MY SOUL FINDS REST IN GOD ALONE; MY SALVATION COMES FROM HIM. HE ALONE IS MY ROCK AND MY SALVATION; HE IS MY FORTRESS, I WILL NEVER BE SHAKEN.
(Psalm 62: 1 -2)
WELCOME TO OUR SUNDAY WEB-WORSHIP!
OLD TESTAMENT READING: – EXODUS 15: 1 – 18
THEN MOSES AND THE ISRAELITES SANG THIS SONG TO THE LORD: “I WILL SING TO THE LORD, FOR HE IS HIGHLY EXALTED. THE HORSE AND ITS RIDER HE HAS HURLED INTO THE SEA. THE LORD IS MY STRENGTH AND MY SONG; HE HAS BECOME MY SALVATION. HE IS MY GOD, AND I WILL PRAISE HIM, MY FATHER’S GOD, AND I WILL EXALT HIM … IN YOUR UNFAILING LOVE YOU WILL LEAD THE PEOPLE YOU HAVE REDEEMED. IN YOUR STRENGTH YOU WILL GUIDE THEM TO YOUR HOLY DWELLING.” (Exodus 15: 1, 2, 13)
NEW TESTAMENT READING: – JOHN 6: 16 – 21
WHEN EVENING CAME, HIS DISCIPLES WENT DOWN TO THE LAKE, WHERE THEY GOT INTO A BOAT AND SET OFF ACROSS THE LAKE FOR CAPERNAUM. BY NOW IT WAS DARK, AND JESUS HAD NOT YET JOINED THEM. A STRONG WIND WAS BLOWING AND THE WATERS GREW ROUGH. WHEN THEY HAD ROWED THREE OR THREE AND A HALF MILES, THEY SAW JESUS APPROACHING THE BOAT, WALKING ON THE WATER; AND THEY WERE TERRIFIED. BUT HE SAID TO THEM, “IT IS I; DON’T BE AFRAID.” THEN THEY WERE WILLING TO TAKE HIM INTO THE BOAT, AND IMMEDIATELY THE BOAT REACHED THE SHORE WHERE THEY WERE HEADING.
Jesus had just finished the miracle of feeding five thousand people with five loaves and two fish, then, he sent the disciples on their way, and went up the mountain to pray. Evening came, and the disciples got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum. A strong wind was blowing, and the waters grew rough. Storms on the Lake of Galilee are sudden and dangerous; it must have been terrifying to row in the dark, not knowing where Jesus might be.
We can identify ourselves with these disciples. Like them, who were caught up in that dark, fierce storm and were terrified – we too have to face our fears. We face all kinds of fears today: a fear of cancer, a fear of losing our spouse and becoming a widow, a fear of financial insecurity and unemployment, a fear of not knowing where and how will we spend our last years of our lives, etc. But above all, we are faced with a storm that scares us to death – the storm called Coronavirus. It is scary, it is deadly and highly contagious. It has taken already the lives of almost one million people, infecting more than twenty-two million. It is in practically every country of the world. You can not even know you have it and still give it to others. It just continues to spread. It seems unstoppable! It is all we hear on the news and still wait responsibly to re-open our church for worship. Yes, we too are in a terrible storm and we are terrified!
In that dark night, Jesus appeared walking on the stormy waters, coming to the boat of His disciples, saying: It is I; don’t be afraid. A comforting message for those who belonged to Him there and then, as well as for us here and now.
– Saw Jesus…walking on the water. Jesus reflects on God the Father, walking on the waters during the Creation in Genesis chapter one, showing us His Deity, power, and care. Moses’ crossing of the Red Sea with Israel is intended to show God’s saving power, protection, and care, so beautifully described in The Song of Moses and Miriam (Exodus 15). In addition, Joshua, Elijah, and Elisha all did water miracles. Matthew even adds to John’s story the accounts of Peter walking out to Jesus as He comes to the boat (Matthew 14: 22-36).
– Terrified. Here is a typical, scary scene of a dark, powerful storm in the middle of a large lake, and it does not take much imagination to picture the disciples’ plight. So, when they saw a man walking on the waters, it must have caused considerable fright, especially since Jesus was not with them, or so they thought. But Jesus was there – as He is always near and ever coming – but they had to recognize Him before they could trust Him.
– It is I; don’t be afraid. This sentence refers to a Deity, literally to the self-revelation of God, “I AM WHO I AM”, as the name God used to reveal who He was to Moses (Exodus 3: 14). This is also a promise of God, meaning we have freedom from fear, as our Lord is our partner in life and faith. It also means we must keep the faith, keep it going and never give up, but put our confidence and trust in the Lord. The miraculous crossing of the Red Sea led by Moses remained, for the people of God, an eternal thanksgiving memento for the salvation of the Lord.
