+ TENTH SUNDAY after PENTECOST +
“Take Heart, It Is I” Sunday
GRACE LUTHERAN CHURCH—Ashland OR
A warm welcome to all who have gathered to worship this morning through our Zoom Service. Today, we gather again around God’s Word through which he equips, directs, and supports his people in the mission and ministry of his Kingdom. All that God has promised in his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, comes together by the power of the Spirit as we worship.
AS WE GATHER Shouts and Whispers
The theme of today’s liturgy is found in the communication of God with his people. Sometimes the voice of God may be heard directly and plainly, as when Jesus says to Peter and the disciples, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Some-times communication comes in quieter ways, such as when Elijah heard the gentle whisper of the Lord. In whatever way God chooses to make himself known and heard, we are to be ready hearers and listeners.
PRAYER BEFORE WORSHIP
O God, you see how busy we are with many things. In this hour of worship and praise, give us rest from all that would cause us to be anxious. Turn us to listen to you and come to us in the still small voice of your Word, assuring us of that peace which passes all understanding; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
THEME of The Day
Elijah finds the presence of God not in earthquake, wind, or fire, but in the sound of sheer silence. When the disciples face a great storm on the Sea of Galilee, they cry
out with fear. Jesus says, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” Amid the storms of life, we gather to seek the calm and assuring presence of our Lord that soothes our fears.
In comforting words of Scripture and in the refreshing bread and cup of The Eucharist, God grants us peace and sends us forth to be a sign of God’s presence and peace to others.
May God bless your worship this morning.
ORDER of CONFESSION
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“As I live,” says the Lord God, “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from their ways and live.”
If we confess our sins, God, who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins, and
cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Whatever storms we may face, our Lord is here to see us through. How firmly do we believe that?
+ A Brief Silence for Reflection +
Most merciful God, we confess to you our sinfulness, and our helplessness to escape from it. We despair of your goodness and doubt your power. Heedless
of your strengthening call, we seek to struggle alone. We are wicked; we are doomed to die. We beg your mercy for the sake of Jesus Christ, your Son. Forgive us and turn us from our ways.
“Why do you doubt?” the Savior asks. “Take heart, for it is I.” In the midst of our helplessness, Jesus Christ was given to die for us. For his sake, your sins are forgiven
in the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Our God has turned to us and we shall live.
Thanks be to God!
In peace, let us pray to the Lord
Lord, have mercy.
For the reign of God, and for peace throughout the world, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For your people here, who have come to give you praise, for the strength to live
your Word, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
Help, save and defend us, O God.
PRAYER OF THE DAY
O God our defender, storms rage around us and within us and cause us to be afraid. Rescue your people from despair, deliver your sons and daughters from fear, and preserve us in the faith that we may cheerfully accomplish what you want done; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
FIRST LESSON 1st Kings 19:9-18
[On Mount Horeb, where God had appeared to Moses with typical signs of God’s presence—earthquake, wind, and fire—Elijah now experiences God in “sheer silence.” Elijah is now presented with a dramatic shift in understanding where God is to be found. God is not to be found in the typical signs of his presence. Rather, God is among his people, where the will of God is being lived out.]
At Horeb, the mount of God, Elijah came to a cave, and spent the night there. Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He answered, “I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of host, for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.” He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.”
Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire the sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.
Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He answered, “I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.” Then the LORD said to him, “Go return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus, when you arrive,
you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha son
of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place. Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall kill; and whoever escapes the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall kill. Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees who have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!
SECOND LESSON Romans 10:5-15
[A right relationship with God is not something we achieve by heroic effort. It is a gift received in the proclamation whose content is Jesus Christ. This proclaimed Word creates our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Hence Christian proclamation is an indispensable component of God’s saving actions.]
Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who shall ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) or “Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near to you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is in him no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God!
HOLY GOSPEL Matthew 14:22-33
[Matthew’s gospel typically portrays Jesus’ disciples as people of “little faith,” who fail despite their best intentions. In this story, Matthew shows how Jesus comes to these disciples when they are in trouble and sustains them in their fear and doubt.]
Immediately, [Jesus] made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”
And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He
said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.”
Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little
faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in
the boat worshiped him saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
The gospel of the Lord. Praise to you, O Christ.
