Worship Time
10:00 AM
1 Church Street
East Harwich, MA 02645
Tel: 508-432-3734

Joel 2:23-32 New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition

23 O children of Zion, be glad,
    and rejoice in the Lord your God,
for he has given the early rain[a] for your vindication;
    he has poured down for you abundant rain,
    the early and the later rain, as before.
24 The threshing floors shall be full of grain;
    the vats shall overflow with wine and oil.

25 I will repay you for the years
    that the swarming locust has eaten,
the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter,
    my great army that I sent against you.

26 You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied
    and praise the name of the Lord your God,
    who has dealt wondrously with you.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.
27 You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel
    and that I, the Lord, am your God and there is no other.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.

God’s Spirit Poured Out

28 [b]Then afterward     I will pour out my spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
    your old men shall dream dreams,
    and your young men shall see visions.
29 Even on the male and female slaves,
    in those days I will pour out my spirit.

30 I will show portents in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. 31 The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. 32 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved, for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls.

2 Timothy 4:6-8 New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition

As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

2 Timothy 4:16-18  New Revised Standard Version Updated Ed

16 At my first defense no one came to my support, but all deserted me. May it not be counted against them! 17 But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. 18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and save me for his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Luke 18:9-14 New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition

The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other, for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”


 Standing at the Edge
Joel 2:23-32; Psalm 65; 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18; Luke 18:9-14

23 October 2022
The Rev Dr. Dianne ES Carpenter


A tourist came too close to the edge of the Grand Canyon, lost his footing and  plunged over the side, clawing and scratching to save himself. After he went out of sight and just before he fell into space, he encountered a scrubby bush which he desperately grabbed with both hands. Filled with terror, he called out toward heaven, “Is there anyone up there?”

A calm, powerful voice came out of the sky, “Yes, there is.”

The tourist pleaded, “Can you help me? Can you help me?”

The calm voice replied, “Yes, I can. What is your problem?”

“I fell over the cliff and am dangling in space holding to a bush that is about to let go. Please help me.”

“The voice from above said, “I’ll try. Do you believe?”

“Yes, yes, I believe.”

“Do you have faith?”

“Yes, yes. I have strong faith.”

The calm voice said, “Well, in that case, simply let loose of the bush and everything will turn out fine.”

There was a tense pause, then the tourist yelled, “Is there anyone else up there?”               

Here on Cape Cod it is very likely that you have stood at the edge of the water at the seashore on a summer day, at the very edge with the cold water before you and the hot sand behind you.  Or maybe you were on a roof or high river bank, right out at the very edge so that your toes hung out into space.  Standing on the edge gives life a whole new meaning.  You either desperately want the assurance of solid ground under your feet, or you have the impulse to charge into the unknown. 

Standing on the edge gives one a very important and different perspective on life.  A famous theologian of last century used to speak of finding truth at the boundaries where opposites meet.  The truth is found at the boundary of love and hate, of peace and war, of life and death. 

In Paul’s letter to Timothy, Paul was “standing at the edge”—of life.  He is able to say “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”  What a good feeling!  Looking back, I’m OK.  And looking ahead, I’m OK.  “There is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the lord will award me…”  Paul is in prison about to be put to death, and he can say—“I’m OK, it’s OK.”

Most of us hope that we will be ready to let go when we come to the natural end of our lives.  But the edge is not a “natural” place.  Paul was in the grip of a political vise: to follow Caesar or God… to worship Caesar or the God who had approached him on the Damascus Road.   

We will all stand at the edge of life, some of us for a brief time and some for long years of physical and emotional illness.  Are you “standing at the edge “ today?  How does that feel?  Are you OK?

We might ask where our nation or our world is today.  Are we “at the edge” of extinction or renewal…. Are we OK?

We have choices: We can either desperately want the assurance of solid ground under our feet – which for many people means a revival of traditional realities- status quo, or we have the impulse to charge into the unknown possibilities of the future. 

The quote by Kurt Vonnegut Jr votes for creative possibilities:

“I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over.

Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can’t see from the center.

Possibilities for Environmental sustainability

Possibilities for social justice

Possibilities for Shalom: Peace with justice

But can we do that alone? 


The sense of standing at the edge, all alone comes to each of us in times of defenselessness.  Aloneness, in a world full of people, feels like being abandoned.  And at that moment, we pray for a sense of God with us.  We pray to be rescued.  Nothing is OK until God is with us.  Yet, many alone and struggling people are trying to get in touch with a sense of God’s presence.  They are immigrants fleeing dangerous regimes, they are people who are food insecure, and they are people who cannot afford housing.    It used to be that many joined churches to have that sense of God with them.

The church was to be a microcosm – an inbreaking experience of the Kingdom of God…a safe place of creative possibilities.  The fulfillment of the promises in Joel this morning…

And my people shall never again be put to shame.
27 You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel
    and that I, the Lord, am your God and there is no other.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.

