Sermon – Keyser WV – August 12, 2012

The Rev. William Carl Thomas
Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Keyser West Virginia
Sunday, August 12, 2012
Proper 14, Year B RCL (Track One)

O Lord, our strength and our redeemer. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight: For God calls us to be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

This is first time I have been blessed to stand in the pulpit of Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Keyser West Virginia. You don’t know me, and frankly, I really don’t know you. But we do share something in common: we chose to be here this morning to be with Christ and one another. You know that I’m six feet tall with silver grey hair that still, from certain angles, evokes the dark brown of my youth, and that I’m robed in a green chasuble. I can tell from the marvelous mural that graces the rear wall of the church that many of you have been attending Emmanuel for years and years. Your pictures in that mural reveal a mutual conviction: a desire to share the Good News we have found in Jesus Christ.

Let’s imagine looking at our stories though a window divided into four panes. In the upper left pane we see what is obvious to one another: my hair and your mural. The upper right pane is what I know about me but you don’t know. The lower right is what you know about yourselves but I don’t know. And the last pane is what is still to be discovered. Looking at us through all the panes is our loving God who invites us to remember the panes are not static but fluid. More like pools of water rather than hard glass. When seen as pools of water, we are invited to a level of intimacy that let’s us go deeper in relationship with God and one another.

How I first encountered Psalm 130 let’s me move something you don’t know about me into our shared window. In 1983 I was 31, married ten years, the father of a three-year old daughter, newly born son, and the General Sales Manager of WMGX radio in Portland Maine. In November of that year I was received into the Episcopal Church and elected to the Bishop’s Committee of the Saint Bartholomew’s, a growing mission in Yarmouth Maine. The late service on Christmas Eve found me in cassock and surplice as I led the prayers of the people and served as a chalice bearer.

In January 1984, my sales department and I won a trip to sail a 42-foot long boat through the Florida Keys. I’m not a sailor. I know a few knots from my days as a Boy Scout and can find the Big Dipper among the stars. The first night out we tied the boat to a secure concrete mooring in a safe harbor and enjoyed the delights of the town. The next night we stopped in the middle of some kind of bay and threw an anchor over the side. The boat swayed to port. The boat swayed to starboard. I did not sleep, and by about 3:30 in the morning I was up top sitting on the rear deck. I was anxious. I said a prayer that had a level of panic concerning my fears. Then I spotted the one star I knew and came to determine that we were not drifting to shore: the anchor was working.

For some reason I brought the prayerbook I was given upon joining the church. I had experienced Morning Prayer a few times and thought, “why not say those prayers now.” The only problem was I had no clue as to how to find the right scripture. Somehow I was led to Psalm 130. Coincidence or God-incidence?

Out of the depths have I called to you, O LORD;
LORD, hear my voice; *
Let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication.
These first words of the Psalm expressed the sum of all my fears and my deepest hope.

I wait for the LORD; my soul waits for him; *
In his word is my hope.
 I was united to the voices of generations who found the hope that overcomes all fear.

My soul waits for the LORD,
more than watchmen for the morning, *
more than watchmen for the morning.
Whatever my head thought was possible; my heart now knew was true. As the Apostle Paul writes in Romans 15:13: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

God was not about to leave anything to chance with me. Just as I was beginning to incarnate the power of the words of Psalm 130, the sun began to rise on the horizon. At first, just a glow of red beams dancing on the water, then an orb of greatest brightness began to appear. Slowly and then all too quickly, the sun burst forth and filled the sky with the hope of the dawn of a new day.

My moment of deepened conviction of the God of all joy and peace in believing occurred on a boat. Only recently have I come to realize the importance of being on a boat when God offered me the invitation to move from the fear of despair into the expectation of joy. Over and over since that most holy sunrise, the voice of Jesus has called me to step out of the boat onto the water. This is the same voice that said to the people, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

The love I hear in this voice makes it possible for me respond by saying, “Yes, Lord, anything you want me to do, I will do. Any place you want me to go, I will go.” This is the same prayer I prayed in the summer of 1986 as my family moved to Wisconsin before I knew I was formally accepted to seminary.

We worship today in the nave of the church. Nave comes from the Latin word navis, which means ship or boat. Perhaps these words ring true for Emmanuel Episcopal Church:

Out of the depths have we called to you, O LORD;
LORD, hear our voices; *
Let your ears consider well the voice of our supplication.
We wait for the LORD; our souls wait for him; *
In his word is our hope.
Our souls wait for the LORD,
more than watchmen for the morning, *
more than watchmen for the morning.

Perhaps Psalm 130 is calling us to prepare to step off the boat together. Perhaps this prayer for mission will guide us as we seek to abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your Name. (BCP pg. 101)

All these words I offer in the Name of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

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