+ In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. +
I’ve never been out on a lake at three or four o’clock in the morning (the fourth watch of the night) especially in the midst of a squall. But that’s what the disciples faced in today’s Gospel—the perfect storm. To give you a feeling for what they were up against on the Sea of Galilee, try the Greek word basanizomenon … which literally translates: the winds and waves tortured the boat in which the disciples were fighting a losing battle as they were tossed to and fro.
I don’t know about you but that would be enough to make what little hair I have left stand on end.
Yet it wasn’t the storm that sent the disciples into a paroxysm of fear. It was the sight of Jesus coming to them across the waves. Catching sight of this apparition-like figure (the Greek word here is phantasma), they cried out in fear: “It’s a ghost!”
On this 10th Sunday after Pentecost, we begin to understand the disciples’ fear when we realize and acknowledge our own fears—for we all do a pretty good job of masking them rather than admitting them.
There’s a thing about fear. On the one hand, fear can be positive rather than negative, especially when it’s the kind of fear that is the same thing as awe … reverence … deepest respect for the majesty of God. But that’s not the kind of fear the text describes. This fear means absolute terror—being scared out of your wits. It’s the kind of fear that gives you that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach, filling you with anxiousness and dread—afraid because you can’t control the situation or the threatening force before you.
We’ve all had that sinking feeling at one time or another. It’s part and parcel of our sinfulness. From the very first day of life we always have something to fear. It can be fear within us or around us … fear close by or far away … fear visible or invisible. Fear is universal. We are born with the capacity to harbor it deep inside and hold onto it throughout our lives.
On this August morning, what fears and apprehensions have you brought with you? How far beneath the appearance of having it altogether do we have to go before we touch the deeper layers of worrisome … anxious fears … that need healing? Beware of the illusion that we have no such fears … or that there is nothing to fear. Samuel Johnson once observed a tombstone that said, “Here lies one who never knew fear.” To which Johnson replied, “…then he never snuffed out a candle with his fingers.”
Today’s Gospel Lesson sets before us One whom fear attacked but did not conquer—the One in whom we take refuge and find strength … the One who said, “Take heart, it is I; have no fear!”
Jesus comes to His people with that assurance, which is incredibly good news. He said, “It is I” not merely to identify Himself but to reveal Himself. He is the great “I AM” who hears His people’s cries. He is the One who promises to be present in the midst of two or three gathered in His Name. He is the One who assures each and every one of us, “I am with you always even to the ends of the earth.” Isn’t that what the words of St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans reminded us of two weeks ago— “that in Christ we are more than conquerors and that nothing … absolutely nothing … shall separate us from the love God in Christ Jesus.” On the Tree of the Cross, our Lord and Savior took all our fears with Him. He felt those fears in His agony and death. There on the Cross, He defeated the power of sin that lies behind all fear when He arose triumphantly from the grave.
Today in the Word read and proclaimed … in the bread and wine of The Sacrament … Jesus says: “Take heart, it is I; have no fear!”
Peter heard that assurance in the today’s text. He took heart and boldly stepped out of the boat and walked toward Jesus. But when he took his eyes off Jesus … when he saw only the raging sea around him, he began to sink. Truth be told … you and I are no different than Peter. We do not live by our own heroic boldness and vision, but by the strong hand of the Lord who saves us and keeps on drawing us to Himself rather than leaving us sink back into our fears. “Come,” says the writer of Hebrews, “let us fix our eyes on Jesus.”
Cross-eyed vision … eyes fixed on Jesus is what it’s is all about.
“Take heart, it is I; have no fear!” Taking heart and fixing our eyes on Jesus means having courage—the courage which comes of faith—courage formed … shaped … and made strong by God’s love in Christ Jesus. “Perfect love,” writes St. John, “casts out fear [1 John 4:18].” And nowhere is that love more clearly seen than in The Christ of the Cross.
“Take heart, it is I; have no fear!” Taking heart and fixing our eyes on Jesus means fruitfulness. After all, as long as the disciples were paralyzed by fear, they got nothing done—for fear always has a negative impact. Fear, if you will, stifles us. Taking heart brings about a response to His love as one’s heart and life is filled with thanksgiving. Taking heart brings us into the fruitfulness of relationships in which love, patience, forgiveness, hope, and creativity flourish and abound.
