Getting Ready for Sunday by the Rev. Alina Williams

My children and I have recently discovered the glory of the trampoline park industry that booms in major cities.  There’s a particular park in Richardson that we enjoy going to on a regular basis.  At this park, there are two special features: the first is a battle beam that transcends a foam pit, and the second is a trapeze that swings out over a similar foam pit.  My older child is fairly fearless when it comes to the trapeze.  We attended a birthday party in June at this park, and she was on the trapeze for at least an hour.  Perhaps it is the feeling of freedom she attained from swinging repeatedly, or perhaps it was the security in knowing she wouldn’t hurt herself when she let go of the bar; either way, she kept returning time and again to this feature.

The beam, on the other hand, had only one chance to impress her.  Mind you, the battle beam feature also comes with the opportunity to shove your opponent off the beam into the foam pit in order to traverse the beam.  Although my daughter is fearless when it comes to the trapeze, the possibility of someone hitting her off the beam into the same style foam pit was terrifying.  She even grew anxious when she was the only person on the beam—the narrow, long and difficult road to the other side was scarier than sailing through the air at twelve feet above the foam pit of the trapeze.  Halfway through her trip across the beam, with no threat of someone knocking her off, she jumped into the foam pit of her own volition.

How often do we find ourselves in a similar situation… walking along a narrow and difficult path and instead of trusting that we will make it to the other side with a bit of concentration and hard work, we sabotage ourselves with self-doubt, distractions, and isolation.  Much like Peter in Matthew’s Gospel lesson for this week, we let something as simple as a gust of wind distract us from the reward of walking with Jesus on the water.  Don’t get me wrong, I, too, would be terrified if I was on the boat—a storm arises on the sea and is overcoming the boat, not to mention the fact that someone is walking on the water toward the boat.  But I am not sure I would have the guts to test the waters myself.

Peter, on the other hand, is just that gutsy.  “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”  This may well be the first theological bargain we hear about, but we know from personal experience it is not the last—God, if you help me pass the test… God, if you help my team win… God, if you take away the cancer… God, if you make it stop hurting… God, if you can fix my marriage…  God, if you will heal my child…

And Jesus bids him, “Come.”  But not without hard work and concentration and focus.  How can we walk on water in the midst of a storm?  Well, we must be as gutsy as Peter is, but more trusting of the one who calls to us in the storm.  We cannot expect Jesus to do all the work, either: we should expect to work harder than ever before, focus more on God’s presence within the storm, and remember who it is that is calling us in the midst of the chaos.  We can’t let the fear that comes from walking across the narrow and difficult path determine whether we jump off of the beam or stay on—we must remain focused on who is on the other side of that beam cheering us on.

Posted by The Rev. Alina Williams with

Getting Ready for Sunday by the Rev. Fabian Villalobos

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Eight Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 12 Year A

Romans 8:26-39; Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

This is the reassurance that God is always there for us; He is really the Emmanuel, God with us, who maintains His promise and supports our prayer life to keep us in communion with Him in a way that no words can express.

These verses are also a reminder that we humans are weak and have moments of weakness. That there are moments in life when we don’t know how to pray and yes, it is in those moments when the Spirit intercedes for us.  God searches and knows the heart of all.

Perhaps now that we know the faithfulness of God and His presence from these verses, we are able to accept and understand better this verse from Romans Chapter 8,  

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.

Circumstances and situations we dislike or don’t want to accept; moments in life where pain, sorrow, discomfort, or despair take over our lives; moments where we search without finding meaning or blessed moments we can’t explain- we know everything that occurs is connected in one way or another with the divine providence of God.

All things, all moments, all events and people, all that happen, work together for good. “Even the hairs of your head are all counted” (Mt 10:30).  God is always in control. Things we understand or are beyond our understanding, at the end, will find purpose and reason to be in the eyes of God.

The fact that God helps us in our weaknesses and that all things work together for those who love God prove His involvement and compassion for us and our human history. When we continue reading Paul’s letter to the Romans for this Sunday, we hear that our faith and communion with God in Jesus is guaranteed.

If God is for us, who is against us?Who will separate us from the love of Christ?

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The only obstacle God could find is our closed heart; from God’s perspective He is always going to offer us a communion. There is a permanent place for us in His sight and nothing that happens outside ourselves could break the covenant of love in Jesus that God has establish with us.

God’s faithfulness and compassion is a disarming offer in front of our human weakness of sin and limitations. His presence in our lives represents the truth that our heart is constantly seeking.

His Kingdom is well above all we can imagine or understand, as Jesus mentions in today’s Gospel:   

The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard like like treasure like a merchant in search of fine like a net that was thrown into the sea...

All these images of the Kingdom confirm what Paul had stated before, “all things work together for good for those who love God.” A Kingdom of possibilities and opportunities is accessible for us through our Baptism; not only we are children of God; we are also heirs of His Kingdom.

The Rev. Fabian Villalobos
Rector, Christ Church, Dallas

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This is a blog of essays meant to prepare parishioners for an upcoming Sunday reading.