Posted on Mon, Aug 21, 2017
August 13, 2017
10th Sunday after Pentecost
Matthew 14:22-33 “Lord, Listen to Your Children Praying”
Jesus Walks on the Water
22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. 25And early in the morning he came walking towards them on the lake. 26But when the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear. 27But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’ 28 Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ 29He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came towards Jesus. 30But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ 31Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ 32When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’
Every week on Wednesday we have staff meeting at 10 am. On Wednesday everyone is rushing around getting ready for the day, busy schedules, sudden curveballs, which is a basic requirement for working at a church, and copying off calendars and agendas. I had some things to report to the staff from the COD, the Pacifica and such, but I kept them to myself until my time in the agenda. We begin our meetings with by going around and allowing everyone to share their “joys and concerns.” I expected light conversation, but instead, I heard something I never ever expected to hear. My staff was concerned about what to do in case of a nuclear attack and where we could we find a safe shelter. I was hardly prepared for this, but frankly I was impressed. If I heard Ms. Momi correctly, she was already on it, and was asking an expert to come to inspect the school and give us direction to find shelter. Needless to say, we are very exposed here on the island, and bomb shelters went out of style many years ago. We could only consider the school office, the finance office, or maybe the basement of the sanctuary. But I pretty much know the answer to the question, I’ve spent enough time in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But I could feel this new fear in the staff and in their voices. There was a sense of helplessness to a sense of dread. I believe the laughter I heard was to cover up true feelings of fear. As we finished out meeting, all I could think of was, “I can’t believe we are living in an age we must be prepared for a nuclear attack. I do remember my neighbors building bomb shelters in my neighborhood as a boy, but this is 2017!
Later in the day, I went off to the Hawaii Kai Retirement Community for Bible Study with our seniors. As I entered the building, I could hear people talking about North Korea, and I kept hearing the question, “What if?” I went upstairs and it appeared to me this monster called, “What if?” The monster called, “what if” reared its ugly head on the radio, the TV, and in most of the conversations I heard all day. “What if?” And the fear of an attack was the buzz of the neighborhood. In a few days, our world had changed.
As Children of God, Baptized, Redeemed and Sanctified we need to remember that means, God is always keeping and eye on us! The story about Jesus walking on the water, is not just about Jesus ‘walking on the water!’ The story reminds us of countless Old Testament stories about God’s amazing faithfulness when we were called by God, but also distracted by those things that are human, those things that we think will cause harm, those things that draw us away from Jesus intense but loving gaze towards us AT ALL TIMES!
Matthew sets the scene with the disciples out in a boat, far from land, during a storm, they are tired, panicked and imagining it is the end. I don't know about you but when I think about being a target for nuclear weapons by two people with very serious ego issues and fingers on the triggers of the most dangerous weapons of all times, I feel more like the disciples in the boat than I realize.
But Matthew makes it clear, that not even the terror of a deadly storm at sea can stop Jesus from coming to rescue/save his beloved disciples. Jesus is focused. There are no signs saying, “This way to struggling boat filled with men screaming” on the water.
Of course the disciples are freaked out when they see a figure coming out of the horizontally falling rain, the howl of the wind, and then seeing the outline of a person walking smoothly through the mountainous waves towards them. Calling Jesus a “ghost” is not a sign of weakness, it acknowledges to us that they see ‘someone!’ It is not until they hear Jesus say, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid” that they know the figure is indeed Jesus. Peter shows great faith when he says, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ Do you realize how ridiculous that sounds? Especially if you were John, James, Zebedee or the others watching from the boat? “Even if it is Jesus, you will fall into the waves and disappear forever!”
Fast forward to August 12, 2017. Hey Church! Jesus is calling you to leave the boat and enter the waters of racism, hunger, houselessness, unjust health laws, gun violence, Neo-Nazism, bigotry, and the threat of nuclear war… talk about raging waves, wind and rain… We are drifting in dangerous seas!
Jesus is calling Peter, the foundation and the Rock of our church, to get out of the safety of the boat and enter the storm. Staying in the safety of the boat, rowing, but going nowhere against the evil winds of racism is no longer an option. It's time to hear the voice of Jesus calling each and every one of us, “Come. Get out of the boat, and follow me!”
Is it stormy? Yes? Will the wind blow against a church that stands for justice, mercy, equality and love? Yes. Are the waves frightening? Yes; And out of personal experience I know that sometimes those waves do take our physical lives. But Jesus is there in the midst of this oppressive, destructive, life-threatening storm FOCUSED on all in the struggle. And Jesus is calling us to get out of the boat and wade deep into the waters and to come to join Jesus as storm-defying followers of his way of love and peace. Will may at times be distracted by monstrous waves, but notice know that Jesus is faithful! Peter was pulled close to his savior and they went on to change the world!
As a people called to preach justice, love, and mercy, Jesus calls us to leave the safety of the boat and show the world that we choose to walk where Jesus walks and crush the hell of racism, bigotry, oppression, and violence through the life giving grace and power of the Gospel!
There are only two things in this world, Love and Fear. Fear raises it’s ugly face through the bellicose threats of leaders playing with nuclear annihilation, and through the fascist and hateful lies of a people spouting the lies of racial supremacy.
I won’t be quiet about naming what is evil, even if it costs me my life. I know Jesus is focused on me, and the pursuit of justice and mercy. We just need to keep focused on Christ and don't let the so-called fears of the world distract us. As we walk faithfully and courageously under the banner of love, the church will be the change that God intends the Children of God to bring to the world. Amen
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