St. Mark's Episcopal Church

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Pentecost 10 2017 Sermon
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Jim Campbell

We are back to our normal Pentecost Season lectionary readings this week, following a week away to celebrate the Transfiguration of Jesus Sunday last week.  And what did we miss from the normal Pentecost lectionary by doing this:

1) Genesis 32—the story of the surprisingly pleasant move of Jacob and his family to the land of Edom and meeting Esau once again, and Jacob’s dream about fighting with a “man” and getting a new name, Israel.
2) Romans 9—yet another confusing Romans reading, this time Paul saying he speaks the truth in the Spirit of Christ.
3) Matthew 14—the miracle of the 5 loaves and 2 fish feeding of 5000 men, “besides women and children”, by Jesus.So, today we get more from Genesis, Romans, and Matthew, as we will for some more weeks.
 
I found a couple of themes from these readings to discuss--one is about moving on to new adventures even when one is forced into it by circumstances, and another is about doing it with faith and understanding that God is with us.
 
Our Genesis reading was a story about who turned out to basically become the 2nd father of the Jews after Abraham, Joseph.  This family was so torn up and dysfunctional that it had Isaac the father, trying to manage 2 wives (Leah and Rachel) and 2 wives’ maids (Bilhah and Zilpah) that brought him 12 sons (and also daughters!). They had major issues around who was loved most and who was despised, who worked hard and who did not, who was deceitful, who cared for others and who was about themselves, etc.  And these were who God had picked as his chosen people—you wonder what the other people living then must have been like.
 
This story begins a major turning point in the life of the Jews.  Joseph basically became a snitch for his dad Jacob by keeping track of the other older brothers and telling Jacob when they were not working as they were supposed to, and Joseph also bragged about dreams he had where the other brothers and his dad were bowing down to him.  His brothers despised him, and they conspired to first kill him, and then decided to give him away in slavery instead.  The result was that Joseph, a young adult, ended up with some Midianite traders and was taken to Egypt, and Jacob was told by them that Joseph had been killed by animals.  This story turns out to be very important because Joseph ends up in the Egyptian Pharaoh’s favor because of his foretelling of famines via his dreams so the Egyptians prepared for them and Joseph becoming a vital person in the Pharaoh’s household.  This leads eventually to Jacob’s family coming to Egypt to escape the famines and being welcomed by the Pharaoh at Joseph’s asking.  And the rest is more history!  The Jews in Egypt, eventually put in slavery, another great leader in Moses, the Exodus, and so on.
 
Maybe you had a time in your life that you know now was major to the rest of your life story--when you look back and see that if this event had not occurred, that things now would be very different. 
 
Bonnie and I have had a few of these events, but I'll mention two major ones:

1) Our first one was moving to WA state at the end of 1974 at age 22 from Indiana, where we had lived our entire lives to that point.  We knew we wanted to leave Indiana and do something else than stay around our families (especially mine!) with some challenges going on.  And I was graduating from Purdue with an Elec Engr degree, and we wanted to go where I could get a job.  Then we found that jobs were hard to get, and we got only one offer—to come to Seattle without a job trip to work for Boeing and sight unseen and no friends here.  We went for it, and our lives were way different than we would have been had we gone anywhere else.
 
2) The second one was our moving down to SW WA in 1994 from the Everett area.  We were in a situation where we knew we had to move, because of Bonnie’s health issues with our new house there, and the air quality around us, and because I was dealing with about 3 hrs of commuting each day to/from work at Boeing in Kent.  We looked for many months and found nothing that worked—in Anacortes, in Seattle, even in Tillamook, Oregon.  Then a chance opportunity presented itself while we were camping in Westport in Summer 1993.  One day I did a golf outing in Raymond while Bonnie checked out the area.  We saw a few examples of possible houses in Raymond, and figured out we had found our new place to live and went for it, selling our Everett house in 2 months and eventually moving to Raymond and also having a place for me in Kirkland for work.  Our lives were forever changed, as was our daughter Anne’s.  I became involved in Diocesan ministry through Diocesan Council as the SW Willapa Region area rep, and have continued to work for the Diocese and at St. Mark’s in several roles. Bonnie got involved in worship through preaching at St. John’s, South Bend and later here at St. Mark’s was selected to study for ordination as a priest.  And Anne married a local young man from Raymond (Jeff), and they now live happily with their teenage sons Caleb and Aaron nearby in the Nemah River area.
 
Was this all by chance really, or was it somehow led by God?  Did we believe that God would help us figure out what to do at those points in our lives to end up where we are now?  How much of this is by faith and how much is our own doing and how much is using gifts and talents from God to figure out all of this?
 
Jesus in the Gospel reading today maybe set up a situation where the faith of his disciples could be tested.  He had them go off in the boat while he stayed behind to pray alone.  Then when they were in the dark at night in the boat on rough seas, he came to them across the water, and they thought they were seeing a ghost.  He said who he was and of course Peter said he would come to Jesus on the water, until he looked around and got scared and started to sink.  Jesus helped Peter, but chided them all for their lack of faith. 
 
I have to admit that any faith Bonnie and I had in God to help us in our major events in life probably do not measure up to the faith Peter needed in the life threatening situation  he put himself into over the water believing in Jesus to save him.  But I think ours were pretty darn productive events, as was the major one in young Joseph’s life in getting taken to Egypt. 
 
Maybe you can think about your own lives and see how they were driven by your faith in God, possibly to do some really neat things you might not have otherwise.
 
 

 
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