From Many Paths, Embracing our Differences, Finding Our Story Together
An Open and Affirming Congregation
"After Sunday worship I feel refreshed and ready to start a new week. Worship calms me and makes me want to be a more giving and forgiving person."
"I am here to share my soul, body, and mind with our bigger family who shares our worship to God and the entire universe. This is my worship experience at church."
Worship at FCC Essex follows a traditional liturgy, but God still speaks to the world today from these ancient words and rituals as if they were new. Music and spirit and art and words and silence center us and inform us. Our style of worship brings comfort, soothes the spirit, challenges the mind, strengthens our love of each other, and empowers us for doing good in the world.
Other special services of worship are celebrated throughout the year during Advent (Christmas) and Lent, as well as ecumenical events with other churches in Essex and within the UCC.
August 9, 2020
Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28
Psalm 105: 1-6, 16-22, 45b
Much of our Bible reading and our faith life itself tend to focus on the gospel solely as a message only of personal comfort and assurance. Certainly, Matthew's story about Jesus encountering the disciples in the stormy sea and his conversation with Peter out there on the water, could be heard as just such a message: Jesus will rescue us in the storms of life, even pulling us up out of the depths when we feel like we're drowning. But there is more than one way to read this story.
What if the boat full of disciples is the church, not only then but today? In our own day, the church is rocked by storms of one kind or another, from inside or from without, including the forces of chaos and uncertainty that may threaten to up-end or even destroy a community of faith. Perhaps a church has even felt "gripped" by powers stronger than they are, helpless to do anything to save themselves.
It would be only human, just like poor, very human Peter, to feel despair and panic in such a situation. And yet we also know how it feels for the power of Jesus, reaching out to us to give us strength, to fill us with calm and strength and endurance.
Rocking the boat
Perhaps a sermon on this text, then, could reflect not just on moments of personal comfort and reassurance but on the times when "the boat has been rocked" in the church (isn't a boat one ancient symbol of the church?).
What are the times and ways that God has provided what was needed to ride out a storm, or even to conquer it, in your congregation?
Here because we're called
If the disciples were in the boat in the first place because of a command, or call, from Jesus, then we in the church are also here because God has called (commanded) us to be here. Do the members of your church think of themselves that way: that they are in the church not because they shopped for it, and found one that met their needs, but because God has called them there?
Who is Jesus here?
Douglas R. A. Hare describes Jesus in this text: "As Messiah he is the one charged and empowered by God to shepherd and care for God's people." Not just each of us personally, but the community, the church that he loves so well (Matthew, Interpretation).
When have you kept your eyes "fixed on Jesus," but on the other hand, when have you turned away, and what were the effects? There are many things that draw our attention away from the One who calls us and leads us and cares for us. We can easily place our hopes in other places and things as well. What are the particular tempations of this age, the false gods and empty promises of this time?
Between faith and doubt
According to Hare, the story "graphically depicts what it means to be a Christian caught midway between faith and doubt." Perhaps you feel caught at times, midway between faith and doubt, just as the people of your congregation do.
This story speaks about both faith and doubt, but Hare reminds us that faith "speaks of realities that are of more ultimate importance than the things we can see and touch. To believe in the saving power of Jesus is to take a risk--faith is not a possession but an activity---like a song that disappears when we stop singing" (Matthew, Interpretation).
Read the scriptures and this entire reflection here
First Congregational Church in Essex
United Church of Christ
6 Methodist Hill
Essex, Connecticut 06426