Take heart, it is I; have no fear!” Taking heart and fixing our eyes on Jesus means joy. As John’s Gospel reports this story [John 6], we’re told that the disciples were glad when they took Jesus into the boat. Joy … you see … is the sure sign of taking heart. In the joy of worship, we sing … pray … and find strength as God’s people. Fear can never hold up to doxology and praise! Fear can’t hold up to the quiet joy of trusting Christ’s sure and certain promises in Word and Sacrament.
Courage, fruitfulness and joy—these are gifts from the Lord who comes to us across the stormy waters of life and says: “Take heart, it is I. Have no fear!” “Lo, I am with you always, even to the ends of the earth.”
+ In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. +
I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth.
And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into hell.
The third day He rose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven
and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life + everlasting. Amen
PRAYERS of THE CHURCH
With the whole people of God, let us join in prayer for The Church, the world, and all of God’s creation.
Lord of The Church, we pray for your whole Church throughout the world. Give courage in the midst of storms, so that we see and hear Jesus calling: “Take heart, it is I: do not be afraid.” May we follow Christ wherever he leads. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
Lord of all, we pray for the well-being of your creation. Protect waterways, forests, lands, and wildlife from exploitation and abuse. Reverse the damage we have caused your creation. Replenish ground water supplies, provide needed rains in places of drought, and protect forests from wildfires. Treasuring all of creation, may we live as grateful and healing caretakers of all that you have made. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
Lord of the nations, we pray for the nations and all leaders. In you, steadfast love and faithfulness meet, and righteousness and peace kiss. May nations in conflict with one another know the peace that is the fruit of justice, and the justice that is the path to peace. Direct the leaders of all nations to build trust with each other; increase their desire for justice and equality. Bridge the chasms that divide us as a nation during these days of protests and civil unrest; bring calm to our anxiousness and bless us with the necessary healing and change that only you can give. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
Lord of all care and hope, we pray for those in need who call upon your Name. Accompany all who are lonely, hear the voices of those who cry in anguish to satisfy their deepest needs and longings. Open our eyes to see and attend all who are in need, especially your servants Sarah and Shari who are under doctor’s care, together with those we name in our hearts with your love, surround those of our parish who are homebound especially Sharon, Joyce, Richard & Doris, Rusty, Bonnie, Vernia, and Elma. Assure them of our love and prayers for them. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
Lord of renewal, we pray for our congregation. You have gathered us around Word and Sacrament to be your on-going presence. Give our congregation such a welcoming heart, that our words and actions may extend your free and abundant hospitality to all whom we encounter. Refresh us with new dreams of being your people in this time and place. In the midst of our sadness and disappointment of Patrick returning our call to serve at Grace, continue to bless his ministry at Concordia/Lakewood. As we return to the call process, help us to discern your will for us in seeking an undershepherd to join us in mission and ministry so that in all things your good and gracious will may be done. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
Lord of life, we give you thanks for all the saints who have gone before us with the sign of faith and now rest from their labors. Strengthen us by their faithful witness and embolden us in our lives of witness until we, too, are gathered together with all your saints in your eternal presence. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
Receive our prayers, merciful God, and dwell in us richly, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
THE GREAT THANKSGIVING
The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give him thanks and praise.
Blessed are you, O holy God: You are the life and light of all.
By your powerful word you created all things.
Through the prophets you call your people to be
a light to the nations.
Blessed are you for Jesus, your Son, he is your light shining
in our darkness and revealing to us your mercy and might.
In the night in which he was betrayed,
our Lord Jesus took bread, and gave thanks;
broke it, and gave it to his disciples saying:
Take and eat; this is my + body which is given
for you. Do this in remembrance of me.
Again, after supper, he took the cup, gave thanks,
And gave it for all to drink, saying:
This cup is the new covenant in my + blood
shed for you and for all people for the forgiveness
of sin. Do this in remembrance of me.
Remembering, therefore, his preaching and healing, his dying
and rising, and his promise to come again, we await the day
when all the universe will rejoice in his life-giving light.
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
By your Holy Spirit, bless us and this meal, that refreshed by it
we might be light for the world.
Amen. Come, Holy Spirit.
Through him all glory and honor are yours, Almighty Father, with the Holy
Spirit, in your holy Church, both now and forever. Amen.
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
forever and ever. Amen.
The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you.
The Lord look upon you with favor and give you + peace. Amen.