The story of Jesus jogging on the water occurs in of the gospels. But it is only in Matthew that they have the addition of the part about Peter asking Jesus to call him & Peters is later swimming lesson.
Most of the sermons I've heard on the passage about Jesus jogging on water have focused on Peter, who finds himself sinking in to stormy seas when they begins to doubt Jesus. But if they only focus on the moment that Peter sinks, they will have missed the most brilliant & promising part of the story. They can focus on Peter sinking if they need to, & it looks like most of the church does. But that is not the whole story. I need to encourage us to put the failure aside for a time & look at the promise.
Peters is faith may have been weak, but it was much stronger than the remainder of the bunch. Peter had boldness. All of the disciples got safely to the other shore, but only Peter walked on water. How much they have missed if they only keep in mind that Peter sank. This is a passage of promise: In the event you reply in faith to the call of God, you can walk on water. The lesson? In the event you need to walk on the water, you’ve got to get out of the boat.
Peter walks on the water. They walk on the water like Jesus. They sink after a few steps, yes. But for a brief moment, Peter walked on water. Peter showed great faith in getting out of the boat & going to Jesus. The reason they sinks is not because it was wrong to get out of the boat. Peter only sinks when that faith waivers. The greatest failure in this story is not Peter but the remainder of the disciples, who sat huddled in the boat, still wondering in the event that they were seeing a ghost.
They speak about keen to work miracles, keen to do great things for Christ. But yet they don’t need to compromise the comfort & safety of the boat. It can’t happen. Miracles, by definition, are risky--they defy what they think to be the usual order of things. They can’t walk on water without getting out of the boat, without taking the risk.
Miracles are not a result of practical living & common sense. Miracles make no sense at all. In fact, none of our faith makes sense to the parents still sitting in the boat. Children born to virgins don’t make sense. Empty tombs don’t make sense. Choosing death in order to live doesn’t make sense. Ruling by serving doesn’t make sense. Being first by bringing up the rear doesn’t make sense. & it sure doesn’t make sense to step out of a amazingly nice boat at the height of a storm.
Now, I don’t need to tell you that New England folks are not known for risk taking. My father is ancestors came from Scotland & were much more likely to bury their talent than invest it in dicey endeavors. My mother is relatives were all Swamp Yankee fishermen who had horse sense to stay in the boat in the work of a storm. So I need to be clear before I go much farther, that I am not speaking about taking risks for the sake of adventure. That was the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness when Devil tried to get him to jump off the temple & have the angel’s dash to his rescue. You are not going to find me bungee leaping, cliff diving, participating in extreme sports, or taking any holiday without a better than 50/50 shot at coming home again. This is not about putting what God has given to us in jeopardy as an invitation for God to strut His stuff.
But there stands Jesus, outside the boat, making no sense by standing on top of water that ought to be sending him to Davy Jones Locker. They don’t come to us in the way they would expect...growing up in another boat. He is jogging on the water. & in lieu of leaping in to the boat with us & saying, How is it going, guys? They stops outside of the boat, standing on the water, & calls us to come. Jesus doesn’t chide the others for staying in the boat, but later it is Peter to whom Jesus says, you are the rock on which I will build my church. The church is founded on the who dared to get out of the boat.
Peter does take a fabulous risk in getting out of a boat on a dark & stormy night. But the key here is, they doesn’t put out the first toe until Jesus has said to him, Come. If Jesus is not anywhere near our boat, they would be crazy to get out & try to walk on water. They can’t do that on our own. But when God appears on the scene, new possibilities open before us & they listen for the guidance of God. & if God says it is OK, you can take that to the bank. They are not called to be reckless, but they are called to trust.
The issue is--our world does not live by trust. Our watchwords today are words like protection, security, and safe. Whether it is the government, law enforcement, health care, social programs or financial investment they listen to those words as organizations explain their goals & objectives. They must protect our children, make sure social security funding is protected; they have safe schools & need to guard our investments. They have a whole branch of government now dedicated to Homeland Security. & there is nothing wrong with any of that. But when they let our concern for safety & security spill over in to our faith, our faith vanishes & they sink in to the sea.
Faith means nothing if it does not mean risk. Faith & trust go hand in hand, & that means so do faith & risk because trust is a dicey business. You can tell me that you trust me to hold your money until you’re blue in the face, but until you have actually put the money in to my hands, you haven’t trusted. It is the same with faith. You can say, Oh, I have faith in God all you need, but until you get out of the boat, it is only a lot hot air.
There is nothing more important than God, they say. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens they quote. With God all things are feasible. They shout it again & again as they sit comfortably in our boats, calling the ones who talk of getting out & they look at those who do get out of the boat & they condemn their lack of faith in the event that they start to sink, unaware that even as they sink to the bottom of the sea, their faith is greater than ours. They have no business claiming they have any faith whatsoever until they have been willing to get out of the boat when Jesus calls.
