people in need and it’s supper time. What to do? Jesus compels the disciples to get into the boat and take it over to the other side of the lake. After feeding, then dismissing the crowd, Jesus goes up a mountain still seeking a quiet place. When evening came, the boat was far from land and was being tormented by the wind and waves.
In the early morning, Jesus came walking toward them … not by land but on the water!
Can you imagine! Being in a boat, tormented by wind, wet and cold … and now this! Truly a fear-filled moment! A ghost! … Scared to death!
And then, a voice … “Take heart, it is I. Have no fear!”
Pure, unadulterated chaos!
Naaman, the military commander of Aram — a man whom the King esteemed — had everything going for him. Except that one day, his nagging suspicion about the strange things happening to his body became a certainty. He had leprosy. As the terrible realization of his new reality began to sink in, he must have thought, “Anything but this. Please, let it be something else!” There was no known cure for leprosy; it was a slow moving, debilitating, painful and socially isolating disease. Even his wealth, his status, and his connections were not likely to be of any use.
There was a young girl (an Israelite) who had been taken captive. She was the servant of Naaman’s wife. By faith, she knew of a prophet in Samaria; he would be able to cure Naaman.
Just like any chaotic situation, the story twists and turns: Naaman talks to the King of Aram who agrees to send a letter to the King of Israel.
First twist: The letter was presented to the King whose response was less than helpful: “Am I God, to give death or life, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy?!”
Second twist: the prophet Elisha heard that the King of Israel had torn his clothes; he sent a message to the king: “Let him come to me, that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel.”
Naaman traveled to Elisha’s house.
Third twist: Elisha sent a messenger: “Go, wash in the Jordan seven times and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.”
Fourth twist: Naaman became angry because Elisha did not greet him in person, but instead sent a messenger … and why couldn’t he just immerse himself 7 times in the rivers of Damascus, anyway?
He left in a huff … Fifth twist: his servants approached him saying, “If the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, “Wash, and be clean?”
And so Naaman went into the Jordan … and as was prophesied by Elisha, his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean.
Complete disorder and confusion … that’s CHAOS!
Friends, throughout life, you and I experience moments of complete disorder and confusion; it comes, it goes. But during these last 15 months, we have experienced a multi-faceted chaos … and it seemed like as the months passed by, the level of chaos kept rising.
No toilet paper to be purchased ~ loved ones diagnosed with Covid-19 ~ schools, libraries, restaurants, churches and other small businesses ~ all closed their doors.
No holiday gatherings with family or friends
The killing of George Floyd
The ensuing devastation to neighborhoods in the Twin Cities
Virtual workspace, family time, education, worship
The great mask controversy
Demeaning Partisan Politics
January 6 in Washington DC
To vaccinate or not
The list is endless … all adding to the chaos that had the power to kill our spirits.
In those times, we, like Peter and Naaman, were facing certain death…
Peter … as he was overwhelmed by the wind and waves and began to sink.
But he didn’t. In his moment of need, he called out to Jesus: “SAVE ME!” And Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him. Peter was restored to wholeness.
Naaman by letting his ego get in his way and nearly walking away from the healing that was being offered to him.
But he didn’t. His servants risked to get in his face. Even in his anger, Naaman listened … and immersed himself 7 times in the Jordan River. He was restored to wholeness.
And what about us? Can we be restored to wholeness?
The chaos of the last year is quieting down. There is a new horizon, perhaps one that didn’t exist before, one formed at the point where our vulnerability and trust in God have come together to create something new. The glimmer of light on the horizon shines a glimmer of hope in our hearts.
God asks only that we are open to the working of the Spirit. From the beginning, we have known that we could not survive this chaotic time without trusting God to lead us through. Unseen yet ever-present, God’s Spirit lifts us when we stumble, supports us when we are weak, guides us when we lose our way, gives us a nudge when we are hesitant.
We were wise enough to not let our egos get in the way. We took baby steps. Went to bed at night and got up in the morning. Day by day, in the midst of frustration and heartache, we trusted that life is worth living because God loves us AND God will love us into a new tomorrow.
When we find ourselves being tormented by the storms of life or facing an overwhelming situation, I invite you to look back on these 2 stories. They will remind us that the path to wholeness is full of obstacles and that crossing back is not necessarily a return to “normal”, the way things used to be. But if we humble ourselves before God, God will bring us, individually and corporately, to wholeness … and like Peter and Naaman, we, too, will find peace.