Word of the Week

A sermon preached at the Antioch Christian Church, Vienna, VA from Ephesians 3:14-21

Surrender—it’s a word that’s defined by Merriam-Webster’s dictionary as verb that means to give control or use of (something) to someone else.

And I have to tell you that it’s not one of my favorite words.

Oh, I love verbs that are the opposite of surrender. I like verbs that ask a lot less change of me. Verbs like defend, hold, keep and continue.

Because isn’t it pleasant and peaceful when things stay the same?

Isn’t it pleasant when we can take our cues from the warm and fuzzy feelings of routine? It is!

But is this the way of Jesus? Does following Jesus mean that everything stays the same?

When I was 17, I signed up for my first long-term mission trip through my church’s denomination. Once accepted into the program for high school students, I received my assignment in the mail: I’d serve in children’s ministry in Charleston, SC for six weeks.

While my first thought was: “Wow, a summer serving God and working with children in a town close to the beach—what could be better than this?”

The reality I met on the first day was much harsher.

Charleston was 7 hours away from my hometown of Chattanooga, TN. I would not be close driving distance to family and friends if I got homesick. So goodbye familiar.

Our team was big—over 50 students serving with Charleston Outreach —so we’d be crammed into 2 bedroom apartments with only one bathroom. So goodbye privacy.

The hours—we’d be working from 6:30 am in the morning till sometimes 8 pm at night sometimes without breaks in between. So goodbye sleep.

And, there was little time for the beach either.

The first weeks of the summer, I cried every day in the closet to either my mother or grandmother begging them to send care packages (sad, but true!). But I quickly learned that a re-adjustment in attitude was needed if I was going to experience God's gifts for me from the summer.

And it all started with the word surrender.

I would have to surrender to the fact that the cereal that my housemates bought was not the kind my mother bought at home and I liked.

I would have to surrender how often I could wear clean clothes— because we only got to the laundry mat every 10 days or so.

I would have to surrender to my teammate’s preferences and ideas about how we would lead our Vacation Bible Schools each morning. Sometimes, we wouldn’t sing the songs or do the crafts I wanted to do.

Telling you all about this now sounds a little bit petty now but at the time, it was a big deal. Little things are a big deal, aren’t they?

But, my team was together in common purpose after all: to share the love of Jesus to all those we met. We all believed Jesus brought us together. And like Jesus we regularly reminded ourselves: “Not my will by thy be done.”

If you’ve ever had an experience of discomfort with something you feel God has called you to do like I did that summer (and in many other situations since), then you’ll understand exactly the spirit of the epistle lesson before us this morning. The writer of the book of Ephesians offers a glimpse into his prayer life for the church in Ephesus.

And it also begins with the concept of surrender.

Beginning in Ephesians 3 verse 14 what we hear is a break from the theological teaching found earlier in the book. And instead we hear a corporate prayer offered on behalf of the congregation.

It’s a prayer much like the pastoral prayer we heard offered this congregation every Sunday.

It’s a prayer of that speaks to the identity of why the congregation exists.

It begins with this visual: “I bow my knees before the Father.”

And what an extraordinary beginning this was to the prayer.

Though it sounds normal to us—when we think prayer, we think kneeling-- such wasn’t to the congregation who first heard it.

For the first century readers the custom of prayer as a physical bowed act was not normal. For example, if we go back to Jesus’ encounters with the religious folks in the gospels, we will notice that men and women in Jesus’ time all prayed standing up.

So begin with these words, “I bow my knees before the Father” was a huge teachable moment.

Though God is not concerned with the outward appearance, the Ephesian writer was saying how we carry ourselves outwardly has a lot to do with what we expect on the inside.

So he says boldly, “I bow my knees before the Father.”

Or in other words: start here—God is God and you are not.

And the prayer begins with beautiful words about the real heart of the journey of faith.

Or, more specifically what you and I are asked to do on this journey.

It’s hard to get through the rest of this prayer—as it reads like one long run-on sentence depending on the translation you are using, but let me boil it down for you.

Surrender your life to Jesus. It's simple but oh so profound!

And the writer gives us this description of what the surrender will look like when it occurs.

First, Christ will strengthen and dwell in hearts. And second, the Christ will root and ground the congregation in love.

For to know Christ is to know love, to be love and to share love.

Love, love, love. As simple as it is, it all goes back to love in this text.

