Monday, August 14, 2017

Walking on Water

Matthew 14:22-33
August 10, 2014

Jesus has just fed more than 5000
people with five loaves and two fish.
And he stays behind to close things out with that crowd.
And while he’s doing that,
he sends the disciples off in a boat.
And the wind takes them out into
the deep part of the water.
And while they’re there,
they see a figure walking on the water.

At first the disciples are scared,
not because of the storm, but because they think it’s a ghost,
because who else could be walking on the water.
But they realize it’s Jesus. Jesus is walking on water.
Jesus calls out to them.
“It’s just me walking on water, don’t be afraid.”

And Peter is maybe emboldened by Jesus’s presence,
or moved by the Spirit, or just trying again
to impress everyone, he tries it himself.
He tells Jesus to command him to come out into the water.
And Jesus does. “Okay, Peter, come on”
But the wind is high and Peter freaks out and he starts to sink.
He calls out to Jesus, “Please save me”
And he does and then Jesus tells him:
“You of little faith, why did you doubt”

Now the interpretation of this story I’ve
heard most often is that Jesus was disappointed
in Peter because Peter doubted himself.
Peter doubted that he could walk on water.
And his doubt caused him to faltered and become afraid
and he couldn’t do it.

 So then the moral of the story is:
Don’t take your eyes off of Jesus. Don’t doubt for a second.
If you don’t let your faith falter, then you won’t fail.
You’ve got to step out of the boat, take the risk.
I don’t know, maybe I’ll preach on this story
that way the next time it comes around.

But today, I struggle with that interpretation on a practical level:
So if I believe hard enough I can do it?
I can walk on water? Can anyone walk on water?
If this were true, you would think there would be
some Christians who could – walk on water.
I’ve known many with a faith that couldn’t be shaken for anything.
But they’re not walking on water.

So maybe I’m just a cynical person,
but my main trouble with seeing this story that way is that
Peter can’t walk on water. He never walks on water.
Even in Acts, he’s filled with the Holy Spirit, he is courageous,
he sees the power of God working all around him.
Wonderful things happen, things you can call miracles even.
But we never see him walking on that water.

And I think that is an important thing to remember
as disciples and followers of Jesus:
We can’t walk on water.
We will never walk on water.
Only Jesus walks on water.

Remembering that we’re not Jesus or God,
is a really an important part of our theology as Lutherans.
We are not saved by our own works, but by the grace of God,
It’s the main tenant of our understanding,

I learned pretty quickly in my Lutheran Theology class in seminary:
God is the actor, the Spirit does the work,
Christ walks on water, and saves the world, not us.

But that doesn’t stop people of faith from trying,
Out of hubris, egoism, or some self-imposed martyrdom,
from thinking we can and need to do it all ourselves.

Whenever we look at those steep mountains of
ministry, it seems too high to climb:
Spread God’s love, feed the hungry, heal the sick,
bring good news to the poor, I mean
at times even just keeping our churches open,
alive, and preaching the gospel seems like an impossible task.

And then when we look 
at the state of the world today
and there are more impossibilities. 
Just this weekend we’ve all been 
watching in Charlottesville, VA
hundreds of white supremacy, 
KKK, and neo-Nazis
were walking through town with torches,
and shields, and Nazi flags,
with their faces exposed, 
proudly waving swastikas
no longer feeling the need to hide under white hoods,
because now hate is basically acceptable in our country.

Friday night, they surrounded an Episcopal church having a prayer 
vigil against hate and trapped and intimidated the people inside,
then Saturday they had armed militia out
and then someone drove a car into a group of counter protesters
and lots of people were hurt and someone died.
Blatant and bold and proud racism and violence.

We know this is wrong. So many people know this is wrong.
And as people of faith and followers of Jesus we know that
we should do something, but I’m not sure what.

I look at this situation that we’re in in this country and
say “this is impossible.”
How are we ever going to climb out of this hole of hate we are in.
how can we ever reach across these barriers
and talk with people long enough for any
change or understanding to take place?
How will we solve racism and hate,
what will I do or say to make a difference?
How will I change the world?
Sometimes I can hardly keep up with life in
general how are we going to do this?
It can feel overwhelming and it can paralyze us.

And that’s why today, I think it’s important to look at this parable this way: 
We cannot walk on water.
Only Jesus can walk on water. 
Only God will save this world.

Now we are God’s hands and feet and we will do our part
and it’s not permission to just sit out and watch the world go by and do nothing, 
and say that God will take care of it.
We have to live our lives counter to this trend,
we have to take a public stand against 
the kind of things we’ve seen this weekend. 
There are things that we can do.
And people of faith have done some amazing things,

But it helps our mission to remember that it is
it’s Jesus who does the water walking thing.
The Spirit will do the heavy lifting,
It might take a while,
but God will bring all the pieces together in the end.

Again, the C.S. Lewis quote I used last week still pertains:  
“The problem is not that we expect
too much out of God, but we expect too little.”

When Jesus asks Peter, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
I don’t think that Jesus was wondering why Peter
couldn’t walk on the water, I think Jesus was wondering 
why Peter doubted that Jesus would be there to help him.

Why do we doubt? Knowing what we know, 
why do we doubt that Jesus will be there? 
That God will get things done?
Why do we think that it is all up to us,
and that we have to learn to walk on water?

We are living in the middle of the sea,
The sea has always been a dangerous place.
In mythology, it represented chaos, trials, suffering,
And it also represented times of transformation, change,

Many of us are out on the sea in our personal lives,
and all of us, I think, feel like this world is out to sea right now
Listing this way and that, battered by waves and wind,
barely able to stay afloat, at times it seems hopeless.
At times we might feel like we’re drowning.
Like Peter we might be yelling out,
“What are you waiting for, save us!”
Jesus will save us.

We of little faith, why did we ever doubt?

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