– Were willing to take Him into the boat. This is a necessary act of faith that is easy to be done when we can see; however, we usually cannot see in a storm. But we cannot wait until it clears up and the storm calms down, so we must trust, obey and believe in Him who comes to save. Do not let doubts and fears adjoin to the storm!
– Immediately the boat reached the shore. Meaning that they arrived at their destination without a problem or that there were no more problems because the Lord is the One who leads, directs, and comforts. But also, this might be another miracle, often overlooked and even greater; the disciples could have passed through space and time, taken to their destination in the blink of an eye like Ezekiel was (Ezekiel 8: 3). Or in Jesus’ words: – What is impossible with men is possible with God (Luke 18: 27).
We, as Christians, need to know that storms will come; storms always come. Either we are in a storm, coming out of a storm, or in the eye of a storm, but not seeing it. We will all experience rough times, either because of our mistakes or from the misdeeds of others that affect us. Since most of humanity is interconnected in one way or another, all our actions and decisions affect others, either for the good or for the bad. The deadly Coronavirus, carried and dispersed by humans to humans through negligence and selfish indifference, has developed into a stressful humanitarian disaster.
The disciples were asking, where is the Lord? Why is He not helping in this storm? The disciples must have wondered what had happened; they had expected a new age to dawn, a great Heavenly Kingdom to come, yet they went from that high hope to such a low point mentally, spiritually, and physically. It seemed that Jesus sent them from the mountain top experience of joy into a major storm, from fame to threat to danger. Then … when all seemed lost, Jesus came. He literally walked on the water in the midst of a storm that had stuck them in the middle of the lake, perhaps even facing death, – to save them, and to take them safely on to the other shore.
We will all face fame and joys; we will also face threats and perils, and when it seems that no one cares or is looking, Jesus will come. Yet did He ever leave? No! We have to know and not forget that Jesus never leaves us nor forsakes us. He never leaves. He is there, always there, even when it is hard to see Him, He is just a prayer away! Jesus cuts across life’s obstacles and miraculously intervenes in the storms of lives. He is there, and He says to us, – It is I; do not be afraid! – completing what Isaiah 43: 1 says: – Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. Amen.
LET US PRAY:
LORD OUR GOD, thank You that when the storms of life rage, and when waves of trouble and turmoil threaten to overwhelm us, You find us as You found your disciples, walking to them in the middle of the night through the stormy waters of Lake Galilee. Thank You for being to us a refuge and strength, a calmness deep within, and the peace that passes all understanding. We thank You for Your encircling love and purpose; Your gentle Word and touch that quietens our soul. Help us, whenever we need it, to find a haven in You, so that we may return to the stormy everyday life determined to serve You more effectively as we live out our faith. Teach us, Lord, that as well as ups, life will inevitably bring downs: pain as well as pleasure, tears as well as laughter. Help us to understand that in this life, there are two sides of the same coin, light bringing shadow and happiness heartache, but teach us also that You can use both to draw us closer to You until the time when sorrow and darkness will be no more. Whatever the problems we may face, Lord, in life or in death, teach us that You are greater than them all and that, in Your strength, we are assured of final victory. Help us to stay with You, whatever the journey of faith may bring us. In times of testing, give strength. In times of despair, give hope. In times of sorrow, give comfort. In times of hurt, give healing. Teach us that however demanding the journey may seem, You will be there with us. Lord, still the storm of the Covid-19 Pandemic in our lives – of fear and anxiety, tragedy, trauma, suffering, grief, and trouble. Still the other storms in our world – of injustice and intolerance, conflicts and wars, famine and malnutrition, drought and flood. Calm the waves and bring true and lasting peace for our souls. Bless Christians here and everywhere, people of other faiths or none. Enable Your people to return and worship You anew in our churches and with thankful hearts glorify Your salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord, both now and for ever more. AMEN.
THE LORD’S PRAYER: – OUR FATHER, WHO ART IN HEAVEN …
SUGGESTED HYMN: –
COME, LET US TO THE LORD OUR GOD with contrite hearts return; our God is gracious, nor will leave the desolate to mourn.
His voice commands the tempest forth, and stills the stormy wave; and though His arm be strong to smite, ‘tis also strong to save.
Long hath the night of sorrow reigned, the dawn shall bring us light: God shall appear, and we shall rise with gladness in His sight.
Our hearts, if God we seek to know, shall know Him, and rejoice; His coming like the morn shall be, like morning songs His voice.
As dew upon the tender herb, diffusing fragrance round; as showers that usher in the spring, and cheer the thirsty ground:
So shall His presence bless our souls, and shed a joyful light; that hallowed morn shall chase away the sorrows of the night.
THE LORD IS THE STRENGTH OF HIS PEOPLE, A FORTRESS OF SALVATION FOR HIS ANOINTED ONE. SAVE YOUR PEOPLE AND BLESS YOUR INHERITANCE; BE THEIR SHEPHERD AND CARRY THEM FOR EVER. AMEN. (Psalm 28: 8-9)