Isaias

As I write this on Monday, Aug. 3rd, I am sitting in my window seat overlooking a sunlit canal. An Emergency Alert just made my Apple Watch vibrate with a notification that a storm surge warning is now in effect for my area. Life-threatening flooding is forecast, and my watch advises me to “urgently complete efforts to protect life and property.” A kayak goes by and I get a CNN alert that Hurricane Isaias-turned-Tropical Storm Isaiah is now predicted to become a hurricane again as it makes its way right toward the Outer Banks tomorrow.

Oh, 2020, you little prankster, you!

Here on the Outer Banks, hurricanes, nor’Easters, flooding, and high winds are no stranger to us. I have already brought all of the potential “flying objects” in, have downloaded several Netflix movies onto my iPad, and I am planning to spend the rest of this day writing before Isaias comes barging in and possibly takes out my internet or my power. Or both.

Jesus was no stranger to storms. In so many ways, his entire ministry was a matter of moving from one storm to another. The storm of disapproval, the storm of persecution, the storm of disbelief, (even from his own disciples!) all the way up to the final storm of crucifixion.

But it is safe to say that Jesus overcame EVERY storm.

Matthew 14 (Common English Version)

22 Right then, Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead to the other side of the lake while he dismissed the crowds. 23 When he sent them away, he went up onto a mountain by himself to pray. Evening came and he was alone. 24 Meanwhile, the boat, fighting a strong headwind, was being battered by the waves and was already far away from land. 25 Very early in the morning he came to his disciples, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified and said, “It’s a ghost!” They were so frightened they screamed.

27 Just then Jesus spoke to them, “Be encouraged! It’s me. Don’t be afraid.”

28 Peter replied, “Lord, if it’s you, order me to come to you on the water.”

29 And Jesus said, “Come.”

And Jesus says, “Come.” Come to me in the middle of your personal storm…the one that is keeping you awake at night and making the daytime miserable. Come to me in the fallout of your financial storm, and I will provide in ways you haven’t considered yet. Come to me in your pandemic storm, and I will show you ways to stay safe. Just come to me.

Then Peter got out of the boat and was walking on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when Peter saw the strong wind, he became frightened. As he began to sink, he shouted, “Lord, rescue me!”

All YOU have to do is keep your eyes on Jesus in the storm. Don’t take your eyes off him for one second. Strong winds assaulting you? Keep looking at Jesus. Crashing waves threatening you? Keep your eyes on him. Starting to sink? Look up!

31 Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him, saying, “You man of weak faith! Why did you begin to have doubts?” 32 When they got into the boat, the wind settled down.

33 Then those in the boat worshipped Jesus and said, “You must be God’s Son!”

The Son of God is reaching out to grab your life and save you. It is only when you reach back that the wind will settle down.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus! Look full in his wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of his glory and grace.

The Calm Before Isaias by Wende Pritchard

Lifesavers in Church

When I was a child attending the Gibbsboro United Methodist church, my father always carried a roll of lifesavers in his coat pocket. These would be doled out to my sister and me. We had to wait until the sermon began, as we were all good singers and he didn’t want anyone to choke on one during a hymn.

That was OK with us, because we loved to sing the harmonies of the classics in that old red book. My father was an exquisite baritone, my mother sang alto, and my sister had perfect pitch and could handle any tenor part that came down the Jersey pike. That left the soprano to me, which was fine, since that is where my vocal register sits anyway. We were a perfect quartet.

When the sermon began, the lifesaver roll would come out of Dad’s pocket and be passed down the pew. There were only two flavors offered: Butter Rum or Wild Cherry. Butter Rum days were my favorite. I still prefer caramel flavorings over everything else…even chocolate. Plus, eating something labeled “rum” in church made my sister and me giggle.

My Dad was brilliant in having something ready for wiggly kids on Sunday mornings. However, the idea of lifesavers in church was not exactly a novel idea.

Matthew 14 (The Message)

24-26 Meanwhile, the boat was far out to sea when the wind came up against them and they were battered by the waves. At about four o’clock in the morning, Jesus came toward them walking on the water. They were scared out of their wits. “A ghost!” they said, crying out in terror.

27 But Jesus was quick to comfort them. “Courage, it’s me. Don’t be afraid.”

28 Peter, suddenly bold, said, “Master, if it’s really you, call me to come to you on the water.”

29-30 He said, “Come ahead.”

Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus. But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink. He cried, “Master, save me!”

31 Jesus didn’t hesitate. He reached down and grabbed his hand. Then he said, “Faint-heart, what got into you?”

32-33 The two of them climbed into the boat, and the wind died down. The disciples in the boat, having watched the whole thing, worshiped Jesus, saying, “This is it! You are God’s Son for sure!”

We have a Savior who can rescue us from any disaster, who walks on water just to get in a rocking boat with us, and saves us from drowning in our sorrows. Jesus calms every storm, and brings us back to life.

Are you are up to your neck in something bad? Jesus can get you out of it.

Are the winds of self-doubt and discouragement screaming in your ears? Ask Jesus, and he will tell them to SHUT UP.

Are you a Faint-heart? Just look up. Jesus is reaching down into your mess to pull you out.

When Peter began to panic and lost sight of his Savior, Jesus didn’t hesitate to grab him. He will do the same for you.

So have courage! Your lifesaver is at hand.

Time for the Sermon

Crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing is a way of outsourcing a task or obtaining information for a project by using the input of a large group of people, typically on the internet. Social media, smartphone apps, and electronic surveys are just some of the means by which interested parties can source work or gather information. People are invited to collectively contribute ideas, time, expertise, or funds to a common goal. For example, traffic tracking apps such as Waze use driver/rider generated reports to communicate accidents, objects in the road, construction, and police on your journey. Uber pairs drivers with people who need a ride, an example of crowdsourced transportation.

Lays Potato Chips has really maximized the concept of crowdsourcing in its campaign “Do Us a Flavor,” where they asked people to submit ideas for potato chip flavors. Then the public was invited to vote on the flavors they would like to try. The top four submissions became actual products. So new flavors such as Crispy Taco, Flamin’ Hot Dill Pickle, and Beer Cheese have been crowdsourced from inception to having the final selection available at your local Wawa. I don’t know who came up with the idea of Flamin’ Hot Dill Pickle potato chips, but I want some.

At the heart of crowdsourcing is the notion of people coming together to help each other. I once traveled to Florida using Waze, and saved close to two hours in traffic. Others ahead of me reported a crash that had shut down the highway, and WAZE suggested a faster route.

Crowdsourcing existed in the early church, but they didn’t call it that. Martin Luther was an original crowd-sourcer. His frustrations with the institutional Church led him to write his “Ninety-Five Theses: A Disputation on the Power of Indulgences” and nail them on the door of the church in Wittenberg, which was located in the heart of the city on the public square. People read it, printed it, translated it, and shared its ideas with others throughout Germany and the rest of Europe, and thus the Reformation began.

But Jesus, of course was THE original crowd SOURCE. He spent a good deal of his ministry among the crowds. In the wonderful miracle known as the “Feeding of the Five Thousand,” we see him at his crowdsourcing best:

Matthew 14 (The Message)

Supper for Five Thousand

13-14 When Jesus got the news, he slipped away by boat to an out-of-the-way place by himself. But unsuccessfully—someone saw him and the word got around. Soon a lot of people from the nearby villages walked around the lake to where he was. When he saw them coming, he was overcome with pity and healed their sick.

15 Toward evening the disciples approached him. “We’re out in the country and it’s getting late. Dismiss the people so they can go to the villages and get some supper.”

16 But Jesus said, “There is no need to dismiss them. You give them supper.”

17 “All we have are five loaves of bread and two fish,” they said.

18-21 Jesus said, “Bring them here.” Then he had the people sit on the grass. He took the five loaves and two fish, lifted his face to heaven in prayer, blessed, broke, and gave the bread to the disciples. The disciples then gave the food to the congregation. They all ate their fill. They gathered twelve baskets of leftovers. About five thousand were fed.

Did you notice how that went? The disciples were expecting Jesus to come up with the meal. Jesus told the twelve to figure something out. They came up with five loaves and two fish, and lunch was served on the lawn. So Jesus sourced the miracle, and the crowd sourced the “re-source.”

What resource are you holding onto that would be better shared with the crowd? Where can you offer your expertise, your ideas, or your opinions in a way that constructively benefits others? Where is God calling you to take the Good News out into the public square and re-form the people?

Whatever your resource may be, God calls us to break our loaves and fish open and offer them to the world. And whenever you have served the least of these with whatever you have, you have served the Lord. And don’t forget to pick up the leftovers.

Fishing off Avalon Pier by Michelle Robertson