January 14, 2024

Second Sunday after Epiphany







Mighty God, who speaks a word of peace to calm our troubled sea;
Caring God, who nudges us away from fear and toward faith;
Ever-present God, who fills us with awe,

but also raises many questions-

without easy answers;

Open our eyes to see you in our boat—today,
Strengthen our hearts for the challenges that lie ahead,
Open our ears this hour to hear the word you speak.

This we pray, In Jesus’ name. Amen


PRELUDE                   “Ave, Ave, the Angels Sang”            John Barr



We gather in this place to worship our God:
calm Presence in our times of confusion,
Comforter in our nights of struggle.
We gather with fellow pilgrims,
as we seek to follow Jesus:
Brother to those swamped by fears,
Friend to all overwhelmed by loss.
We are brought together by the Spirit
who lives in the depths of our souls:
the Serenity who travels with us
on this up-and-down journey we call life.


*HYMN No. 13                       “The Mighty God with Power Speaks

1 The Mighty God with power speaks,
and all the world obeys;
from dawn until the setting sun,
God’s wonder earth displays.
The perfect beauty all around
from Zion’s height shines forth;
and stars across the firmament
so brightly beam their worth.

2 God comes not with a silent form,
but riding on the winds;
before God’s face, the raging storm
its blast of thunder sends.
All hail the Judge, in bold array,
whose promise is to bless;
who sees our sins, yet also feels
our thirst for righteousness.

3 The heavens declare your justice, Lord,
as endless as the sky;
against the taunts of disbelief,
our God will testify.
Receive my heartfelt gift of thanks,
as honor to your might;
refresh my faith with each new day;
protect me through the night.



We let fears control us, we let doubt become the way of life for us. If we but look, we will see our lives, and our world, cradled in God’s loving hands.  Let us confess our lack of faith, even as we trust the One who has promised to listen to our words, as well as our hearts. Join me as we confess together, saying,



They can be such giants in our lives, God of Grace. Each day, our fears, our doubts, our worries wash over us, until we come to believe that you do not care for us. There seems to be so much wrong in the world, we are convinced that there is nothing good we can do. The storms of sin and temptation batter at us, and we cower, unable to find the faith to withstand them.


Forgive us. God of Hope. Remind us that if we but open our hearts, you will heal us. If we but listen to your words, we will hear peace and joy.  If we but open our lives to you, we can go forth to serve our sisters and brothers, even as we have been served by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.





With calming words, with a peaceful Spirit, with overflowing love and hope, our God forgives us and fills us with faith.

Our God affirms us for who we are – those whose brokenness is made whole, whose sin is forgiven, whose lives overflow with faith. Thanks be to God! Amen.


*RESPONSE No. 619             “Praise, My Soul, the God of Heaven”                    v.4

Angels, teach us adoration;
you behold God face to face.
Sun and moon and all creation,
dwellers all in time and space:
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Praise with us the God of grace!



When Jesus left his disciples, he did not leave them alone. He promised that the Holy Spirit would be present in their lives, and he gave them an amazing gift: his peace, the peace of Christ. Through the Spirit, this gift lives still, and it is ours to share with others. May we be reminded of the gift Christ offers with these words:

“The peace of Christ is yours today!”

And also with you.


ANTHEM                   “I Ponder”                  Craig Courtney





Let the words of our mouths and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable to you, O Lord, our rock, and our redeemer. As we approach your Word, may we be ready to receive the message you intend for us today. Amen.

SCRIPTURE               Mark 4:35-41

35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. 37 A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion, and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 And waking up, he rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Be silent! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”




This is the Word of the Lord.

Thanks be to God!!


SERMON                   “Stilling the Storm”


August 9, 2022, was a day that I will always remember.  The Oehler family was at Sunset Beach, NC for our annual week of vacation with loved ones.  We had decided to take a day trip and headed towards Calabash, NC -only about 20 minutes from our favorite beach.  Our excursion for that beautiful August day was time fishing on the Hurricane Fishing Fleet has been the head boat and deep sea fishing charters. A day of fishing out on the Atlantic Ocean with crystal blue skies and white puffy clouds – a wonderful family even.