But I tell you, it’s not the kind of love that we somehow will up or make ourselves have. No, it’s the literal living and abiding presence of Jesus in us that this text says the Christian life is all about.

For none of us can have our hearts rooted and ground in love if it does not come from Jesus first.

God asks us to surrender our will, our desires for our life, and our best laid plans to the work that Jesus longs to do in us. It's not just churchy talk, it's the truth!

I’m sure you’ll notice throughout the text the frequency of the word “you” and “your.” We know from grammar class, that these are singular words. But when we go back to the original Greek, what we realize is that “you” comes from the plural. It’s more like in English “we.”

Or for any southerners you could just insert “y’all” or for notherners “you guys.” And you’ll be at the right spot.

“I pray that according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that [we] may be strengthened.”

Or in other words—this is exhortation in prayer for the entire gathered community. No one is off the hook.

One of my favorite heroes of the Christian faith that I’ve loved since childhood is Corrie Ten Boom.

ten-Boom_CorrieIf you are unfamiliar with Corrie’s story—she’s a woman from Holland who reached young adulthood during the Second World War. Corrie, along with her father and sister Bestie hid Jews in their home to keep them from arrest and death at the hands of the Nazis. They did so out of a strong sense of a faith calling.

Corrie knew that to be a follower of Jesus meant always to stand up for those mistreated or in danger. Always.

All went well until the day when it was discovered what Corrie and her family were doing. The German solders stormed Corrie, Bestie and their father’s house arrested them, and sent them to a concentration camp. Though Mr. ten Boom did not survive in the camps. Corrie and Bestie braved the test well until an illness took Bestie’s life only days before Corrie was released.

There was no dearer person in Corrie’s life than her sister Bestie and you can imagine how devastating the loss was to her. But as Corrie emerged from prison she knew that God gave her a story to tell and share with any who would listen.

In 1947, in Munich, Germany Corrie found herself in a church sharing a testimony that God forgives and that she’d forgiven those that had brought harm on her and her sister’s life.

It was here that she met face to face with Jesus’ calling of surrender—to a person rooted and grounded in love.

She was standing at the door shaking hands with people as they left the church when she saw him. She saw the man who was one of the guards who supervised and tortured her and Bestie at the camps.

And before she even had time to escape her horrid memories, the former guard spoke to her: “Now he was in front of me, hand thrust out: ‘A fine message, Fräulein [you gave tonight]! How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!’

Corrie knew she’d just preached on forgiveness and that this man was a beloved child of God as much as she was, deserving of love. What on earth would she say next?

But before she could muster a word, the guard went on, “I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fräulein,’ [putting his hand out]—’will you forgive me?’

Corrie knew that if she truly believed that her life belonged to Jesus, there would be only one reply she could give—

Corrie said this is what happened to her next: “And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.

“ ‘I forgive you, brother!’ I cried. ‘With all my heart!’

“For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely, as I did then”

This, my friends is what surrendering to Jesus’ presence in our lives is all about. Loving the unlovable. Forgiving the unforgiveable. Abiding in grace with those who persecute us.

And what’s the result when we do surrender?

We only need to keep reading in our text a little bit longer to know.

“Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than we can ask or imagine, to him to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

Do you hear this?

For when you and I surrender to God—as this prayer hopes we will—then we are going to live into a life that is beyond what we can imagine.

I’ll tell you that I never imagined when I was 17 on my first mission trip that one day God would call me to pastor and opportunities to travel the world and preach the gospel—but Jesus did.

I’ll tell you that I bet Corrie ten Boom never imagined that God’s love would call her to hid persecuted persons in her home, go to prison for her decisions and then share a powerful word of forgiveness with the world through books and speaking—but Jesus did.

And, I’ll tell you that when God led your founders to birth a congregation called Antioch Christian Church many years ago that they would have never imagined the ministry of love that God would be calling it to in just a time as this in 2015—but Jesus did.

When we surrender our lives, to Jesus, my friends and Christ truly abides in our hearts, we’re always on the move.

Our lives are always going to be led to places where Christ can strength us and challenge us to BE the GOOD NEWS to those who need to hear it.

So may we start this morning with one word: surrender.


A Sermon Preached at Broadneck Baptist Church, Annapolis, MD from Mark 4: 35-41

This is how our gospel lesson opens: Jesus speaks. It’s an abrupt beginning (as most movement in Mark’s gospel is) where Jesus gives a vague description of what’s up ahead.

