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Prayer Ministry

If you have a prayer request, please send it to pastordelawareheadwatersparish@gmail.com.  We will be happy to add it to our prayers during Sunday service. If you have a request/need for private counseling or a time of prayer with Pastor Dawn or Pastor Peg about a personal matter,  please contact the office or either Pastor. 

 

SERMONS:

Pastor Peg posts her two most recent sermons on this page.  If you are interested in reading more of her sermons you can go to pastorpeg.wordpress.com.  

 

 

 

 

Peter’s Fear

June 2, 2024               2nd Sunday of Pentecost

Psalm 31: 3-8            Matthew 16:21-28

            Jesus is trying to explain to the disciples that the next time that they go to Jerusalem, he will undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.  Jesus knew that he was going to have problems and clash with the three main political groups: The Temple authorities who are the keepers of the Jewish culture; the Herodian family, the three brothers who are puppet kings under Rome; and the Romans, the occupying army that has the final say in law.  All of these factions are very worried that someone is going to come along, claim to be the Messiah, and start a war against Rome.  This would bring the Roman army down upon the entire population and cause a lot of death and destruction.  This had already happened a couple of times in the last 100 years.  

The Temple authorities were also worried that the Jewish religion and culture would be diluted.  Since the Romans encouraged other cultures to move into the land of Israel, the Jewish priests were very concerned that people would be curious about those other religions, try them out, and convert to them.  

One of the answers to that was the creation of the Pharisees.  Pharisees were trained in Jewish law and culture, to be the advisors to Jewish people and to tell them how they could live and maintain the Jewish religion.  And they were pretty strict about adhering to the letter of the law.  This is why Jesus is always coming up against Pharisees who don’t like him.  A lot of them think that his teachings are too liberal and lenient.

The Pharisees also regularly reported back to the Temple about the state of things in their towns and provinces. Jesus knew that after three years with all his teaching and healing that he is now on the Temple authority’s radar.  For a while Jesus hasn’t been getting any more notice than any other holy man.  But now he’s got a substantial following and things have reached a tipping point.  Jesus is trying to prepare the disciples for what he knows is coming.  

But the disciples don't want to admit it or believe it.  How can the authorities arrest or put to death someone who can walk on water; someone who can heal the sick with the touch; someone who can make lepers clean; someone who can bring the dead back to life?  Jesus has powers!  Surely his powers are going to protect him.  Surely Jesus has enough followers on his side.  When all those people gather in Jerusalem and see what Jesus can do, Rome will be finished, The Herodians will step down, and the Temple authorities will let Jesus lead them.

But Jesus knows that this isn’t the way the world or God is working.  In order to get to the resurrection, which willchange the world, he’s got to go through the indignity, pain and sorrow of the cross.  Jesus didn’t come to save or elevate himself.  He was already saved and elevated.  What he came to do was to save us, and the only way to do it was to prove by the resurrection that everything he had been telling the disciples for the last three years was true.

But remember Jesus lived with these people.  He walked with them, he ate with them, he camped with them, while he was teaching them.  They lived together through hot days and cold nights, times of abundance and times of starvation, and wind and weather that was good and bad.  When you live through stuff like that you really get to know someone.  

Knowing this you can see why there is a very deep relationship between Peter and Jesus.  Yes, Peter looks upon him as a mentor, and he believes that Jesus is the son of God, the Messiah.  But he also really cares for Jesus as a person and a friend.

So, it’s understandable that when Jesus tells Peter and the rest of the disciples what they should expect, Peter is going to take him aside and say, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.”  

If a friend of mine came to me and said, “I have a really bad case of cancer, and I’m going to die in a few weeks.”  My first reaction is going to be “God forbid! This isn’t going to happen to you.”  No matter what the circumstances, just like Peter, I don’t want to see my friend die.  I don’t want to see their life end when they have so much more to do and offer.  Denial, like doubt is normal.  None of us want to see our friends go through horrible things and experience horrible pain.  

News like this also makes us a little bit selfish because we don’t want to go through the pain of losing someone.  It’s normal to fear pain, and we fear death because we don’t know what’s on the other side of it.  Peter didn’t want to lose Jesus.  He didn’t want the pain of that loss or the uncertainty of what would happen to himself or Jesus when they died. 

Jesus reacts by saying, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”  That was probably a real shocker for Peter, because all he was trying to do was to booster Jesus, to remind him of his powers, and to maybe take away some of his fear. 

