19th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A 2020

1. In this time of quarantine, all of us do different things.

a. Some of us exercise and cook

b. Others of us sit. and eat. Preferably in front of the TV.

2. That is what I did over the last several months;

a. at least when I wasn’t working.

3. One of the things I did was watch movies;

4. I love those science fiction movies of the 50s and early 60s;

a. you know, the ones like When Worlds Collide

i. where there is a giant planet on a collision course with earth,

b. Or War of the Worlds where Martians are invading

c. Or Godzilla where monsters are terrorizing the world.

5. As a kid I was frightened by them,

6. But as an adult, I am comforted;

a. because that was what these movies were meant to do.

7. They were made during the cold war,

a. where the planet on a collision course with earth

i. was really the Soviet Union,

b. the Martians were the communists and

c. the monsters were the nuclear weapons

i. which could wipe out human life on earth.

8. These movies comforted us, because

9. In Godzilla it was our Military which beat back the monsters,

10. IN When Worlds Collide it was our scientists that figured out a way

a. to build a spaceship and save the human race.

b. And even when our armies were useless and our scientists had failed,

11. in War of the Worlds it was the viruses and bacteria

a. which HG Wells said,

i. in his book upon which the movie was based

ii. “God in His wisdom” created,

1. that killed off the Martians and saved the world.

12. So many of you have commented to me over the last several months

a. if not the last several years,

13. That life has felt like a science fiction movie.

a. Only this one has brought little comfort;

14. For in THIS movie, we have seen military forces,

a. not beating back monsters

b. but beating protesters

15. In this movie scientists are not trusted but ridiculed.

16. And in this movie, the viruses and bacteria which “God in His wisdom” created

a. are NOT our protectors

b. but have brought the world to its knees.

17. It is a frightening time.

a. There are those who would chide us

i. that people with true faith are not afraid;

b. And thus, we doubt, because, well, we are. afraid.

18. But then there is Elijah.

a. In today’s first reading we find him hiding in a cave. Why?

b. Because he had challenged the God Ba’al

i. by calling down fire from heaven,

ii. proving HIS God was the true One,

iii. and then slaughtering Ba’al’s prophets.

19. King Ahab of Israel and his pagan wife, Jezebel were not amused.

a. They ordered him hunted down and killed.

i. And so, he is in hiding. Why? Because he is afraid.

20. And then there is Peter.

a. At the end of the Gospel reading

b. we find him half-drowned, lying in the bottom of a boat.

i. Why? Because in the midst of a storm,

1. Jesus came walking across the sea to the disciples’ boat,

a. which was foundering.

2. Peter challenged Jesus to let him come to him,

a. Walking, like Jesus, across the water.

ii. And he does it!

iii. . . . Until he doesn’t. Peter sinks,

1. and Jesus pulls him out of the water and places him in the boat.

iv. Peter sank. Why? Because he is afraid.

21. We hold up both Elijah and Peter as heroes.

a. Elijah is one of the greatest prophets.

b. Peter is the leader of the apostles and for Catholics the first Pope.

22. But neither of these stories show them in their finest hour.

23. And that is exactly what the people who first told these stories intended.

a. They wanted us to see Elijah in hiding and Peter half drowned;

b. They wanted us to see them afraid.

c. They wanted us to see them full of doubt;

24. Not to criticize them - but to comfort us!

a. Are we afraid? So was Elijah. So was Peter.

b. Do we doubt? So did Elijah. So did Peter.

25. These stories were written and read by people whose lives were

a. every bit as shaken as the cave in which Elijah hid.

b. Every bit as stormy as that sea upon which Peter tried to walk.

26. They were written for the people of Israel

a. which endured centuries of political upheaval, war, occupation and oppression

27. They were written for the Church

a. whose first centuries were ones of persecution, prejudice and death.

28. And if all these stories were meant to say,

a. was that our heroes like Elijah

b. and our leaders like Peter

c. You know people - with true faith,

i. Could be plagued by fear and doubt,

ii. just like we are in the storms of our lives,

d. well then, I guess that would be reason enough

i. to hear them again this morning/evening.

29. But truth be told the storm is not the end of the story.

30. For in the first reading, after the earthquake, the storm and the howling wind;

a. the storm grows still;

b. and Elijah recognizes that in that stillness, God is in control.

31. And in the Gospel, after Peter’s failure,

a. the storm grows still, and in that stillness

b. all the disciples recognize that in Jesus, God is in control.

32. The people of Israel, the first Christians, had the same tendency that we do;

a. in times of war, in times of violence,

b. in times of disaster, natural or caused by us

33. They, we, look to our leaders, our heroes for guidance and protection.

a. It is the whole point of movies like When Worlds Collide or Godzilla

i. Where it is the military and scientists,

ii. our leaders and heroes, who save the day.

b. And there is nothing wrong with that.

i. Save for when, as in War of the Worlds, they fail.

ii. Because they are not strong enough to still the storm.

34. It is then that what Elijah heard and the disciples saw

a. Is important for us;

i. For God is. You know, strong enough. To still the storm.

35. That was important for Elijah;

a. we know that, because Elijah left that cave.

b. Covering his face out of respect for the glory of God

i. he saw reflected in the stilling of the storm.

36. That was important for Peter and the other disciples;

a. we know that because Peter got up off the bottom of that boat,

b. and together with his brothers did Jesus homage

i. as the Son of God

ii. because he had stilled the storm.

37. And in our modern world,

a. which might seem like science fiction but is most definitely fact,

38. This message is still important. to us.

a. Are we afraid of what our future holds? So was Peter. So was Elijah.

b. Do we doubt the reality of God’s care and protection? So did Peter. So did Elijah.

c. Does it seem like we are in the midst of a storm

i. that could tear our lives, our country our world apart?

d. One which shows no sign of wrapping up in a happy ending after 90 minutes

i. like an old movie?

e. Of course, it does.

39. But then it is not the first time we have found ourselves in the midst of storms.

a. Nor are we the only ones who have been here. So was Peter, so was Elijah.

i. But our great Jewish and Catholic tradition,

ii. which knows from storms for it has weathered many of them,

b. Wants us to always remember:

c. That even when we are afraid of what our future holds,

i. God holds our future.

d. And that even when we doubt if anyone is in control

i. when the storms of our life rage.

e. God is. In control. Even of the storm.

f. And somehow God will lead us through;

i. Despite our doubts.

ii. Despite our fears.

g. We just need to leave the cave.

h. And get up off the bottom of that boat and live.

i. Just like Elijah.

j. Just like Peter.

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