And this is what Jesus says to his followers:

Let’s go across to the other side.”

In these 7 words, we hear no physical description of point A (where they were) or point B (where they were going).

We hear no persuasive speech about the benefits of being on the other side like any parent would do with their grumpy children in tow. “We’re going doctor now, but when we’re done, we’ll get ice cream! Don’t you want ice cream? So you really want to go to the doctor, don’t you?”

We hear no explanation of why the other side is important. It’s set up like one of the stupidest jokes of all times, “Why did the chicken cross the road? . . . To get to the other side!”

But with this simple declarative statement, “Let’s go to the other side” Jesus and his attentive motley crew of 12 disciples and probably some women too find themselves on a boat to reach the unknown.

I can imagine this new journey began with anticipation bubbling over for those in this boat. After all, Jesus recently called them, named them “apostles” and drew crowds of hundreds of people to listen to his teaching. What could be next? It had to be amazing, right?

So why not get on the boat with Jesus? This might be their gateway to the next big thing! And the disciples, I’m sure wanted to be doing the next big thing!

My friend, Krista is one of the most well-traveled people I know. She's always on a journey to the next big thing.

10931409_10153039945814168_6366426733693166977_nWhen we catch up for dinner, she always tells me about her next trip planned (even if she just got back from one). You name it; she’ll do it—from scuba diving in the Maldives to spending a day as if she’s a village woman while in Rwanda to swimming with the dolphins in the Cayman Islands. She even came to visit me this year in Oklahoma (see our adventure at the Round Barn on Historic Route 66)! And with trips like this under your belt, I’d say my friend is winning at the adventure card!

Recently, Krista spent Christmas holidays with a group of girl friends in Tanzania with the big plan of hiking Mount Kilimanjaro—the highest mountain in Africa and the highest freestanding mountain in the world at over 19,000 feet above sea level.

When Krista told me about the beginning of the hiking trip she began by saying, “Our guide gathered us at midnight.”

I quickly asked “Why? Why would you start such a climb in the middle of the night? Don’t they know that you’d be so tired?”

“I thought the same thing,” she said, “But I went along with the instructions. And later our guide told us this, ‘Because it’s one of the world’s steepest mountains, we needed to start at night. If we began our journey in the daytime we’d see the tough terrain and would not want to take the next step. And furthermore, in the morning, the winds at the base of the mountain are so bad. It would be too scary for us to move an inch.”

And the same would be true of the disciples. If they knew what was coming ahead, they wouldn't begin the journey either!

Because soon after they go in, verse 37 of our text says this, “A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat.”

I can imagine the disciples' chatter to one another, “This was not what we signed up for!”

But, regardless for their feelings, the windstorm raged on and the waves become higher. The waves got so high that the boat filled with water. They could see the storm. They could hear the storm. They could taste the storm. They could smell the storm too as the water ran over their sandals, and then up their ankles and to their knees.

In the middle of the sea, in the middle of the storm, in the middle of their boat filling up with water, the disciples reached a hard place.

Their journey with Jesus brought them a hard place.

It was a terrible moment when all logic screamed these giant red flags: great suffering up ahead! Pain! Loss! The destruction of dreams! Just prepare yourselves, disciples; this is not going to be pretty this trip in the sea.

But there was no escaping where they were at that very moment. A VERY HARD PLACE.

When I thought about the words hard place this week, my mind couldn’t help but go to that one hard place that is on all our minds this morning. I couldn’t help but speak aloud the place of Charleston, SC.

I couldn’t help but mention the fact that it was at a Wednesday night Bible study only days ago these 9 folks lost their lives simply because they showed up at church—names like Sister Sharonda, Rev. Pinckney, Sister Cynthia, Brother Tywanza, Sister Myra, Sister Ethel, Rev. Daniel, Rev. Depayne, and Sister Susie.150619065558-charleston-shooting-victims-pereira-dnt-newday-00002121-large-169

I couldn’t help but take a moment speak of this hard place we’re facing as a nation, as Christian church in America with the sin we call racism.

It’s a sin few of us want to talk about few want to name, especially people who look like me.

I couldn’t help but name the heaviness of this hard place for our African-American brothers and sisters especially this morning—those who have put on their Sunday clothes, those who have driven to their congregations, those who have gotten out of their cars and walked up the steps to their sanctuaries afraid.

Afraid for their pastors.

