United Presbyterian Church of West Orange

“When Chaos Reigns”

Rev. Rebecca Migliore
August 13, 2017



       It’s funny how sermons come to be.  Since I spent most of this week at a music conference, I thought it appropriate to build this sermon using hymns.  Today’s sermon started with a line from the Seasons of the Spirit commentary on the gospel lesson from Matthew—“Jesus is amazingly comfortable with the churning water, which, for the Hebrew people, was a symbol of chaos.”  Ah ha!  “When Chaos Reigns.”  And I was off and running. 


Hymn #159  “O Sing a Song of Bethlehem” (verse 3)

  3. O sing a song of Galilee, of lake and woods and hill,

      of him who walked upon the sea and bade its waves be still.

      For though, like waves on Galilee, dark seas of trouble roll,

     when faith has heard the Master's word, falls peace upon the soul.


Chaos is something that we all know about.  It doesn’t just happen out there on the water when you think you are seeing a ghost.  I bet Joseph felt like he had been thrown into chaos when he was down in that pit listening to his brothers deciding on his life.  And I’m sure that you each have had moments in your lives that you might describe as chaos.  Where is God in these moments?  What do we do when chaos reigns? 

We, like the disciples, should see Jesus walking on the water toward us.  We, like Joseph, should hold onto our dreams and knowledge that we are destined for special things.  We should hear God’s words to us. 


Hymn #177  “I Will Come to You”  (verse 1/refrain)

  1. “I will come to you in the silence; I will lift you from all your fear.

        You will hear my voice; I claim you as my choice.

        Be still and know I am here.


    "Do not be afraid, I am with you. I have called you each by name.

   Come and follow me, I will bring you home;  I love you and you are mine.”


The Korean hymn “Lonely the Boat” takes the story of the disciples out on the lake (and we can imagine Joseph in that deep pit) and makes it our story as well. “Storms in our lives, cruel and cold, surely will arise again, threatening lives, threatening us on life’s wild sea.”


Hymn #185  Lonely the Boat”  (verses 1, 2, and 5)

1. Lonely the boat, sailing at sea, tossed on a cold, stormy night;

      Cruel the sea which seemed so wide, with waves so high.

      This single ship sailed the deep sea, straight into the gale;


  2. Strong winds arose in all their rage, tossing the tiny lone boat;

      Waves billowing high, tossing the boat, lost and afloat.

      The sailor stood all alone, wondering what to do;


  5. “Storms in our lives, cruel and cold, surely will arise again,

      Threatening lives, threatening us on life’s wild sea.

      Powerful and great, God’s hand is there, firmly in control.



       As the last verse reminds us, chaos is something God is familiar with, chaos is not scary to God—it is the place of creation.  And so, we can be sure, we can feel safe, that when chaos reigns in our lives, God knows how to calm the storm.  God will be with us. 


Hymn #184  “Calm to the Waves”

    Calm to the waves. Calm to the wind. Jesus whispers, “Peace, be still.”

    Balm to our hearts. Fears at an end. In stillness, hear his voice.


       Why is it that we can’t hear God’s voice?  Why is it that we, like Peter, even if we keep our eyes on Jesus, begin to sink into the waves, into the chaos of life?  Why is it that we, like the brothers, let the voices of jealousy and injury and power swamp the voices of love and connection?  This is the human condition.  This is what we call “sin.”  This is why we need to “confess.”  And God will reach out and catch us as Peter found out.  God can take what was meant for evil and turn it to good, as Joseph said at the end of this story.  So let us ask God to do the same in our lives.


Hymn #434  “Restore in Us, O God”

  1. Restore in us, O God, the splendor of your love;

      renew your image in our hearts, and all our sins remove.



  2. O Spirit, wake in us the wonder of your power;

      from fruitless fear unfurl our lives like springtime bud and flower.


  3. Bring us, O Christ, to share the fullness of your joy;

      baptize us in the risen life that death cannot destroy.


  4. Three-personed God, fulfill the promise of your grace,

      that we, when all our searching ends, may see you face to face.


       We know these truths. 

#1.  Earth began in chaos, and we, as earthlings, sometimes find ourselves in chaotic waters, in stormy seas, at the bottom of a deep pit.


#2.  In these times we need to hold onto our faith in God, hold out our hands to Jesus, hold still and know that God is there.


#3.  If we need something to combat the loneliness, the darkness, the terror of it all, we can be like Martin Luther who it is said when he was holed up in a castle translating the Greek New Testament into German (so people could finally read the Bible for themselves), and felt assailed by the devil of doubt and discouragement, he would walk the castle grounds shouting “I am baptized!”  (Sojo.net, NaBolz-Weber, “How to Say Defiantly, ‘I am Baptized!’” 1-20-2011)

       In the same way, we can affirm what we believe.  In the same way, we can shout to the heavens amidst the chaos of life.  In the same way, we can stand firm on the rock of our faith.  Let us join together in singing “I Believe in God the Father.” 


Hymn #481  “I Believe in God the Father”

   1. I believe in God the Father, merciful and mighty Lord,

       maker of the earth and heavens, whom we worship and adore;

       and in Jesus Christ the Son, only Savior, sovereign one,

       by the Holy Spirit given, born of Mary, blessed virgin.


  2. Under Pilate, Jesus suffered, faithful to his final breath.

      He was crucified and buried, and descended into death.

      From the grave he did arise; and ascended through the skies;

      now enthroned with God in heaven, he will judge the dead and living.


  3. I believe in God the Spirit, and the church in every place;

      saints in glorious communion, all forgiven, full of grace;

      flesh and blood will live again; life in Christ will never end.

      Holy Spirit, Son and Father: I will praise your name forever.



Alleluia, Amen.