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)

This entry was posted in Sermons. Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.
  • Affirmations of Faith

    On the last Sunday of October, ‘Mission Sunday,’ many of you helped us pack more than two hundred bags for a local school food distribution program.  Those bags of food went out to local schoolchildren, who live in food insecure settings, to keep their bellies full. The food we provided has the potential to ensure the schoolchildren are more successful in life and in their education.  In worship we sometimes use the phrase ‘Affirmation of Faith’ and then repeat a longstanding confession of the church, such as the Apostles’ Creed or the Brief Statement of Faith. I value reciting these affirmations, because they remind us of the core values we hold as Christians. But as I was thinking about this over the last few months, I believe that such mission work to the community around us is an even deeper affirmation of our faith by acknowledging Jesus’ call upon our lives, and then living out that ministry.

    I want to share information with you this month about another ministry which I believe is an affirmation of our faith. You have heard us talk about it quite a bit but may not know the details. For years now the Deacon’s Fund at First Presbyterian Church has provided financial assistance to those in our community facing immediate financial need that impacts their ability to live a healthy and productive life.

    There are social services around town, which provide supportive and meaningful resources, but there can be qualifications and restrictions associated with the access of those services. The Deacon’s Fund strives to offer judgment-free ministry to those who are facing financial challenges in life and helps people access these services.

    Barbara Troisi and Beth MacDonald are currently our two Deacon’s Fund facilitators.  They spend time each month looking at applications for assistance, and then distribute funds, which may involve multiple phone calls, trips to the store for Smith’s gift cards (useful for food or fuel), and various other tasks.  Prior to Beth and Barbara, other wonderful people contributed their efforts to this ministry: Linda Roberts, Tina Purintun, Kelly Rhea, Terry Brennand, Barbara Lutz (I am sure I have left a name or two off, please forgive me). Pam Riffe also makes contributions and supports people applying for these funds in her role as our office administrator.

    These are some of the ‘saints’ of the church. These are angels among us – superheroes, one might say – who make time in their lives to help others.

    The Deacon’s Fund recently received a large contribution from a couple in our community.  They are not part of our church, but they learned of our efforts to help local people through some friends who are church members.  They made this contribution to help those who are struggling to find sustainable and affordable housing. They wanted to make a significant contribution to help with housing issues and knew that First Presbyterian Church would be a wonderful avenue for those efforts. I am thankful for everyone who makes contributions to the Deacon’s Fund, small or large (most offerings to this ministry come in $10, $20, or $100 increments). Over the decades these dollars have helped hundreds of people in our community in moments of great need. This is truly part of the mission of the church, and one of the callings Jesus has placed upon us.

    Beth MacDonald is transitioning out of her role as a Deacon’s Fund facilitator at the end of the year (she will be plenty busy helping to organize and lead the Westminster Bell Choir). Thank you, Beth, for your efforts. This means we are looking for a new Deacon’s Fund coordinator to work alongside Barbara Troisi. If any of you would like to help, please let me know. If you have questions about this ministry, please talk to Beth, Barbara, or me. Beth has set up a nice spreadsheet to help keep track of funds received and funds dispersed. You don’t need to be a financial expert or math whiz to fill this role, only to have a caring heart.

    The ministry efforts of Mission Sunday and through the Deacon’s Fund are two of the wonderful aspects of First Presbyterian Church. Our calling as a faith community is certainly to worship and praise the Lord, but also to share the good news and make helpful, life-affirming contributions to the community and world around us. I pray that our ministry together continues to be vigorous.

    May the grace and peace of Christ be with you all,

    Pastor Derek

  • Pages