God is With Us Sermon July 23rd

This past week during Vacation Bible School these three stories from today were three of the stories we explored during our time together at VBS. And so today as we celebrate our fun fill week of VBS our readings for this week should also lift up the stories we heard this week, especially on the day when Charley is baptized.
It is here in the Gospel lesson when we hear the Gospel of Jesus walking on the water. The Gospel begins with Jesus sending the disciples on ahead of him in a boat. To face the storms of life seemingly by themselves. When the storms start raging all around them, Jesus calls to them from a distance. The disciples are afraid of this person they cannot clearly see and as he approaches to them and when they notice who he is, Peter begins to walk on water. But then fear takes over and Peter thinks that he can’t do it. He can’t go any further and he begins to sink. But Jesus doesn’t just let them stop, rather he reaches out to Peter to help, he reaches out to the disciples to let them know that no matter what they face, what trials or tribulations they are going through that God is there with them. And not only is God with them, but God calls them beyond the fear they are living in to a whole hearted life. And when they ask who Jesus is, he responds by saying, “I Am. “ The same way that God refers to Godself in the Old Testament.
So here in this Gospel text we are shown that even in the midst of heartache and the storms in life that we are never alone, never left to fend for ourselves. Carl Jung is quoted as saying, “Bidden or not bidden. God is present.” Meaning, that whether we ask or not, whether we recognize or not God is there. That Christ always walks with us calling beyond our own fear and into a life of abundance. It is often though in the storms of life, that we are more open to seeing where God is in our world and in our lives. When we are going through the valleys of the shadows of death in our life, we start looking for God. We start longing to see God in the midst of the pain and suffering we are facing, in hope that we are not alone. In the hope that the promises made to us in our baptism are true.
But when the seas are peaceful and we don’t have any concerns or cares, then we often struggle to see God or look for God in our lives, because we don’t need God. Or at least we don’t think we do. When it is peaceful, we don’t often reach out for the hand of God. It becomes all about us and how well we are doing. And so we start to slip. We start put our faith on the back burner. We stop trying to be God’s hands and feet in the world. Especially when our faith does not matter to us. When we don’t fully know why we believe what we believe, then it becomes really easy when life is peaceful and going well for us to ignore our faith. To ignore God. To not continue growing and changing in faith.
This is where some of us may be this day. Our lives are going ok, and we don’t really know what we believe or if we believe enough, and so we are just sort of here because we always go to church, but we don’t need God right now, so you know we just sort of say we believe, but not really. But I really believe that God doesn’t just show up when we need God when our life is devastating or turning us upside down, but rather God is always with us. In the easy times and during the storms. I also believe that God invites us beyond our fear and insecurities into a life of abundance and peace when times are easy in life and when they are more challenging.
When we believe and trust that God is with us and for us and thereby live with courage and hope, taking chances, risking ourselves in relationship, seeking the welfare of the individuals and community around us, all the while remembering that even when we overlook God’s presence yet God is always there, sometimes to encourage us to overcome our fears, sometimes sending us out ahead, and sometimes reaching out to grab hold of us in forgiveness, mercy, comfort, and grace.
And so I look at this Gospel passage and think how perfect this Scripture is for the day that we baptize Charley. It is here in the waters of baptism that we are reminded of the promise that we are God’ own and nothing can ever change that. No matter what happens in her life, in our life, or in the world can ever change God’s never ending unconditional love for each one of us. So this day as we gather with Charley and the Barrett family we remember and hold onto these baptismal promises. We also promise Charley and her family that we too will help and support them in their life together, in Charley’s life. To remind her that no matter what she is going through in life God is with her always and forever. And nothing can or ever will change it. And we as her family of faith are here to support her and one another in or lives and journeys of faith. We are God’s beloved children.
Let us pray. God we know that you indeed are with us through every stage and moment of our life. We give you thanks for never leaving us and always being with us through the highs and lows of life. Strengthen us is those moments when we believe that you are far away from us to see that and trust that you indeed are with us through it all. Help us all to see and take seriously the promises you made to us in our baptisms that we may put our hope and trust in you and you alone. Amen.

Pastor Katie has served St. Paul Hametown since July 2012. She is a graduate of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg with a Masters of Divinity and a concentration in Theology and Public Life. She is married with three children.

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