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Sunday, March 29 -- "Not in Control and Not Liking It!"

Good morning everyone, We enter into the second weekend where we are not able to gather as a community of faith and share our joys, sorrows and praises to God. But we can do so at home as a body. The call to prayer, prayer to hear God’s word, along with the closing prayers are all prayers that come from the Divine Hours, which are short liturgies said throughout the world by Christians on this day. So, though in our homes this morning, we are saying the prayers and worshiping God with thousands and thousands of others. We have been hoping that by Holy Week we could once again meet, and as we continue to hold out for this hope, we are making plans to have Holy Week services via Telephone conferencing. An email (and second newsletter) will be sent out early this week. Our church councils are meeting this morning via a telephone conference call to discuss these plans and other options. But for now, we remain in our homes. Please pray for one another. Although we may not be able to see one another face to face, we can lift those around us up to the Lord in prayer. May God bless us with strength and Spirit during these unsettling days. Enjoy the devotion. Call to prayer: Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your Name give glory, because of your love and because of your faithfulness. Prayer to hear God’s Word: Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer. Gospel: Matthew 14:22-33 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” 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, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” Dear friends in Christ, I’m going to begin by sharing with you what is the kryptonite in my life – ready? ... It’s getting lost in the car. I tend to be a pretty calm guy who can handle adversity well and when thrown a curve ball in life, I can adjust and figure out a plan on the fly. But let me get lost driving to a destination and I have a melt down! If you would be in the car with me when that happens (and thankfully you aren’t), you would hear me yelling at one of three targets: the stupid map I was following, the lane closure that threw all my plan into disarray, or the failure of my GPS. The GPS by the way adds salt to my wound by demanding, each and every block I go, to make a U-turn as soon as possible – which I can’t do, so just shut up!!! The first argument Ann and I ever got into was over getting lost. After dating for a few months, we were driving up North to spend the day picnicking with some of my school mates. I had the path meticulously planned out – yellow marker on the map was added for ease of use. About fifteen miles from our destination, Ann, who had been looking at the map, told me to take a left turn. I asked her if that was what the map told us to do. She said no but it would save us some time. I’ll tell you right now, I was apprehensive, but she was so beautiful so what could I say? Ten minutes later, we found ourselves ten minutes off course and that’s when Ann became aware that this sexy hunk of a man could turn into a snotty, whinny child, who if she didn’t get me back on course fast, would see me pull over, get out of the car, walk to the ditch, roll up in the fetal position and wait to die! At the root cause of my fear of getting lost is this: I fear not being in control. When I’m following a map, or my GPS, I feel in control. When things go catawampus, I find my anxiety rising and not knowing whether to go straight, left, right, or make a U-turn (shut-up GPS), leaves me feeling totally lost and in need of Prozac. Not being in control is not a good feeling. This historical episode of dealing with Corvid-19, is not only challenging for the hundreds of ways it is effecting our daily lives, but it also leaves us to face the reality that WE ARE NOT IN CONTROL. One of the negative side effects of this panic that sets in is to BLAME. When lost in the car, I blame the map, the road construction or my GPS. I do that because I can then believe that my world is still something I’m in control of, I just have to get a better map, pay the highway crews more to work faster, and definitely by the newest and best GPS on the market. This blame is happening with the corona virus. We hear things like, “It’s China’s fault” (by the way China says it’s ours), “It’s the politicians fault,” or “It’s a failure of our medical system” among others. By casting blame on those “others” it makes us feel like we are still in control. Therefore, all we have to do is make China do better, get better politicians and or upgrade our medical facilities. We tell ourselves that if we just do that (do you see the “we do” theme?) everything will be just fine. It makes us believe that Covid-19 isn’t in control of our world right now, we still are, we just have to do better job in certain areas of our lives. But you know what? Sometimes things are just out of control. Sometimes we have to just sit down, admit that sometimes things are bigger than us and we can’t fix it. , and cry it out. Sometimes we can’t just do this or that and fix it. Saying that is scary, but it can also be cathartic, if and this is a big “if”, if we know that someone outside of ourselves is in control. There is an incident that takes place during Jesus’ ministry, which I think is very relevant for us right now. It takes place right after Jesus feeds the 5,000. Jesus dismisses the crowd and tells the disciples to get into the boat and cross the to the other side of the lake, while he went up on the mountain to spend some time alone with God. As the disciples were crossing the sea, the winds picked up and soon they found themselves in the middle of a terrible storm that threatened to overturn their boat. Now understand that among the disciples were some battle tested fishermen who certainly had dealt with a storm or two in their lives. So, if they were panicking, we know it must have been really bad (out of their control). As they battled the storm, one of the disciples looks up and sees a ghostly form coming towards them, walking on the water. “Great!” they think, “if the storm isn’t enough, now we have to fight some kind of water demon.” But when the figure gets closer, it calls out to them and they immediately recognize the voice, it’s Jesus. Yes, he is calmly walking on the very water that was threatening to overturn their boat (and take their lives). “Take heart, I’m hear; do not be afraid.” Jesus says. Impetuous Peter, sees the miraculous thing Jesus is doing and he wants to do it too, so he asks Jesus “Lord, let me come to you on the water.” I can imagine a sly smile coming across Jesus’ face when he says,“Come.” Peter gets out of the boat and indeed he does start walking on the water! What an amazing thing! But things go sour really fast. Scripture says, “But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’” The next verse records Jesus’ reaction: “Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’” People say this is a story which teaches about having faith, I think it’s something else. I think this is a grace story, an example of Jesus’ love for us. Peter thought he was in control, right up to the point he realized he wasn’t. And at that moment with the stakes very high (he was about to lose his life), Jesus reaching out with his loving hand and gets Peter back to the safety of the boat. Sometimes things are out of our control and we need to embrace that reality, stop trying to “deal” with the problem on our own, or blame others. Nor should we beat ourselves us when in times of fear and anxiety, we think we’re failing God with a lack of faith. Instead, we need to simply call out to Jesus, and watch as he extends loving hand which grabs hold of ours, and gently leads us to safety. Yes, Someone is in control – it’s not us – it’s Jesus. Celebrate this wonderful fact today, even while we live in the midst of a storm. God bless you all, Pastor Dan Church prayer for the week: Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought me in safety to this new day. Preserve me with your mighty power, that I may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all I do direct me to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.

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