Unraveled: Step Out into The Swell

Romans 10:5-15                       Unraveled: Step Out into The Swell                                   7/4/2021

Matthew 14:22-33                                   Rev. Mark Allio                The 6th Sunday after Pentecost

 

Romans 10:5-15

5 Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that “the person who does these things will live by them.” 6 But the righteousness that comes from faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say?

“The word is near you,
on your lips and in your heart”

(that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9 because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. 11 The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. 13 For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

14 But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? 15 And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

 

Matthew 14:22-33

22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. 25 And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. 27 But 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.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

The Word of God for the People of God.

Thanks be to God.

I have a confession to make to you all. I can’t swim. It’s not for a lack of trying. I’ve taken so many swim lessons from preschool up through college, but no matter what I just can’t get it. Now connected to that, I’m terrified of water. I’ve been on boats, I’ve been in the ocean, I’ve even gone whitewater rafting in Colorado. But no matter what I’ve done or tried I’m still scared of the water.

 

In ancient Israel, there was a fear of the open water. It symbolized chaos. Storms would blow in rapidly. The sea would get rough and various boats and crew would go missing never to be seen again. They believed in sea creatures, monsters that could easily destroy a boat and eat the crew.

 

Our passage today is the second time we see the disciples out on the sea when a storm shows up. The first time we find Jesus sleeping below deck and the disciples, most being seasoned fishermen, become so terrified that they wake up Jesus, the teacher. I’m not sure what they were expecting Jesus to do but Jesus causes the storm to stop. Leaving the disciples to ask, “What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?”

 

The second time the disciples find themselves in a storm is right after the feeding of the 5000. Jesus has the disciples get into the boat and leave without him. Then dismissing the crowds, Jesus goes up the mountain to pray. The disciples battle the storm all night long until they see something coming towards them on the water. They become terrified, thinking it is some sort of ghost. Jesus calls out to them, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”

 

Peter then does something that is very much, Peter like. He calls out, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”

 

Jesus responds with a simple, “Come.”

 

So, Peter steps out on the water and does it! He walks on the water, well at least for a little while. Many are quick to point to Peter’s lack of faith. Peter, however, was the only one to get out of the boat. That took faith.

 

But why? What was Peter thinking? Why did he even think he could walk on water?

 

In first century Israel, the hope of every parent and every little boy was to one day be a Rabbi. The schooling that most would receive was in preparation of one day perhaps being a disciple and a rabbi. They would begin by memorizing the Torah, Genesis through Deuteronomy. If they were able to do this they would continue to memorize more and more of the Hebrew scripture. But, at any time if they weren’t able to do it, the Rabbi would say, “Go home, have children, and pray that they may become a Rabbi. Go home and ply your trade.”

 

 

But, if they were the best of the best, they would then start following a Rabbi. The Rabbi would test them and if they thought the student could do what they do, then the Rabbi would say, “Follow me.” And that student would officially become a disciple. The student would follow the Rabbi and literally imitate him in every way, especially his teaching and mannerisms.

 

As one would leave and begin to follow, family and friends would give a blessing saying, “May you be covered with the dust of your Rabbi.” The students followed him so closely that the dust from the road that came from the feet of the Rabbi would cover the disciple.

The disciples of Jesus weren’t the best of the best. They had all been sent home and started families and began working the family trade. And yet, here comes this new Rabbi who calls them and says, “Follow me.”

 

So, Peter sees his Rabbi walking on the water so he knows that as a disciple he needs to follow Jesus out there. And at first, he does it! He walks on the water. But then the fierce winds begin to cause him to doubt.  Now here’s the thing. Peter doesn’t doubt Jesus. Peter doubts himself.

 

For centuries the church has been portrayed as a boat. Some churches are even designed to look like boats. This points both to the ark, and to the stories of Jesus and the disciples. It’s the church tossed on a sea of worldliness and chaos saving those drowning in the waters. But what we need to remember is the church is a boat not a cruise ship.

 

Has anyone here been on a cruise?

 

On a cruise ship there is a crew and passengers, and the passengers have a very passive role, the biggest decision is on which side of the deck to lounge in. Boat on a boat everyone is part of the crew, everyone has a job to do.

 

On a cruise ship people are free to choose any kind of entertainment possible: shows, dancing, shuffleboard, swimming, or just napping the day away. They are only in charge of themselves. But on a boat, it takes teamwork. Everyone is relying on each other to carry the load and if they can’t work together, well they are quite literally sunk.

 

On a cruise ship everyone can eat where the want, anywhere they want, anytime they want. They can eat in their rooms, they can eat on the deck, they can sit at any table with whoever they want. But on a boat, there is one common table and meals are made for set times. You eat together. You share a meal together.

 

And today we get to share in this communion meal together. For this is a table we all share. This is the bread and the cup that our Lord serves to us.

 

Thankfully the church is a boat and not cruise ship. Thankfully we are all in this together. Working together. Eating together. Sharing our lives together.

 

You have done an amazing job being a part of crew at Jefferson Center. We have a 150-year celebration next week to show for it! Granted, not many can take credit for all those years.

 

But what is true 150 years ago, was true 2,000 years ago, and is true today. Jesus is calling us to get out of the boat. Now hold on, don’t go running out the door yet. Jesus is calling us to step out in faith into the world. It means inviting people to come to church. It means bringing in donations for the Summit food bank and maybe even helping at the food bank and talking with those who walk through the door. Maybe Jesus is calling us to something we don’t even know yet. Or perhaps there is something, a little burning in your heart or an idea you just can’t shake.

 

I’ll be honest with you. It can be scary. We can begin to think, “Well surly not I.” And we begin doubt ourselves just as much as Peter did. But Jesus is out there with us. Jesus won’t call us to a place or a situation where he is not present. And when we fail, and there will be times when we fail, Jesus is right there with his hand extended.

 

As Paul tells us in our first reading:

14 But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? 15 And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

It is time to get out of the boat. It is time to bring the good news to a world that is drowning. It is time to get our feet wet.

 

We are not alone. We are in this together. And Christ is with us. And I can’t think of a better captain.

 

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

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