I think that Jesus says this as a shock tactic, because Jesus knows that all of his actions are to one end: To free us from the fear of sin and death by giving us the proof-positive assurance that this limited, time-bound world is not the end.  That we are connected to the unlimited, infinite-world of the divine.  Peter, with his denial and fear of pain, is clinging to this world, he’s not looking to the divine power that is going to be unleashed.  He doesn’t understand yet what will happen to him and the others when Jesus walks out of the tomb and shows them the unlimited possibilities when you no longer have to fear sin and death.

Think about what happens when Peter stops fearing.  He continues the movement that Jesus started and converts thousands of people to Christ.  He is able to look beyond his belief that only Jewish people should learn about Jesus and accepts gentiles into the movement.  He travels to foreign countries – all the way to Rome – and spreads the Gospel.  When Peter finally let’s go of his fear, he accomplishes amazing things.

In our communion we say that Christ delivers us from slavery to sin and death.  We are reminding ourselves that we don’t have to be ruled by our fears of doing the wrong thing, because Christ forgives us.  And we don’t have to be ruled by our fear of death because we know that there is a life after this one where our eternal souls will live.   

You know, Peter is just an ordinary person.  Yes, he happened to meet and study under Jesus, but he was also Jesus’ friend.  Last week we saw that he doubted like we do.  This week we see that he feared like we do.  But eventually he was able to lay down the burden of his fears.  It took him a while, but that should give us comfort because it takes all of us a while to put away our doubts and fears as well.  

And it’s not a one-time thing – put down all your fears and now you’re okay, and you will brave and certain for the rest of your life!  That doesn’t happen because we’re always encountering new things in new situations that make us uncertain and afraid.  But like Peter, we have Jesus, as our mentor and friend to help get us through new stuff.  When we fear, we can ask Jesus to help us with our fear.  To give us courage and to show us a way forward in our uncertainty. 

Now can you imagine if we could live in that place – not a place of no fear, but a place where we can live with fear, and get through the uncertainty, with the assurance that the divine power of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit is with us.

I think that’s what Jesus is talking about when he says that we have to take up the cross and follow him.  That we put down the burden of fear and take up the difficult things in life and trust that God will be there to support us and see us through.  We have to lose our lives of being ruled by sin and fear in order to gain the strength to work with Jesus for Gods’ kingdom.

So today we need to ask ourselves: What is the fear that you’re carrying that you need to put down?  What are you afraid of giving up in order to gain a better life in Christ?  Can you take that leap of faith and trust that Jesus that will help you to move forward? 

Think about a fear that is bothering you and when we take communion today, make your connection to Jesus and give it up to him.  You might find yourself becoming free of your fear and entering into the Blessed Assurance that can lead you forward to the kingdom.

 

 

 

Peter and Doubt

May 26, 2024       Trinity Sunday       Sermon Series: Peter the Disciple

Hebrews 3:7-12          Matthew 14:22-32

 

All of us doubt.  It's part of the human condition.  Doubt can be a good thing that helps us to evaluate our actions, assumptions, and beliefs.  If we doubt that something is safe, like ice on a frozen pond, we might avoid skating, and we're less likely to fall through the ice and get hurt. 

If we doubt the truth of what someone is saying, like when somebody tells you that people didn't really land on the moon, then we’re more likely to check that the statement is real or not.  And sometimes, we learn whether or not we can trust the person.  

If we doubt that we have the skills to accomplish something, like passing a math test, that might make us study a little harder and learn skills that will help us to succeed.  

By the way, it’s okay to check Bible quotes that you might doubt.  People say things like, “The Bible says, ‘Money is the root of all evil,’ ” making it seem that money or earning money is a bad thing.  Actually, Jesus said, “The LOVE of money is the root of all evil,” because when you love money over God or your neighbor, you become a selfish greedy person.  If someone throws a Bible quote at you that doesn’t seem right, go ahead and check it

In the examples that I gave there was doubt, but then there was testing to see if what we doubted was real, unsafe, or untruthful, and if we could do something to make things more certain – like the ice skating on the frozen pond.  You can test if the ice is too thin or thick enough.  Once you get past the doubt, to knowing whether it's safe or not, then you make the informed decision.  Thick enough, great!  You and your friends have fun skating the lake.  Not thick enough, bummer! But you and your friends can go find something else to do.

But sometimes doubt is not a good thing.  Sometimes doubt makes us get stuck and keeps us from trying new things.  This happens when we don't know how to test our doubts.  For instance, let's say that there was a pie contest being held at a local festival.  Now, I enjoy making pies and I have a few signature pies that people seem to enjoy eating.   And one day my husband comes home and says: You should enter this contest.  