28 [b]Then afterward I will pour out my spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
    your old men shall dream dreams,
    and your young men shall see visions.
29 Even on the male and female slaves,
    in those days I will pour out my spirit.

However, the church has turned the Gospel message inside out and upside down at times in its theological history so that the church is deeply divided  — like the human race – But the missional edge is where we meet each other and actually follow God’s plan for Prophesy, dreams, and visions.

The gospel today says to us beware.  “Beware of approaching God like the Pharisees.‘’  Beware of the presumption of standing boldly in the presence of God and praying with yourself: “God, I thank you that I’m not like other people, extortionists, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.”  The gospel says to beware of being too sure of your righteousness because truth may be more evident when you are at the boundary of social acceptability.  This is not the threat “pride, cometh before a fall.”  This is a simple proclamation that pride, or certainty that we are right in the sight of God is sin.  Life is full of uncertainty and that’s OK.  But to uncritically say we ourselves are OK, that we stand in judgment of everyone who is aware of their own broken and fallen condition, is sin.

In a world where conformity is praised and earthly rewards like money and recognition are commonly accepted as signs of God’s favor, fewer and fewer people can live with uncertainty. 

Teen suicide and dependency on drugs and alcohol are signs that even tragic oblivion seems better than the uncertainty and feeling alone, “standing at the edge.”  A vision of what God wants us to be and how far we fall short may be clearer when we are alone, or we have nothing to lose and everything to lose, when we finally pray to God instead of to ourselves, we pray for strength to live with emotional and physical pain and uncertainty.

While most of us are comfortably situated within the mainstream of life with its not-so-major decisions, many individuals and eventually even we ourselves will come to a moment in which we are “standing at the edge.”  The prisoner about to face sentencing, the sinner who is humbled before God, and maybe even one of our neighbors or friends who is in the midst of a marriage crisis, sudden illness or loss of life have a lot to teach us when they are the most unacceptable to us.

This is the essence of the realization that, “There but for the grace of God go I.”  Without the realization of our common humanity and vulnerability, mainstream people cannot act with compassionate concern for others.  The tragedy of short memory, when we have struggled and lived through difficult times only to say, “I did it, so can they” is all too common today.  [crippling student loans]  True grace and true acceptance of the saving grace of God has a long memory which bears the fruit of compassion, while good fortune and cheap grace has little understanding and less fruits. 

Compassion costs, because at the very least it means grappling with the frustration and pain of standing at the edge with someone else, standing at the edge when we believe we are safe in the crowd.  The conviction of God’s way of peace and love costs even more, because we have to face uncertainty and setbacks at every step in a world ruled by fear.

God knows that if we can get beyond our own shortsightedness we will find Him ready to run this race we call life with us.  God also calls us to run with each other here in this church and this town– God calls us to run with people throughout the world, with immigrants and displaced persons.  But sometimes, too often, we get in each other’s way, rather than running with each other.  We condemn when we could encourage, we run ahead when we could have slowed our pace.

There are some in this room or just outside our doors who are standing on the edge, or have made only the beginning steps of feeling solid ground under their feet.  Maybe the solid ground has been a lifetime pursuit or maybe it is a great temporary desire after depression and loss. Someone here today or in the places we will go today and this week desperately needs the people in this room to be God with them.  The responsibility that people who are feeling OK have is the responsibility to join hands with those who sorrow.  The responsibility we have to each other is to build one another up, not to tear one another or anyone down.  If a juvenile Court offender was given alternative service in this place, could we encourage them to finish this task and move ahead, proclaiming we are with them as they attempt to move away from the edge where they are standing? 

If a single parent came here, sometimes afraid and sometimes angry at the difficulties and facing a world where they are pushed to the edge because they have not yet got both feet on the ground; if he or she came could we minister to that person?

At the November ballot box there will be questions concerning people and issues which will demand standing at the edge of our current comfort zone so that we can affirm that God’s vision is our vision and We are OK with that.

A builder works with God’s creation instead of thanking God that he or she is not like the rest of God’s creation.  Sometimes working with people is a slow business.  A priest or a pastor counsels people over months, not days.  A person who has made a wrong choice lives with the consequences for years.  God knew that working with people is a slow business God knew it as God, on a cross between two thieves.  But because God hung there for sinners who would not understand, because God was willing to stand at the edge of life itself, God showed us that there is a greater life through turning to him than through praying to ourselves. 

May the assurance of God’s presence be with you as you stand at the edge, today or tomorrow.  May you grasp the challenge to stand at the edge, to tarry with those who have no defense and have been abandoned.  And may we all see the Glory of the lord in the Kingdom come, together.

1 Church St, Harwich, MA 02645
508 432-3734