Matthew 14: 22 – 33
The 10th Sunday after Pentecost
In the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Amen.
If you want to walk on the water, you have to get out of the boat!
I am so glad I am here at the Chapel of the Holy Spirit on this very day. This is by far my favorite gospel. Peter is so much like all of us. We mean well. We want to stay focused on Christ, but alas….things get in the way and just like Peter, we start worrying and sinking down.
What does it take to get someone to trust God totally? Many people become strong Christians when something bad happens and they and others pray and the crises of the day turns out better than expected. Why do we wait? Last week we had the Transfiguration and I love the fact that Jesus chose three ordinary fishermen, Peter, James, and John to go up on the mountain to pray.
Think about the events that took a lot out of Jesus and compare this with your own life. When he has to feed the 5,000 with just one little boy’s lunch and had 12 baskets of leftovers, that was a miracle. He had to teach and preach and it left him depleted. He retreats to the mountain or the wilderness or some other private place to pray to be renewed. Now, if God has to pray to be rejuvenated, doesn’t that say something about us as mere mortals? Think of your prayer routine? First, do you have one? If not, it’s time to get out of the boat – our comfort zone – and make a regular time to pray outside of our Sunday worship.
Let’s go back to our gospel for a minute. If you have spent many hours fishing you have been in a boat when the seas were rough and possibly have even been scared for your safety. Storms can blow up on the water very fast. The Sea of Galilee is a large, heart shaped body of fresh water, eight miles wide by thirteen miles long. Peter, James, and John knew the lake as well as many of you, know Big Lake. They knew that at this time of year, probably mid-Spring, the Sea of Galilee was subject to strong gusts of wind. The late afternoon was not a good time to be out in the middle of the lake. This is no different today. Those after the fish want to be on the water early in the morning. You know, even if you are not a fisherman, that we have strong thunder storms right now most every afternoon somewhere at this time of year.
The boat was a considerable distance from the land and was being thrown about by the wind and waves. Jesus had been praying and needed some time alone. Just about dawn, he approaches the boat by walking on the water. The boat is being buffeted about by the wind. This is an image that is hard to imagine for many.
This appearance was not unlike Jesus’ resurrection appearance. On a dark night of fear and helplessness, Christ comes to his disciples. They think they have seen a ghost and are frightened by Jesus’ appearance. He says to them, “Take courage, it is I. Don’t be afraid.”
If there is any quote from Jesus that we should remember, it is this one. “Take courage, it is I. Don’t be afraid.” What fear do you have, large or small, that is keeping you up at night or causes you to worry and not feel the joy and happiness meant for you through Jesus, our Lord? Some are very fearful of public speaking, others that they don’t fit in or have enough “things” to appear they are doing well financially. Others may fear about a health concern still others fear that they might not have friends or be loved and needed by someone. Whatever it is, call it into your mind right now. One of mine is that I don’t have enough time and might let someone important to me down. I can never do enough. I always have a list. So it does not have to be something bad or really very great – just identify it. Now, this is the tough one. What can we do about it to eradicate it so that God’s plan for us is fully utilized and you are fully alive in Christ?
Although the answer, for me, is very simple, it is not easy to maintain. Perhaps that is why New Year’s resolutions only last a few short weeks or diets are hard to maintain. Life gets in the way. We are fine to follow our Christ journey as long as it is convenient and easy. As soon as we have to prioritize something else that is fun or important to us, then usually God time goes by the wayside. Yet, we all profess to put God first in our lives. If you want to walk on the water, you have to get out of the boat!
There are plenty of times when we find ourselves in “deep water.” Some people panic more often than others. They are just more panic prone. Many are not up to dealing with the emotional or financial strains that are placed on them. Almost everyone knows what it is to have a calm and tranquil life, and then, WHAM!, it is interrupted by an unexpected storm. The only thing certain about storms is that they are part of life, even for the finest and most devout people on earth.
Let’s go back to Peter. As long as he kept his eyes on Jesus, he was able to walk on the water. That is key!
As we go back to school and start a brand new year and the season changes from summer to fall, let’s step it up a notch. Our theme this year at EDS is “Soaring to New Heights.” Take a risk. Jesus has you in the palm of his hand. Do something more in some area of your life to be a better Christian, to make the world a better place because you have been in it. Once you decide what that next step is going to be, don’t take your eyes off Jesus. If he needed some quiet time and place to pray, so do you.
If you want to walk on the water, you have to get out of the boat! Instead of ending with Good Luck, I want to say to you instead…God luck. It can happen. Believe. Remember Jesus’ words: “Take courage. It is I. don’t be afraid.” Amen.