Afraid for their children.

Afraid for themselves.

Afraid that the color of their skin makes them a target for violence done in the name of hate.

It’s a heaviness that we who are white do not and cannot understand.

But yet if we believe we are a part of ONE body who worship ONE Lord, it’s a hard place we must acknowledge and acknowledge some more. When one of us hurts in the Body of Christ, we all do.

And in this, I can’t help but think of how churches like this one define themselves: to be a progressive Christians.

You define yourself according the welcome page on your website as “a community that honors asking questions, serving our neighbors, seeking justice, celebrating diversity, and welcoming all of God’s children. We seek to be a place where all people are embraced for their unique gifts and invited to participate fully in all areas of ministry.”

I can’t help but think about what our shared family of progressive Baptists, the Alliance of Baptists which I am glad to be a part, speaks of as their mission:

“We are Christians knit together by love for one another and God, combining progressive inquiry, contemplative prayer and prophetic action to bring about justice and healing in a changing world.”

And in all of this thinking, I began to wonder then about how our desire to stand up for justice collides with the hard place of this week?

How is God calling us to be in this hard place . . . beyond just putting out a statement condemning hate (as our friends at the Alliance already have done)?

It’s so easy. It’s so very easy to take on the name “progressive.” I would say in this part of the world it’s acceptable label. In some secular circles in DC you’re accepted when you otherwise wouldn't be when you can say you belong to a church that cares about social justice.

But what happens on weeks like this? What happens when the world cries out for justice and for gun violence in churches to not be ok?

Where do we find our progressive mission then? What do we do, church?

This week, I believe, the church in America received a wake-up call.

The violence wasn’t somewhere out there on the streets. It was in one of our buildings. It took the life of one of our pastors leading Bible Study.

And this is a very hard place.

So like those disciples in the boat with Jesus, what will we do with our hard place?

Will we stand with our fellow disciples like those at Emmanuel AME? And, as we stand, will we acknowledge our contributions to this hard place?

Or will we say things like, “It’s a shame.” Or, “What a tragedy!” And leave the work of racial reconciliation to someone else?

As we begin to answer these questions for ourselves, you problem have some concerns.

If you’re like me, with such a problem seemingly “out there” when it comes to the news and Charleston not being our city or our suburb, it’s easy to become swept away feeling overwhelmed. It's not like we can all go to Charleston today and weep alongside this grieving church.

We’re talking about a big problem. Racism is no small thing. It’s a systematic problem embedded in practices and traditions upheld for centuries that if we are white, we've benefited from!

And if you’re like me, you might just want somebody to tell you what to do. “I’d be glad to my part, pastor, if I just knew what to do."

But remember friends, where we found our scripture this morning—in a storm.

Storms are dark. Storms are murky. Storms are such especially in the middle of the sea that you can’t see 10 feet in front of you even if you wanted.

There aren’t always clear answers or clear next steps in storms are there? Where to steer? When to put up the sails? When to stop?

And in the same way, like those first disciples, to reach the other side of this hard place in our country, we, the white church,  need to say, “Please help me understand” a lot and "I want to listen" a lot. Knowing that we’ll make mistakes and we never will have the perfect words.

But, we’re following Jesus after all, aren’t we? And like my friend, Krista's journey, we don't get to see what the whole climb up the mountain will be either.

Yet, our job is to actively participate in Jesus’ salvation plan for all people, us included. You and I will be changed on a journey like this—and it’s exactly the point!

And while yes, this whole calling of putting feet to our feet is going to be scary; our fear doesn’t have to immobilize us.

For Jesus comes to us and says like he did to those first disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

Commentator Bruce Writer says this about being a disciple: "Jesus didn’t expect [the disciples] to stand steely-jawed and silent in the face of the storm. He simply expected them to manage their fear by knowing that he was there, and that he was able, and that he would act." And so we too “Are not called to be fearless. We are called to face our fears by knowing that someone greater than our fears is present, and that Someone cares and can act.”

So though today, we all might find ourselves in the middle of a journey we didn’t sign up for, wouldn’t have started if we saw where it was headed, or even want to see to the other side—this doesn’t change the fact: we’re at a hard place.

We’re given a moment I believe on a week like this to confess, to see and to name racism for what it is: sin.

It’s the only place we, church, can faithfully be.

The good news is that we're never alone. Because remember- it's Jesus in the boat with us!