On the website, the owners proclaimed that their Captains were multi-generational and have been steering these boats to the best fishing holes since they were kids, riding along with their fathers. Deep sea fishing Myrtle Beach is what they do. Located at the marina closest to the ocean to give you more fishing time and less riding time. We’ve taken multiple generations fishing in the Myrtle Beach area, and we’d love to welcome your family to a wonderful morning of group fishing.

We arrived at the dock, check into the boat and were shortly headed out to sea for a exciting time of deep-water fishing.  The Captain and Crew gave instructions on the fishing rods and mentioned that if folks felt queasy please head to the stern of the boat.  Seasickness was not unusual.  As the fishing vessel cut it motor at the first fishing hole, Ben, Stacey and I dropped our lines and begin working to secure a big fish.




We were having a delightful time on the fishing vessel.  The perfect weather and good company.  Stacey and Ben were battling over who could catch the most fish during our 4-hour excursion.  The boat rocked side to side.  Bouncing for starboard to port.  It was a thrilling time until my dear wife said….Phil, you don’t look so good.


At that moment, I placed my fishing rod down and headed to the back of the boat.  Yes, some one who had grown up on the water on sailboats – Seasick!


Even on this calm fishing tour, there was enough rock and pitch to make someone ill, and I was it.  That sickness kind of hung in by body until we reached the shore and I planted my feet upon the dock.  After a caffeinated drink, I had a lovely rest of the day with my family.


Now, while my adventure was not pleasant, I’m sure it was nothing compared to what the disciples encountered in today’s passage from Mark’s gospel.  Their journey took place on the Sea of Galilee, a prominent body of water about 13 miles long at its longest and 8 miles wide at its widest.  On its journey to the Dead Sea, the Jordan River flows into the Sea of Galilee at its north end and flows out of it at its south end.  Due to its proximity to the higher elevations to its north, the Sea of Galilee was known for very spontaneous and intense storms when the cold air from the mountains mixed with the warm air of the Sea itself.  No doubt, it was one of these storms that was the subject of today’s scripture passage.

But rather than focus predominantly on the storm itself, let’s take a minute to explore the situation that brought the disciples into that maelstrom in the first place.

Today’s passage comes immediately after the trio of parables – all of which involved seeds, sowers, and soil.  These “seaside parables,” as I like to call them, took place on the west side of the Sea of Galilee.  On this side of the Sea were populous settlements like Cana, Capernaum, and Nazareth, all of which had predominantly Jewish inhabitants.  On the other side of the Sea of Galilee – that is, on its east side – were a series of cities populated by the Romans and were, therefore, predominantly Gentile.

As such, the Sea of Galilee served as a de facto natural barrier that separated the Jews from the Gentiles, not unlike the Berlin wall separating German from German or the 38th parallel separating Korean from Korean.

Jesus saying “let us go across to the other side” was effectively instructing the disciples to cross the DMZ.  I’m sure they would have been much more comfortable on the west side of the Sea of Galilee where the “good Jewish people” were.  I’m sure they must have had hesitancy going over to the side of the sea with the Gentiles.

The Church has too long been keeping people on different sides of the Sea of Galilee.  At best, the Church has kept people on different sides through complicity and nonaction.  At worst, the Church has actively put in place policies that keep people on different sides of the sea.


I served a Presbyterian Church in Conway, SC and the beautiful white steepled sanctuary had large front doors.  This worship space had an interesting feature – on the side of the church was a door that led to a staircase and into the balcony.  The only way to sit in the balcony was using this outside door.  After a few months at the church, I realized that prior to segregation those pews were reserved so that Black people could sit in the house of God and worship.

