Doubters and Leapers

The following is only an excerpt of this sermon. The full sermon can be heard by clicking the audio link below.

John 20.19-31

Does anybody want to go to Hawaii?

Well, I’d like to take you, as Barney might say, in our imagination to the north shore of the island of Oahu. There is a bay there called Waimea Bay. Has anybody ever been there, Waimea Bay? If you go there in the winter, it’s best not to enter the water, because they have some of the wildest, largest surf on the planet there. But in the summer, the bay is actually pretty calm and you can scuba dive around there if you want. To one side of the bay is a big rock that extends out from the sand into the water. And they call it, “The Big Rock.” It is perfectly positioned with a steep face right over the water and it’s about 30 feet high. Does anybody know how high this ceiling is, to the tip of the ceiling? About 30 feet? So you would be standing there about at the top. Now in terms of cliff-diving it might not be the highest thing, but if you’re a little kid, or if you’re a little squeamish about heights, that’s a big rock.

It’s become a tradition to ignore the signs not to climb on the rocks and to make your way up to the top and to jump off into the water. Perhaps if you would visit with me in your imagination and would go up on the rock with me… now I want to ask you, are you someone who would just go up there and look and go “YEAH!!!!” and jump off and fly into the water, legs and arms flailing, or would you kind of inch your way up to the top and peer over and say, “Uh, you do it first.” Now which kind of person are you?

Somebody’s looking at their partner and saying, “No, you’re not! You’re the other kind!”

At the bottom is cool refreshing water, but you have to leap to reach it. This morning we gather here in this place, we climb a rock of a different sort, it is the Rock of Decision. At the bottom we see the cool refreshing waters of faith, but to get there, you have to take a leap. We don’t hurl our bodies off, at least not in the beginning (faith may involve that later), but initially, the leap of faith is one that involves our minds and our hearts and our very spirits.

When you sincerely leap, it shapes your core convictions. Not just the convictions that we utter for public consumption, you know the ones that we like to talk about when others are looking and listening. But it shapes the convictions that govern how we see things, that determine what we do, and what we say and what decisions we make with our money and our time and our talents. Folks, that Rock of Decision is The Big Rock. It shapes our life.

Now some go up and climb up that rock and make the leap with abandon. They jump off, legs flailing, “Yes, Jesus! I’m yours! Amen! Hallelujah!” Some make this leap hesitantly, inching up to the side, watching others go first. And then there are also some that wait at the top of the rock, just looking, thinking, wondering whether it’s really worth it at the bottom. Wondering whether there are any rocks that we can’t see down there that might break a leg or two. Maybe we can just climb down and wade in the water.

Well, that might be an option in Waimea, but not when it comes to faith. There comes a point when faith asks us to step out, to leap off, to give ourselves up to gravity and the water. We might not be sure about how deep it is, but others are doing it. How about us? When it comes to faith, are you a doubter or a leaper?

(To listen to the sermon in full, please click below)

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  • After all this time…

    Well, this is it my fellow followers of Jesus, we are returning to in-person worship at First Presbyterian Church. It has been fourteen long months of us learning to be a worshiping community in the best ways we could figure out (thank you Jesus, even for things like YouTube and Zoom). It’s been challenging for me as your pastor (I imagine Pastor Meg would say the same). It’s been challenging for all of you in faith and life and with family and friends. 

    But we’re going back to church, praise the Lord.

    Many things seem to be happening in our world at this moment. How are you handling it all? We’re opening the church doors again. There was a verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial in Minneapolis. Many of you have your Covid-19 vaccinations. It’s Springtime and the tulips are starting to bloom. The Sandhill Cranes and other migratory birds are back in the valley. So how are we doing as we process all of this? How are you doing?

    Relief? Sorrow? Joy? Sadness? 

    All of the above?

    I’ve heard several phrases of late, including ‘pandemic pain.’ I’ve felt fatigued myself. But having received the vaccination shots, I am ready to be back in our church building with you praising the Lord together. With high vaccination rates among our church members and several safety precautions, Session has voted for our return to in-person worship. Details are listed in another article inside this edition, but our first Sunday back will be Sunday, May 9th, with our regular service times of 9 & 11 a.m.

    This worldwide pandemic is not over. Not by a long shot as I watch the news from places like India and Brazil, or even Michigan. But many of us have received our vaccinations and we are implementing some practices that should allow us to worship the Lord together, safely. And to be clear (I cannot say this enough), if you do not feel safe coming to church in the near future, please continue to worship from home. I will do my absolute best to make sure our worship live-stream allows you to connect with God and connect with the rest of us from the safety of your own home. We have purchased a small and simple (yet high quality) camera that will live-stream Sunday morning worship directly to YouTube. You have the option to watch it ‘live’ as we are worshiping or watch it at a later time that is more convenient for you.

    So, what might we expect on Sunday mornings in May when we go back? First and foremost, we will be together singing, praying, and praising the Lord. Hallelujah! There will be a few changes, of course. We ask that everyone wear a mask while in the building. We will not have indoor fellowship to prevent ‘grouping’ around the food. Both services will be in Bruner Hall (this is to allow for social distancing). We will initially space chairs out in groups of one, two, three, four, etc. (please find a group of chairs that matches your household). Our air handling system will be on during the service. We won’t use hymnals so that multiple people aren’t touching them each morning (lyrics will be in the bulletin and projected onto the wall). And finally, if you are feeling under the weather, we ask that you please be extra-considerate of your fellow worshipers and remain home.

    Every day of life is a new endeavor. The same is true for us in this process of returning to worship. May we prayerfully and carefully take actions that promote good community health, along with our spiritual health. Thank you for your patience with us, and I look forward to seeing every one of you, whenever that might be.

    —Pastor Derek

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