This is a sermon I preached on Sunday, August 7, 2011.
The occasion was a New Hymnal Dedication Service. Communion was served after the sermon.
Thanks for reading.
This morning, the music is the star. The new hymnals are the stars. And all the work that has been done by this congregation and its friends to bring these books for worship into this place, those things are the star. Therefore, we celebrate, hearing a portion of David’s song of praise from 1 Chronicles 16.
David’s song come right after the Ark of the Covenant arrived in Jerusalem and was placed in its tent. David offers a ‘Song of Thanks’ as it is subtitled in the English Standard Version of the Bible.
He has reason to celebrate. It has been a long journey for the Ark. People have given much to see this day; some gave their life. And, in the minds of the people, the presence of the Ark of the covenant in Jerusalem represented both God’s presence and favor. It was reason to celebrate.
And, as I have said already, for similar reasons, we celebrate this morning. We are blessing 150 beautiful new books for worship that were given to us and given by us.
-We celebrate like David because of the presence of these beautiful books.
-We celebrate like David because of our work that led to the offering of these books.
-We celebrate like David because of the relationships and love that encouraged and implored others to give us these books for worship.
There are additional reasons to celebrate as we sit here this morning and ask God to bless the use of these new books for worship. Today is a day to celebrate. But, one of the best reasons to celebrate is tied to the Gospel text and not just the parallel experiences that we share with David from the Old Testament.
This morning’s Gospel text is an old favorite. You know it well. Peter jumps out of a boat as Jesus walks on the water toward the disciples from the shore. Peter walks on water toward Jesus…until he begins to sink.
Traditionally, we only see the passage like this: when Peter has faith, he stays on top of the water because of it…when doubt creeps, he begins to sink. This is a fair.
But what I find more interesting, yet more subtle, is the act of faith that got Peter out of the boat. Can you imagine the mindset that led him to ask “if it is you, let me walk towards you?” We don’t always think that way.
Seeing Jesus walk toward us on the water, we would have reacted somehow, but possibly not like Peter. I can see myself doing something…what do you see yourself doing?
- Would you just sit back, relax and enjoy the show as Jesus walks to the boat across the water?
- Would you act like the teenage boys among us who might offer a splash or two from the boat. Or a, ‘catch this!’ as they threw something at Jesus?
- Some of the more nurturing among us might be concerned for Jesus’ health and well being and we would hurry him in to the boat like a loving mother or grandmother ushering a child in from the rain…’get in this boat from off of that water, before you catch a cold.’
But all of these scenarios miss the step of faith that was taken. They miss what Martin Luther calls the ‘hidden yes.’ Peter and Jesus, in hope, saw a possibility, an opportunity, and it led to Peter stepping out of the boat and on to the water.
Peter and Jesus saw a possibility where there should have been none. Usually when Peter gets out of a boat, he sinks. Despite that fact, Peter, with hope and in faith, got out of the boat. He got out of the boat and walked toward Jesus. There was no evidence that getting out of the boat in this situation would yield anything but a wet tunic, yet Peter stepped out and it yielded something miraculous. It yielded a great story that showed evidence of great faith.
And I think that this story of Peter stepping out of the boat parallels ours a bit this morning. And this is reason to celebrate.
You see, I think that everyone who dropped a $20 or wrote a check to buy a hymnal to put in our chapel did something similar to Peter jumping out of the boat. They were a part of seeing a possibility that might not have been the easiest thing to see given our situation.
- Some of the people who have given us hymnals left Hillcrest due to life and job circumstances, and the chances of them coming back are almost none. Yet they stepped out of the boat and offered us a gift when it would have been easier to sit back and see what happens.
- Some people who bought hymnals only come here for worship when they visit loved ones in town, yet they stepped out of the boat.
- Some of us loved the hymnal that used to rest in these pew racks. You used that hymnal before and through the glory days of Hillcrest. It was familiar. God showed up when you sang from it. It felt like home. Yet you stepped out of that comfortable boat onto something new.
And all who have stepped out of the boat have done so exhibiting a deep faith in this place and the work of God in this place. They did not just buy the books for this chapter in the life of Hillcrest, they have bought hymnals in the faith that they will become a part of many chapters for Hillcrest. And this is reason to celebrate!
This is a reason for a Song of Thanks like David…not simply because of beautiful books that found their way into our tent of worship, but because of the act of faith that each and every book here represents. This is what we are to celebrate: the faith that brought these things to us.
As we celebrate this on this day, I think there is a profound call that we must respond to. I think that we as a congregation must continue to step out of the comfort of the boat, towards Jesus and that is something that we can only do through a deep and abiding faith.
I hope that our spirit and our prayer will be that through God’s strength, we will do our best to exhibit the same deep and powerful faith that others have had in God and us but offering these hymnal. May our faith lead to more celebrations as we, in faith, follow God into another chapter of our lives and the life of this church.
May the faith that brought these books to us be a gift that spurs our own faith as individuals and as a congregation.