So then: what then will the American church do next? What will our progressive family of faith do next? What will the Broadneck Church do next? What will you do next?

We're in a hard place.

When You Want to Quit: Sermon Preached at Federated Church

Exodus 14:10-14

Do you remember the last time you quit something? We’ve all been there . . . if not some time this week!

We might want to quit our jobs (no me! I just started). We might want to quit going to the gym. Or, we might want our kids or grandkids to quit the soccer team because we are tired of taking them to practice.

Though you might perceive me to be a well-traveled person who’s lived in a lot of places in the US and visited many countries around the world, this has not always been the case. Wanting to quit on trips was an emotion I often expressed as a child.

I would weep when my mom put me on the bus for an overnight field trip. I would call home crying when I went to summer camp. And I would count the days till I got to sleep in my own bed at night when I went to visit my grandparents.

But, even with all of this true, I always wanted to TRY to be like my braver friends.

When I was a junior in high school, living in Chattanooga, TN, I heard about an opportunity to be a summer missionary in Charleston, SC through my local church association. I signed up right away. I was so excited that I started organizing what I was going to pack as soon I got word of my acceptance into the program. I couldn’t wait to teach Vacation Bible School all summer long.

It was a big moment of spiritual crossroads for me. Though I’d grown up in youth group and called myself a Christian, going somewhere for 6 whole weeks, 7 hours from home felt like a leap beyond a leap of faith at the time. Yet, even still, I felt at peace and assured that this is what God wanted me to do. So I left home with joy in my steps and all was going great . . .

Until I arrived in the actual apartment complex in Charleston where I was to live for the summer . . .

And it all got real. I found myself with a bunk bed in a room with three other girls when I’d never shared a room with anyone before. I’d be asked to stay up for late nights meetings and rise early for worship. I was served food for lunch that I didn’t particularly care for. It was nothing like home.

My homesickness got worse and worse. I called not only my mom but BOTH of my grandmothers collect every day from the closet crying.

All of the confidence I’d come to Charleston with and all the prayers my home church prayed over me when I left seemed like nothing worth fighting for anymore. I just wanted to go home. Who cared about all of that spiritual calling stuff anyway?

Maybe God didn’t want me in Charleston for the summer after all?

And the same was true of the Israelites in our Old Testament reading for this morning. We meet them at a point of spiritual discernment where they were thinking about quitting as well.

But this is the background that we need to know first: for over 400 years, the Israelites lived as slaves in Egypt. But there came a point when God heard their cries for deliverance from their lot. God called Moses to lead them out. But Pharaoh said no. And no again.

So, in response to Pharaoh’s stubbornness came the 10 plagues: the blood, the darkness, the frogs, and so on. Finally came the death of all of the first-born sons without the blood of a spotless lamb on their door. Pharaoh’s beloved son died too. He was so heartbroken that finally he said the Israelites could leave Egypt. Moses, aided by his brother Aaron gathered the people up and sets out for the Promise Land, a place where they could worship their God freely.

It was an exciting time in the life of this beloved nation of people. The signs of God’s presence were clear. It was obvious that the LORD was with them. Even more so, Moses proved himself to be a leader in tune with God’s plans. They were on the edge of complete freedom! Nobody was going to work for anybody other than himself or herself ever again. Everything was going so well as they left Egypt toward greener pastures.

BUT, this was until, as verse 10 of our text for this morning says, “Pharaoh drew near.”

Pharaoh, you see, had quickly changed his mind about letting his best and most prized labor force go so quickly. He gathered up his officers and their chariots and rushed into the wilderness toward his former subjects. (It’s a good point to stop and let visions of Charlton Heston’s Ten Commandments fill our heads).

Can you see it? As the Israelites stood around their tents and their camels and their goats, they heard the sound in the distance of what felt like failure on their heels.

And though they’d come so far in this journey with God. And though God had been so present to them only hours before, in this moment all seemed lost.

I can imagine the Israelites wanted to run for the closets and call their friends back in Egypt, telling them how scary it was out in the wilderness and that they wanted to come home soon.

They too believed they’d heard God wrong—about all of this deliverance from slavery stuff—and really, really wanted to stop all this nonsense ASAP.

So, they say to Moses in verse 11, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, bring us out of Egypt?”

The Israelites weren’t a little afraid but shaking in their boots afraid! And they chose a path beginning to name the worst-case scenario and telling Moses in this moment of crisis that it was all his fault!

