Fourth after Pentecost

Candido Portinari. The Quieted Storm, 1955. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Gathered through the power of the Holy Spirit, we worship God with gladness. We encourage you to pray over the words that follow, and follow the links within the liturgy. Prayers in this service are adapted from Celebrate God’s Presence (UCPH). Thanks this week to Taye and Heather!

PRELUDE: “Prelude Nocturne” (Sheftel)

OPENING PRAYER:

We worship you, O God.
You who stilled the storm,
calm our hearts.
You who fed the five thousand,
give us bread each day.
You who made wine from water,
pour yourself out for each of us.
You who healed the broken,
heal those who do not know they are broken.
You who ate and drank with sinners,
eat and drink with us each day.
You who were righteously indignant,
spare not your anger, but send us mercy too.
You who raised the dead,
remind us you ended death itself.
You who preside when we worship,
hear us as we pray, Amen.

HYMN OF PRAISE: “Jesus calls us; o’er the tumult”

Jesus calls us; o’er the tumult
of our life’s wild restless sea,
day by day his clear voice sounding,
saying, ‘Christian, follow me.’

Long ago apostles heard it
by the Galilean lake,
turned from home and toil and kindred,
leaving all for Jesus’ sake.

Jesus calls us from the worship
of the vain world’s golden store,
from each idol that would keep us,
saying, ‘Christian, love me more.’

In our joys and in our sorrows,
days of toil and hours of ease,
still he calls, in cares and pleasures,
‘Christian, love me more than these.’

Jesus calls us: by your mercies,
Saviour, may we hear your call,
give our hearts to your obedience,
serve and love you best of all.

PRAYER OF CONFESSION (Sir Francis Drake)

Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.
We ask You to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push into the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love. Amen.

ASSURANCE OF PARDON

God will give us what we need:
strength for today,
hope for tomorrow,
and forgiveness
for all that is past.
Amen.

SPECIAL MUSIC: “Perhaps Love” (Denver)

FIRST READING: Psalm 9

The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
Those who know your name trust in you,
for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.

Sing the praises of the Lord, enthroned in Zion;
proclaim among the nations what he has done.
For he who avenges blood remembers;
he does not ignore the cries of the afflicted.

Lord, see how my enemies persecute me!
Have mercy and lift me up from the gates of death,
that I may declare your praises
in the gates of Daughter Zion,
and there rejoice in your salvation.

The nations have fallen into the pit they have dug;
their feet are caught in the net they have hidden.
The Lord is known by his acts of justice;
the wicked are ensnared by the work of their hands.
The wicked go down to the realm of the dead,
all the nations that forget God.
But God will never forget the needy;
the hope of the afflicted will never perish.

Arise, Lord, do not let mortals triumph;
let the nations be judged in your presence.
Strike them with terror, Lord;
let the nations know they are only mortal.

SECOND READING: Mark 4.35-41

35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

HYMN OF PRAISE: “Jesus, Saviour, pilot me”

Jesus, Saviour, pilot me
over life’s tempestuous sea;
unknown waves before me roll,
hiding rock and treacherous shoal;
chart and compass come from thee,
Jesus, Saviour, pilot me.

As a mother stills her child,
thou canst hush the ocean wild;
boisterous waves obey thy will
when thou biddest them ‘Be still.’
Wondrous sovereign of the sea,
Jesus, Saviour, pilot me.

When at last I near the shore,
and the fearful breakers roar
‘twixt me and the peaceful land,
still supported by thy hand,
may I hear thee say to me,
‘Fear not, I will pilot thee.’

Cornelius Varley, detail of Laying Storm Anchors, undated, Yale Centre for British Art, New Haven

REFLECTION

Ten knots of steady breeze, no waves, slightly overcast (less likely to burn), a willing crew, skipper in a good mood, and worthy adversaries on the racecourse. Is that too much to ask?