Some of you here were alive when the Presbyterian Church refused to ordain women.  It wasn’t until 1956, that this denomination trusted women in the pulpit.  There are still PC(USA) congregations that have never, and perhaps will never, even consider calling female pastor.

In 2011, our General Assembly finally voted to approve ordination of LGBTQ+ folks as officers in the PCUSA.

For the past 2,000 years the church has argued about “who’s in” and “who’s out.”  We’ve often welcomed diversity, as long as it looks and acts just like us.  And we’ve done this despite the fact that Jesus calls us to forever “draw the welcome circle wider.”  The Church is in the business of reconciliation, of “crossing to the other side,” in order that we might be in relationship with different people.  Our society, and many within the highest levels of government, place “Seas of Galilee” between us to separate us, to keep us from seeing the humanity in one another’s eyes.  But the call for those in the boat with Jesus is to cross the Sea of Galilee.


One of the most wonderful stories of “crossing to the other side” occurred On the May 9, 1969, episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, During the show, Rogers asked Officer Clemmons, a Black police officer played by François Clemmons, if he’d like to cool his feet with Rogers in a children’s wading pool. Clemmons initially declined the invitation, noting he didn’t have a towel — but Rogers said Clemmons could share his.


The actions in episode 1065 weren’t complex: two men took off their shoes and socks, rolled up their pants and then swished their feet together in a shallow pool on a hot day. But Rogers and Clemmons demonstrated that a Black man and a white one could peacefully share the water. When Clemmons had to go, he used Rogers’ towel to dry his feet, as promised. Rogers left the pool directly after Clemmons and proceeded to use the same towel. Their casual intimacy exposed the bigotry of denying Black citizens access to pools, or any other place in society.

An episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood couldn’t possibly erase the long history of discrimination in pools and elsewhere. But Rogers’ actions were a step along the path toward Black and white people being free to splash, swim and live together. As Clemmons said to the Pittsburgh City Paper in 2018, “I carried the hope inside of me that, one day, the world would change. And I do feel that the world still has not totally changed, but it is changing. We’re getting there.”


We’re getting there, Friends, but going to the other side can be scary.  There will be sudden storms.  Lord knows we’ve had plenty of those this week, political and otherwise.  There will be waves and wind.  There may even be moments when we are tempted to yell into the heavens and ask God if God even cares that we’re perishing.  But the truth is that we’re not perishing.  We’re changing with one another.  We’re learning from one another.  We’re a congregation in the sea with Jesus, along for the ride, waiting to see where he would lead us on the other side.

And though the chaos may seem to reign, the creative Word of God need only speak to declare its sovereignty.  In the midst of the unknown, Jesus calls out to us and asks us “why are you afraid?  Have you still no faith?”

Friends, God has brought us way too far to give up on us now.  I’m convinced that no matter where God is calling us to be, no matter the ferocity of the tempest, God is with us as a friend to lead us to places where we need to be.  Sometimes we go kicking and screaming and sometimes we’re disoriented by Christ’s almost offensive tendency to keep calm and carry on.  But through all of it, we’re simply on the boat going to the other side.  Let’s go together.  Let’s listen to one another.  Let’s be bold and courageous and confident that we have not been abandoned.  Together, let’s see who’s on the other side.



Commentary and Liturgy from the Book of Common Worship (PCUSA), “Call to Worship” Website, AJ Levine, Brian Blount, Gary Charles, Stephen M. Fearing, Alex Evans, Joe Reggin, Teri McDowell Ott and The New Interpreter’s Commentary


*AFFIRMATION OF FAITH                        from A Brief Statement of Faith    

We trust in God,

whom Jesus called Abba, Father.

In sovereign love God created the world good

and makes everyone equally in God’s image,

male and female, of every race and people, to live as one community.

But we rebel against God; we hide from our Creator.

Ignoring God’s commandments,

we violate the image of God in others and ourselves,

accept lies as truth, exploit neighbor and nature,

and threaten death to the planet entrusted to our care.