When you and I find ourselves in frightening situations like this what do we do?

Some of us choose to run back toward what is familiar, make the conscious choice to stay in the abuse of what is to come—because we don’t think there is anything better for us.

Some of us choose to ignore the situation, letting our minds find comfort in some fantasy world.

Or some of us follow in the example of the Israelites and make a list in our heads of all of the worst what ifs and of course blaming someone else!

But, I wonder what God has to say about this?

Scripture tells us that as the Israelites shared with Moses their concerns, he has a word of encouragement for them from God: “Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the LORD will accomplish for you today . . . The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.”

And here in this declaration of hope we get to the heart of what faith is all about: believing in what is unseen.

Though the Israelites wanted to quit, God says to them, “Well, hold up just a minute. Have some faith in Me! I’ve got this.”

Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners tells the story about a trip he took to South Africa in 1987. Nelson Mandela was still in prison. Apartied was alive and well.

During his trip, he said, "I met a 14-year-old boy who was, like many, organizing in elementary and high schools [toward social change]. I asked him if he was optimistic for the future and he said, 'Yes.' [Then] I asked him if he thought there would be a new, free South Africa someday, and he stated to me matter-of-factly, 'I shall see to it personally.' ...There is simply no other alternative than for each person to see to it personally."[1

Though we all know in 1994 this boy’s vision became a reality, you can imagine how crazy he sounded in 1987? Reconciliation in South Africa in his lifetime? Release of Nelson Mandela? He had to be kidding, right?

And in the same way, Moses’ words to the Israelites must have sounded similar when he gave them this word of the LORD: “I will fight for you. You only need to stand still.”

For fear would not get the last word. God would. The Israelites just needed to have faith to see this movement of God through.

It’s a very preacherly thing to say, isn’t it? “Have faith.” And you’ll learn to know about me that I really don’t like saying things that most preachers say.

Let me explain. Having faith, I believe is not a snap your fingers and will yourself into having sort of feeling but it is a process.

Faith begins with understanding God rightly. God is not us. God is mystery. God’s ways are never like our own. What we see before our eyes is not all there is in this world—the kingdom of God is bigger we can imagine.

And, the story of God’s work in this world is not about you and me, really. It’s a spiritual story that none of us could attempt to write, even if we wanted to. And it is fueled by power that is altogether not of this world.

And second, faith is not about the absence of fear but not letting fear get the best of us.

Author Madeleine L'Engle was asked, "Do you believe in God without any doubts?" she replied, 'I believe in God with all my doubts.

And we too might always have doubts.

In the case of Israel, Biblical commentator, Gerald Janzen writes beautifully about this kind of faith, which is "the willingness to pick up and carry one's fear in one's bosom like a weaned child and go forward in the direction that trust calls for."

In modern times, it’s like standing on the edge of the high dive board and being scared out of your mind, but still jumping off.

It’s like being asked to sing a solo in church and having sweaty palms and shaky knees, but still getting out the first note.

It’s like being a student missionary, a day’s car ride away from home at age 17 and not quitting the summer internship over love of your mom’s cooking and the security of your own room.

At that moment that day by the Red Sea when Israel was ready to quit, God gave them an invitation to a faith journey.

They weren’t always going to know what was next.

They weren’t always going to be perfectly calm.

They weren’t always going to have “that peace that passes understanding.”

But they could stand there and endure the fear.

They could wait and allow God to do what God could only do.

What follows in the rest of Exodus 14 is one of the most powerful stories of deliverance in all of scripture. The Red Sea opens and the Israelites walk straight through to safety on the other side. The Egyptians chasing them get swallowed up in the waves of the sea, never to hurt them again.

And the same is true for us on a similar faith journey hundreds of years later. We are ALL going to have times in our lives when we want to quit, throw in the
towel on relationships and walk out of meetings because we are so frustrated. Being a so-called “mature” Christian is never going to change this. To be a human being is to know fear—to taste it, to smell it and to know it inside your soul.

But in our walk with the Lord, we don’t have to be bound by our “what if” fears. We can trust in the great power of our God and take comfort in the fact that we don’t understand.

As we stand still, our help is on its way. What my help and your help might be in the situations in our lives that produce the most fear for us, I don’t know.

But this morning I claim to the promise of the old spiritual, which says, “He never failed me. He never failed me yet!”

Thanks be to God.