Sadly, we rarely get the race we want. We sail on what is affectionately known as “Slumber Bay,” notorious for evenings without wind. And when you do get the wind you want, it can disappear in the face of something called the summer inversion, somehow related to a city filled with hot air.

And then there is the wave action, amplified by travelling across the lake, and prone to strange behavior as it approaches the shore. It tends to reflect off the lee shore, meaning your trip in and out of the basin can induce something the French like to call the “mal de mare.”

At least Humber Bay doesn’t have sharks. I recently learned that I will soon live 25 minutes from the shark bite capital of the world, a rather sobering thought. Add pythons and alligators, and I suppose you’ll find me indoors. Also, Humber Bay has no whales, which I truly appreciate after reading last week’s updated Jonah story.

A lobster diver was working off the coast of Cape Cod when he felt a large bump. Everything went dark, and he assumed he was losing consciousness after a shark bite. Not so! He was, in fact, in the mouth of a humpback whale. What followed was likely the longest and most terrifying 30 seconds of his life, until the whale thought better of the snack, surfaced, and spit him out. Clearly, we need to reconsider how we view some Bible stories.

And this got me thinking. Every year we hear about a certain storm on the Sea of Galilee, usually in summer, and we look at it as a stand-alone miracle story. We talk about faith and trust, and Jesus’ unusual relationship with the natural world—as a stand-alone miracle story. But what about other stories—storm stories—found in the pages of scripture? What can we learn when we take these stories together? I’m thinking of two others, beginning with a certain prophet fleeing to Tarshish (not Cape Cod) and then our old friend St. Paul, who also had an adventure on the sea.

The thing about Jonah is we tend to get so caught up in the digestive part of the story we neglect what came before. And since I’m a huge fan of how the story of Jonah is told, I’m going to share the good bits in the middle:

4 Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. 5 All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship.

But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. 6 The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.”

Notice the sudden nature of the storm, just like the Sea of Galilee, and the fact that our protagonist finds the whole thing rather soothing. But the sailors see the peril here, just like the disciples, and begin to make a plan. First they wake up Jonah and suggest his God lend a hand. Then they cast lots to discover who is responsible—not in a malicious way—but to understand the nature of the threat. When they discover it’s Jonah, they pepper him with questions, and soon understand the problem.

We tend to forget that it’s Jonah who suggests he be thrown overboard, something the sailors refuse to do. First, it would be rude, and second it’s bad luck to throw someone overboard, and finally, racers can be disqualified if they do it. Odd that they need a specific rule for that.

So hold that story in your mind while we look at a third “storm at sea” passage, this one from Paul’s journey to Rome found in Acts 27. Paul has been arrested, and claimed his right—as a Roman citizen—to appeal the charge before Caesar. Naturally, he would go by sea, except that winter had begun. Yet Paul was determined to get to Rome.

Again, I’m going to share a short passage, mostly because it proves to me that the author (Luke) was both a physician and a sailor:

13 When a gentle south wind began to blow, they saw their opportunity; so they weighed anchor and sailed along the shore of Crete. 14 Before very long, a wind of hurricane force, called the Northeaster, swept down from the island. 15 The ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind; so we gave way to it and were driven along. 16 As we passed to the lee of a small island called Cauda, we were hardly able to make the lifeboat secure, 17 so the men hoisted it aboard.

His reference to a specific point of sail (“head into the wind”) and the leeward passage near Cauda tells me all I need to know about Luke the sailor.

So the journey continues with Paul having second thoughts—not about going to Rome—but about putting the crew at risk for the sake of this passage. I encourage you to read all of Acts 27—a true adventure story. It ends with an intentional shipwreck, at Paul’s suggestion, to ensure all their lives be saved.

So three storms for three very different reasons. The first is an effort to stop Jonah, the second is an effort to stop the unbelief of the twelve, and the third is just a storm—a Nor’easter, to be precise. In the first, God makes the storm, in the second God (in Jesus) unmakes the storm, and in the third, the storm is just a storm. Or is it?

