Sermon from August 7 - Based on Matthew 14: 22-33 (although it is not my practice to blog sermons...after a few requests for the written version - here it is).
Poor, poor Peter. This guy gets such a bad rap...if only he had a bit more faith, or trusted a bit more then surely he could’ve walked upon the water, through the violent storm, in the pitch black of the night to Jesus....
Yeah - I don’t think so. Because last time I checked people were never made to walk on water. I’m not so sure Peter sinks because he’s afraid or lacks faith...is it possible he sinks because he’s supposed to.
Peter’s sinking doesn’t surprise Jesus at all... Jesus immediately reaches out his hand and catches Peter.
Have you ever had one of those falling dreams? You know, the kind where you’re dead asleep and then all of a sudden you are in a free fall? Something wakes you up, your heart is beating about a million miles and hour, and you are so thankful you are no longer falling.
Something about falling brings our fragility straight to the forefront.
Which is actually one of the things that is so intriguing about Peter...and this may be a bit different than you’ve thought about it before, but I think it’s possible that Peter knows he’s going to fall.
Really, let’s think about this, because maybe he just happens to be one of the smartest in the bunch.
Remember the boat the disciples are in is getting tossed and turned about in a violent storm. They have been fighting the storm all night, they are tired, and they presume they’ve been left alone.
Their little boat could capsize at any moment and they could be swallowed up. Their, and our, worst nightmare is about to come true.
So, when Jesus shows up things are still crazy violent. The wind is still whipping, the rains are still bearing down on them, it is still the dead of night!
Jesus’ presence at the beginning doesn’t automatically calm down their lives. Don’t we all know that?!
Every bit of reason tells Peter he is going to die - whether he gets out of the boat or stays in the boat. So he chooses to go from total chaos into complete and utter insanity.
Faced with the choice between going through the storm in the boat or going through the storm with Jesus, Peter’s picking Jesus.
Peter picks falling...into Jesus.
I don’t think we like to admit this very often, but sometimes falling is the best thing that ever happens to us. Now, I am not advocating, jumping out of a boat on a stormy sea, but the clear choices in life aren’t the hard ones.
The choices which are so hard, so scary, are those in which no matter what we do we feel as if we are doomed. It’s like Peter - there’s a mess staying in the boat and a mess getting out of the boat.
When choices are clear, when life is going smoothly it’s easy (or maybe easier) to profess our belief in God. But when choices aren’t clear, when life keeps hitting us with one thing after another, I think we’re more apt to say, “God, why aren’t you doing something?” or “I just don’t know what to do.”
I really hate this, but it’s been my experience and people have told me the same thing and honestly, it is the witness of the entire Bible -
Storms are often when we most encounter God. The closest I’ve ever felt to God was in the worst times of my life. I wish that wasn’t true, but it is.
Peter - about to lose his life - finally knows that his whole life, his whole being, is utterly in Jesus’ hands. The only one who can save him in Jesus...and he finally knows it. “Lord, save me.”
Lord, save us.
Save us from the things we know we need saving from and the things we don’t.
Peter’s worries that night were all about the storm...I don’t think he stopped worrying just because Jesus had him, but I do think he knew he’d make it.
So what are your worries? What’s your storm? What’s the thing that gives you the ‘falling dream’?
Now here’s the thing - Peter picks Jesus - he makes a choice...seemingly the right one. Choose Jesus - isn’t that what we often say. Well, seriously, of course I want to choose Jesus...I sometimes just don’t know where he is or what if I make the wrong choice. I am in a storm after all and can’t really see straight...
I actually don’t think this is about our choice. This is about Jesus‘ choice. Jesus‘ choice to be with us no matter whether we stay in the boat or get out of the boat; whether we go left or right; whether we stay or we go.
Jesus is actually on the water and in the boat.
Where’s Jesus in all you are going through?
Wherever you are.
The promise I want you to hear today is, Jesus is with you in it, even if you can’t see him, feel him; even if when your trust falters, even when you’re fairly certain that God’s got bigger things to worry about then what you’re going through...
I was thinking about this - about Peter’s willingness and unwillingness to trust, about the storms of life, and about how sometimes it really is hard to know how we’re going to make it when we just feel like our heads are under water and we’re drowning.
I was reminded of this image someone once used to talk about trusting our faith. And I think it is about that, but I think it’s actually more about God’s faithfulness to us.
So maybe this is an image, a story, a vision, that you can carry with you.
All of my children can swim - they are great swimmers. We started them early...
When they were learning the lifeguards stood in the water, put their arms out and said, “Come on. Get in. You will be fine.” And they were. Maybe when we’re younger we just don’t know any better.
Soon they were swimming...maybe not across the Chesapeake, but swimming none-the-less. They learned if they moved their arms and legs with enough vigor and determination - basically if they thrashed around enough- then they wouldn’t sink or swallow too much water.
However, when it came time for them to learn how to float on their backs the experience was entirely different. The whole thing is counter-intuitive. We want to thrash to stay afloat, but if we do that when we’re on our backs, then we end up swallowing a bunch a water and sinking.
Lying on our backs we are sure we are going to fall...sink straight to the bottom of the pool.
But eventually, if we give up control and trust that the water really will support us, really will hold us up, really can do what seems totally impossible, then we float!
We realize that the thing we need to float has been there the whole time and it has nothing to do with us. Floating has everything to do with the water.
You making it through the storms of life has everything to do with God’s promise in Jesus - never will I leave you, never will I forsake you, I am with you until the end of the age.
We have been caught by a God who will move heaven and earth; wind and water to save us.
Save us Lord, because we need you so. Amen.
Save us Lord, because we need you so. Amen.