I Just Wanted to Be Sure of You

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Reading from the Gospel   THE MESSAGE          Matthew 14:22-33

22 As soon as the meal was finished, he insisted that the disciples get in the boat and go on ahead to the other side while he dismissed the people.

23 With the crowd dispersed, he climbed the mountain so he could be by himself and pray. He stayed there alone, late into the night.

24 Meanwhile, the boat was far out to sea when the wind came up against them and they were battered by the waves.

25 At about four o’clock in the morning, Jesus came toward them walking on the water.

26 They were scared out of their wits. “A ghost!” they said, crying out in terror.

27 But Jesus was quick to comfort them. “Courage, it’s me. Don’t be afraid.”

28 Peter, suddenly bold, said, “Master, if it’s really you, call me to come to you on the water.”

29 He said, “Come ahead.”

30 But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink. He cried, “Master, save me!”

31 Jesus didn’t hesitate. He reached down and grabbed his hand. Then he said, “Faint-heart, what got into you?”

32 The two of them climbed into the boat, and the wind died down.

33 The disciples in the boat, having watched the whole thing, worshiped Jesus, saying, “This is it! You are God’s Son for sure!”

 

Sermon    I Just Wanted to Be Sure of You     

 

Some people never get out of the boat.

Yes, it is true . . . Peter did . . .

he got out of the boat and for a brief moment . . .

he actually started walking on water.

Pretty neat . . . standing there with Jesus as the water

lapped all around his feet.

That must have been an amazing feeling . . . I mean . . .

can you imagine how handy that would be . . . you’re out there fishing one day

and your special lure gets hung up in a low branch . . .

and it’s your prized fishing lure . . .

you don’t want to lose it . . .

so you just toss your legs over the side of the boat

and scamper across the water and untangle

that lure from the pesky limb and walk back

to the boat and hop right in.

That’s never happened to me.

Nope . . . if I stepped out of the boat,

there’d be only one way I’d go . . .

and that would be down.

I’m one of those fisher people who just pull and pull

on the line until either the lure is jerked free

off the branch or the line breaks

and I say goodbye to another one.

I’m not getting out of the boat!

You see . . . the truth is . . . some people

never get out of the boat.

It’s never easy walking on water.

It can be risky to step out of the boat.

If it wasn’t . . . well . . . we’d all be walking on water.

Now don’t get me wrong . . . some people

do get out of the boat and do amazing things.

Peter did that day . . . at least for a little while.

I’ve known other people in my life

that I can swear have or had the ability

to walk on water.

You probably have, too.

I’ve always believed that Jimmy Carter

can walk on water. That man just amazes me . . .

from a humble background in the middle

of no-where Georgia . . .

this man just keeps jumping out of the boat

and doing amazing things.

I think about other people in history . . .

like Rosa Parks . . . she walked on water one day.

Stepped right off the boat and changed the world

by sitting down in the front of the bus.

She had more guts than I ever will.

 

There are international leaders like Nelson Mandela

who turned apartheid upside down in South Africa

and inspired the world . . .

and Mother Teresa who gave her whole life

to the needs of the poor and sick of India.

In my book . . . they definitely walked on water.

I could go on and on . . . Martin Luther King Jr. . . .

the Dali Lama . . . Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi

who leads the fight for freedom in that land . . .

 

these are all people who got out of the boat

and risked walking on water . . .

risking their very lives for the lives of others . . .

people who showed compassion and love

in the face of hatred and oppression.

But honestly . . . I’m not like them.

For me . . . I’m one of the ones who prefers

to stay in the boat . . .

just like those other 11 disciples who decided

to stay put while Peter went on his stroll.

And you know what . . .

for a long time that actually bothered me.

It really did.

I’ve thought about it a lot.

Why do I prefer to stay in the boat?

Why don’t I take a big chance and risk stepping out

on the water with Jesus?

Is it because I don’t have enough faith in my Savior?

Is it because I’m worried people will get mad at me

and won’t like me?

Is it because I just don’t want to take a risk . . .

because I’m afraid?

Well . . . yes . . . maybe a little bit of each of those.

But you know . . . something finally hit me about

this passage that I’ve never thought about before. You see . . .

it really doesn’t matter

whether I step out of the boat . . .

or I stay put in the bottom of the boat

with those other disciples . . .

because no matter what I do . . .

Jesus will still be there with me.

 

Unfortunately I’ve preached too many times

on this passage as a challenge to all of us

to risk taking some giant leap of faith . . .

that we have to get up and step out of the boat

and don’t worry about the water . . .

because if your faith is strong enough . . .

surely you can move a mountain . . .

or at least take a few steps on the water.

But I’ve come to believe that that’s not the way

it is in real life.

The truth is . . . we spend most of our lives

sitting in the boat of life . . .

just trying to hang on from day to day . . .

because the storms of life come upon us

whether we’re ready or not . . .

usually when we least expect them.

Even Peter . . . with all of his bravado . . .

couldn’t stand on the water very long.

And I’m pretty sure Jesus knew

what was going to happen.

You see, this really isn’t a passage of scripture

that encourages us to have super faith . . .

to stand up to the winds of the storms

that come our way.

No . . . it’s really a passage about the grace and mercy

of a Creator who never leaves us alone . . .

even when the storms of life

slam us into the bottom of the boat.

Because whether we know it or not . . .

Jesus will be there . . .