Maybe the storm is a test of character, for Paul, and for the crew of this vessel. Again, it’s a longer story, but the sailors show strength of character but not casting Paul adrift, by trusting his assurances about God’s protection, and by trusting his suggestion for a controlled shipwreck. They passed the test.

Likewise, the story of Jesus and the twelve is a test of character, but not the one that’s obvious. If the test is having faith in the face of the storm, we see the outcome. But if the test is showing awe in the face deliverance, then they mostly pass. “Who is this,” they ask, “that even the wind and the waves obey him?” Even asking the question takes them a step closer to accepting that this is God’s doing—God’s endless desire to save.

And finally back to poor Jonah, the reluctant prophet, and the ultimate inside man. He also seems to fail the test of character, running in the exact opposite direction from this appointed destination, but he still goes to Nineveh. Humbled, smelly, even forsaken by the hungry monster, but he still goes to Nineveh. He might be the ultimate victim of the mal de mare (for the whale), but he still goes to Nineveh.

And this is all God asks of us. If your life is a shipwreck, try to save others on the way. If the storms of life have you in a panic, accept that Jesus is in the same boat. And if you’re swallowed up by all that life sends you, and feeling trapped inside, trust that you too will land in a better place, with God to guide you.

Amen.

Eugène Delacroix, Christ on the Sea of Galilee, 1841. Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City

PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE:

Almighty and merciful God,
from whom comes all that is good,
we praise you for all your mercies:
for your goodness that has created us,
your grace that has sustained us,
your wisdom that has challenged us,
your patience that has borne with us,
and your love that has redeemed us.
Help us to love you and all your children,
and to be thankful for all your gifts,
by serving you and delighting to do your will.

Almighty and merciful God,
from whom comes all that is just,
we praise you for your guidance:
your law that guides us,
your prophets that speak to us,
your Spirit that animates us,
and your Word that leads us.
Help us to further your kingdom,
and demonstrate your mercy,
by serving you and delighting to do your will.

Almighty and merciful God,
from whom comes the desire to pray,
we turn to you when our hearts are heavy:
for the lost and those uncertain,
for the sick and those recovering,
for the sad and those tired with grief,
and for everyone who is vulnerable in your sight.
Help us to comfort them,
and demonstrate your compassion,
by serving you and delighting to do your will.
In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

THE LORD’S PRAYER

Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.

HYMN: “I feel the winds of God today”

I feel the winds of God today;
today my sail I lift,
though heavy oft with drenching spray
and torn with many a rift;
if hope but light the water’s crest,
and Christ my bark will use,
I’ll seek the seas at his behest,
and brave another cruise.

It is the wind of God that dries
my vain regretful tears,
until with braver thoughts shall rise
the purer, brighter years;
if cast on shores of selfish ease
or pleasure I should be,
O let me feel your freshening breeze,
and I’ll put back to sea.

If ever I forget your love
and how that love was shown,
lift high the blood-red flag above;
it bears your name alone.
Great pilot of my onward way,
you will not let me drift.
I feel the winds of God today;
today my sail I lift.

BLESSING

Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way,
and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless
until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. Amen.
—1 Thessalonians 5:23

The safety of this harbour Lord,
we bravely take our leave.
Tho’ wind and waves will be our way,
we’ll never cease believe
that you alone will guide our craft,
ensure our course is true.
By star and sight continue on,
Our only pilot you.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image-7.png
Ludolf Bakhuizen, detail of Boats in a Storm, 1696, Dulwich Picture Gallery, London

2 thoughts on “Fourth after Pentecost

  1. Thank you, Michael. We seem to have all been in a storm for a very long time and sometimes forget where to find the calm. It took a “seasoned sailor” to remind us. Thank you once again Heather and Taye. Your music was also calming.
    God bless❤❤

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