As each area of your church leadership examines their own role in making disciples, I invite you to think about how Jesus might be calling you, both individually & as a church, to get out of the boat. I understand that as a church you have wrestled with the issue of whether or not to have a church building of your own. Getting out of the boat might mean a financial leap to acquire property as well as a building. But it also might mean braving the road less traveled & following the example of lots of church buildings, both little & large, who do highly successful ministry free of the constraints & costs of property. God might be calling you to either possibility. It is your job to pray & listen for God is voice. It is only when it is Jesus calling you out of the boat that you can successfully walk on water. Otherwise it is another hare-brained idea & you’ll sink like a rock.
The call of God to all of us is the same now as it ever was, Go & make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Sister & of the Son & of the Holy Spirit, & teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. That commission is represented in the story we’ve read, which begins with the note that the disciples (& later Jesus with them) are headed to the other side of the lake. Back in March I was one time in Israel & I learned there that the other side of the Sea of Galilee is in Gentile territory. Every time that Jesus goes to the other side of the lake, they is going to be with Gentiles. The church exists to make disciples & in the day they forget that they cease to be a church & become a cruise liner, trying to make sure that the passengers are comfortable & have a nice time.
Perhaps Jesus is standing there outside the boat & calling to you, personally. On Easter Sunday I finally stepped out of the comfortable boat of pastoral ministry & became the Executive Director of the Massachusetts Bible Society. It was an brilliantly scary step, but so far, I am still on top of the water. Perhaps God is calling you to a brand spanking new ministry within the church, or a brand spanking new job, or a brand spanking new attitude. I don't like it when Jesus asks me to risk a brand spanking new attitude. I like my elderly ones! Perhaps God is calling you to better stewardship of your time or your money or the environment. Stewardship always seems dicey because they think that if they give more there won’t be left for ourselves, but I have found that when God directs me to give, there is always left over.
Perhaps the kind of risk you are called to has more to do with the way you do ministry than where you do ministry. Would someone in Shrews bury feel comfortable jogging in these doors? Sometimes they think they welcome all people but have subtle clues about who is acceptable & who is not. The new motto of the Massachusetts Bible Society is one book, lots of voices. That represents the lots of voices of the Biblical writers, the lots of voices they write about, the lots of voices they refused to listen to & the lots of voices they regularly ignore or shut out. It represents the lots of voices that interpret Scripture as well as the lots of ways the biblical tales are told the voices of drama, music, graphic art, poetry & fiction. I think it is helpful for every church to think about what voices might not be getting the hearing they deserve.
To this day I don’t know how they did it, but my brother satisfied my sister to try tithing for month. At the finish of the month, they were in the black. My sister went over the books again & again. Their income had not changed. They gave more away. & they had eliminated the red ink. They was up all night. Finally, somewhere around 3-4 in the morning, they called a faith-filled man at our church, waking him from sleep, saying I need what you have. His heart was changed, his life was changed, our relatives were changed. In the event you need to walk on the water, you’ve got to get out of the boat.
Actually, the reality of God is supply is what made a Christian out of my sister. Back in the late 70 is they were not making ends meet as relatives. My brother ran the finances & they & my sister sat down to speak about it. I think they ought to start tithing, they said, & my sister looked at her like they had heads. No, they explained, the issue is that they have little money, not much. Giving more to the church will make our issues worse.
I am not to bang people on the head with Bibles or threaten those made in God is picture with the fires of hell. But I am who believes that there is no better way to live life than with God, & my heart breaks for those who haven’t figured that out yet. To make disciples is my calling; it is also the calling of this church & of every church that bears the name of Jesus Christ. In the event you need to walk on the water, you’ve got to get out of the boat.
Perhaps God is calling you to take what lots of in New England feel is the scariest step of all to share your faith with someone else. Has God ever helped you? Has prayer ever made life a little more bearable? Have you ever found actual comfort in your faith? This week, actual people here in Shrews bury & in the surrounding towns will get scary calls from their doctors. Some will learn they’ve lost a job, some might recognize their relatives is breaking up or might recognize the early signs of Alzheimer are in themselves or a loved. Some might ignore their children or exchange hurtful words with a mate & wonder how to make it right. Is it fair to keep that excellent news hidden inside church walls & hope that whoever needs it will happen to wander in?
A quote I like says, a ship in a harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for. God calls us to set sail. & one time we’re out on the raging sea, they see God & some new possibilities. Jesus is on the water & bids us come. Do they dare? God is patient with us when they can’t appear to leave the comfort of the boat. But the church was built on Peter, not the others. Are you able to listen to the voice of Jesus saying, Come? In the event you need to walk on the water, you’ve got to get out of the boat. Amen.
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