Emmanuel . . . God with us.

 

Most of you know what I mean.

Those storms unexpectedly come out of nowhere.

I remember a member of this church

who was going along in life and suddenly

at a yearly checkup the doctor filled her

with fear when she heard the words . . .

“we need to do some more testing.”

And the water began to beat against the boat . . .

and she was scarred out of her wits.

Trust me . . . when she heard those words,

she didn’t feel like walking on water.

But two years later . . . the storm was over . . .

she survived . . . and like Peter, she felt the hand

of Jesus holding her in those turbulent waters.

 

I remember counseling a middle-aged man

who had been a part of the same company

for over 25 years when suddenly the business

decided to downsize

and he wasn’t needed anymore . . .

“thanks for your service . . . have a good day”.

He had absolutely no idea what to do

or where to begin again . . .

and he fell into a deep depression.

And the waves come crashing down.

But within a few months . . . with prayer . . .

and therapy . . . someone finally offered him

a new job . . . and hope and peace

returned to his life.

 

I’ve known far too many of you who’ve lost

a loving spouse . . . and at that moment

you felt your little boat was going to be swamped.

You really felt alone and drifting in a terrible storm.

The life you knew was suddenly gone.

But here . . . in this place . . . surrounded by

the grace and love of good friends

and a loving Savior . . .

you found the strength to go on . . .

and to live life once again.

 

And I know grandchildren of members of this church

who are living with horrible chronic illnesses . . .

and yet . . . even though they deal with debilitating pain

day after day . . .

somehow they still find the strength and faith

to know that their Savior is with them . . .

somehow they continue to persevere . . .

to live their lives one day at a time . . .

and worship their Savior . . .

thanking him for the joy and grace

that still fills their world.

So how do they do it?

How do they keep going on in the midst of the storm?

 

A minister once shared a story about a wonderful family

in his church.

They already had four children and awaited

with delight the coming of a fifth child.

Everyone gathered at the hospital

the night she was born.

She was perfect in every way except one—

for some reason she had no arms and no legs.

The doctor could not account

for this genetic abnormality.

But this was a family of great resilience

and courage, however, so instead of spending

a lot of energy feeling sorry for themselves,

they took this little girl as she was born

and set out to give her every advantage

they possibly could under the circumstances.

She lived to be twenty-one,

and the minister said that she developed into

one of the most sparkling and delightful

human beings he had ever known.

She had a brilliant mind, a wonderful sense of humor,

and a great capacity for friendship,

although never once in her twenty-one years

was she able to dress or feed herself,

or do any of the things most of us

tend to take for granted.

One Easter her older brother brought his roommate

home from college for the weekend.

A philosophy major, and a sophomore to boot,

 

he was in the habit of putting life under a microscope

and analyzing everything critically.

After witnessing this girl’s life for three days,

he asked her,

“What keeps you from blowing up in anger

at whatever kind of God would have let you

be born into this world in this condition?

How do you keep from being a volcano of resentment?”

This young woman looked him dead in the eyes

and said,

“I realize that compared to what most people have,

what I have does not seem like much.

But listen, I have been able to see and hear.

I’ve been able to smell and taste and feel.

I have been exposed to some

of the world’s great literature and heard

some of the finest music ever composed.

I’ve had some of the most wonderful friendships

that anybody could ever have.

I know what I have does not seem like much

when compared to what other people have,

but when compared to never getting to be at all,

I would not have missed being born for anything!”

 

Where did this human being get the courage

to pick up this kind of hand and play it

with such relish?

Somewhere along the line, someone had taught her

that life is gift and birth is windfall,

and that when compared to not getting to be at all,

simply being born is better

than winning the Irish Sweepstakes.

(Claypool, John. Stories Jesus Still Tells (pp. 32-33). Cowley Publications. Kindle Edition.)

 

Now honestly . . . not every life storm is quite so tragic .

. . some are much smaller . . .

and maybe they don’t last quite so long . . .

but regardless of what we face . . .

sometimes going through this life can seem like

being in a little boat and the best you can even do

is just to keep on rowing and rowing . . .

hoping to make it over the next wave . . .

hoping that everything will be okay . . .

and the storm will move on.

Sometimes you just have to remember that your

Savior is there . . . holding you close in the storm.

 

Barbara Brown Taylor once said in a sermon,

if there is a miracle worth savoring in this story,

then it’s maybe not that Jesus could walk on water.

And the miracle is not that Peter managed

that same trick for a moment or two.

No, the miracle is that when it was all said and done–

while a soggy and chagrined Peter

sputtered seawater out of his lungs

and as the boat continued to bob around

in the dead of that rather dark night–

somehow in the midst of those humble surroundings

way out there in the middle of nowhere,

the disciples realized that no one less

than God’s own Son

was sitting right in front of them.

So they worshiped him.  They believed.

(http://cep.calvinseminary.edu/sermon-starters/proper-14a/?type=the_lectionary_gospel)

 

The great philosopher Piglet

makes that point in a simple way

in this little conversation with Winnie the Pooh . . .

“Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind.

‘Pooh?’ he whispered.

‘Yes, Piglet?’

‘Nothing,’ said Piglet, taking Pooh’s hand.

‘I just wanted to be sure of you.'”

(A.A. Milne, 20th century)

 

Maybe Peter said something like that to Jesus

In the middle of that dark night . . .

out there on the water.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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