But I doubt myself.  I don't know.  Maybe I'm not good enough to enter against all the other people.  Maybe some of those people have been baking pies for a long time and they know what the judges like and don't like.  I could enter my ginger pie, but maybe that would be too weird a flavor.  My brain goes around and around with doubt, and maybe all that doubt keeps me from entering the contest.  But if I don’t enter the contest I’ll never know if my pie is good enough, or even if people would like my ginger pie.  

The problem is, the only way to test whether or not I’m good enough to be in the pie contest is to Be In The Pie Contest!  The only way to get through that doubt is to take a leap of faith and just do it.  

       Being stuck in doubt is what the scripture in Hebrews is talking about.  The Hebrews had been taken out of Egypt; brought across the Reed Sea; seen pharaoh’s army destroyed; been provided manna and water when they were hungry and thirsty; seen the power of God on mount Sinai; and still they doubted that God was with them.  They built a golden calf to worship, which caused God to keep them in the wilderness until the doubters were gone and the new generation could learn how to trust God.  

       The people who had lived all their lives in slavery in Egypt, couldn’t get out of their self-doubt and take that leap of faith.  They couldn’t trust in God to lead them to a new home of their own, where they could determine their own fate instead of being slaves.  

       But doubt isn’t just there at the beginning of something new.  Doubt can also be in the middle of what you’re doing.  

            That’s what’s happening to Peter in this story.  Throughout the Gospel Peter seems to be the disciple who really believes in Jesus the most.  He becomes Jesus’ right-hand and is usually there with Jesus at important events.  Like when Jesus takes three disciples to the top of the mountain where they see Jesus with Moses and Elijah.  Peter is the one who names Jesus as the Messiah.  Peter is the one who really believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

So, it’s not surprising that when he sees Jesus walk on the water, in the middle of the storm, that he would say,“Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”  Peter is demonstrating that he believes in Jesus’ power, and also his faith and trust that Jesus can give his power to Peter so that he can also walk on water.

Jesus tells Peter to come, and Peter gets out of the boat and starts to walk on the water towards him.  But halfway there he notices the really nasty conditions that he’s in.  The wind and waves are really frightening, and he starts to doubt that he can actually make it.  That’s when he starts to sink, and he cries out to Jesus to help him.  Jesus pulls him out of the water and says to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

What I find interesting in this sequence is that Peter had no doubt when he started to walk on the water.  It was the distractions of the winds and waves that made him think that he couldn’t complete the tasks.   But often, we start a project thinking that we’re going to finish it in a certain amount of time, and that we know the steps that we’re going to take to get things done.  But in the middle of the project things might start to go wrong and all of a sudden it might seem that we’re not going to be able to finish.  Maybe we suddenly find out that we don’t have the right tools or knowledge.  Maybe events happen that throw-off our schedule.  How many of us have been in the middle of something and then things go wrong, and it seems like we aren’t going to be able to finish or it’s just impossible to finish?  That’s when we start to doubt that we’re good enough, or start to think that the world is against us, and that we can’t overcome these new factors.  And sometimes we give up and start to sink.  

Maybe, in the past, when your doubt creeps in, you’ve abandoned some projects.  And maybe, looking back, you feel bad that you gave up.  This scripture implies that a lack of faith coupled with doubt is not a good way to go.  But one of the points of this scripture is that when Peter did begin to doubt his own abilities, he asked Jesus to help him, and Jesus did pull him out of the water.  So, when we have those moments when we feel that life overwhelms us, when we suddenly find ourselves doubting our abilities we should call on Jesus for help.  

The other thing that I always thought about this scripture was that Jesus was rebuking Peter for only having a little bit of faith.  But I don’t think that anymore.  Think of some of the things that Jesus says about faith.  He tells us that if we have a grain of faith that’s as big as a mustard seed that we can move mountains.  I think that Jesus is saying to Peter that it doesn’t matter that he only has a little bit of faith, the important thing is to not doubt, because doubt is what kills faith.  

In Bible study someone stated that faith is when you stand at the bottom of the stairs and you take the first step, even though you can’t see the top.  I think that if Peter hadn’t gotten distracted by the wind and the waves and kept taking the next step towards Jesus, he would have made it.  It was okay for Peter to doubt, but it undid him because he focused on it and let go of his faith that he could walk on water. 

Keeping our mind and our faith on the right course of action is what gets us through our doubts to the end of something.  We don’t have to have a lot of faith to get the job done.  We just have to have enough faith to take one more step, and then another, and then another, until we reach the goal.  Whether it’s testing ice for skating, studying for a test, or making a pie for a contest.  

Peter’s doubt teaches me that no matter what I should hold onto my faith in the turmoil of my doubts.  And then maybe I’ll be able to keep going, and someday I’ll also be able to experience the miracle of walking on water, to a job well done.