We deserve God’s condemnation.

Yet God acts with justice and mercy to redeem creation.

In everlasting love,
the God of Abraham and Sarah chose a covenant people

to bless all families of the earth.

Hearing their cry,
God delivered the children of Israel.

from the house of bondage.

Loving us still,
God makes us heirs with Christ of the covenant.

Like a mother who will not forsake her nursing child,
like a father who runs to welcome the prodigal home,

God is faithful still.


*HYMN No. 43                      “You Who Dwell in the Shelter of the Lord”

1 You who dwell in the shelter of the Lord,
who abide in his shadow for life,
say to the Lord, “My refuge,
my rock in whom I trust!”

And he will raise you up on eagles’ wings,
bear you on the breath of dawn,
make you to shine like the sun,
and hold you in the palm of his hand.

2 The snare of the fowler will never capture you,
and famine will bring you no fear:
under his wings, your refuge,
his faithfulness your shield.

3 You need not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day;
though thousands fall about you,
near you it shall not come.

4 For to his angels he’s given a command
to guard you in all of your ways;
upon their hands they will bear you up,
lest you dash your foot against a stone.



Eternal God, just as you called Samuel and the prophets of old, you call us to lives of love and justice: breaking down barriers that divide, building bridges of cooperation, peace, and beloved community. As we remember the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., we pray for the day when all God’s children can be free. We pray for the day your children will not be judged by the color of their skin, but the content of their character. We pray for the day when hate and violence and bigotry are overpowered by love and peace and acceptance. Let justice roll down like waters, Holy God, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

For too long, God of justice, oppressed peoples have heard the word, “Wait” — a word that King said almost always meant “Never.” God, help us push toward progress on issues of justice and work diligently toward the vision of your kingdom community.


Holy, God, hear the prayers of your people.


As global wars rage and gun violence desecrates, protect the innocent, and help us prioritize efforts of peace.


In the face of political polarization, help us listen more, seek understand- ing, and approach those with whom we disagree with curiosity, humility, and openness. Help us listen for the story beneath others’ stories.


In the face of fear and anxiety, pressures, and provocation, help us find in you a refuge and strength, a steadfast support in times of trial. Remind us, Holy God, we are not alone.


Bless those who are suffering, ill, and grieving. Bless those who feel weak and worn down by our world.


United as the Body of Christ we lift these prayers to you, Savior God. Hear us now, as we pray the prayer Christ taught us by saying together, “Our Father…”.


Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name.  Thy kingdom come.  Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.





Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, who said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”   Let us make our offerings to continue the work of Christ’s church in our neighborhood, our nation and our world.




*RESPONSE N0. 609                        “Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow”

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow.
Praise God, all creatures high and low.
Alleluia, alleluia!
Praise God, in Jesus fully known:
Creator, Word, and Spirit one.
Alleluia, alleluia!
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!



Holy God, these offerings are only a portion of all that you have given us. We gratefully present these gifts and entrust them to your work in this world. May our gifts share the good news of the gospel to those who are in need. May these gifts help unburden those with the heaviest of loads. Amen.


*HYMN No. 837                    “What A Fellowship, What a Joy Divine”

1 What a fellowship, what a joy divine,
leaning on the everlasting arms;
what a blessedness, what a peace is mine,
leaning on the everlasting arms.

Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms;
leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.

2 O how sweet to walk in this pilgrim way,
leaning on the everlasting arms;
O how bright the path grows from day to day,
leaning on the everlasting arms. (Refrain)

3 What have I to dread, what have I to fear,
leaning on the everlasting arms?
I have blessed peace with my Lord so near,
leaning on the everlasting arms. (Refrain)



May we leave this house of worship emboldened by the Spirit redeemed by God’s Grace and ready to follow Christ’s call.

May the grace, hope, peace and love of the God the Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer be with us now and always. Amen.