Walking on the Water

2020-08-09 – Year A – Proper 14
Jonah 2:1-10; Psalm 29; Matthew 14:22-33

Lord Jesus help us to step out in faith to find you merciful to save and help grow our trust in you. Help us to see you moving in the world around us and help us to be agents of your change in the world. In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen

Our gospel passage today brings us to the reading of Jesus walking on water to the disciples. Jesus had been teaching, healing, and working all day long caring for those who were brought before him. 

His ministry has grown quickly and on a large scale. Like any good leader Jesus sees the weariness of his people and sends them off in a boat to get away from the work.What happens to us when we work, work, work and do not take anytime to rest? We become wiped out, over exhausted, grumpy, and lose perspective on our lives. We think we are the only ones who work, we think no one else does anything, and we resent everyone around us. We become grumps who need to stop and regain perspective. 

A mentor of mine named Fr. Jack Gabig always said you should always be looking around you for people who can replace you and do what you do. It’s not that you are not important but rather it is to remind you that someone will eventually need to replace you at some point. The Bible says that our lives are like a vapor, one minute here and the next minute gone. 

I love my work, being the mother to my children is such an awesome responsibility and I pray regularly that I might get to see them grown-up. However I know that not every mother gets to live to see that, so instead I thank God for meaningful work and know that He can replace me if needed. 

No one can work no-stop without serious ramifications on their personal health, family life, or close friendships. Their work was the work of the people showing them the kingdom of God, inspiring them with hope for restoration, and bringing forth the kingdom of heaven in the healing of their people. 

When your work surrounds you and the only way to take a break is to flee Jesus and the disciples do just that. Jesus sends them off into the boat and he then goes and flees up into the mountain to pray.

 Jesus needed solitary moments of prayer to draw near to the Father and to receive encouragement for the work of the kingdom restoration. The disciples and Jesus show us a way of living a kingdom life. We all need regular times of rest, restoration, and relaxation. If we push and push and push ourselves keeping ourselves, our families, and our children  super busy we will burn out and it will take us much longer to heal. A great gift of the pandemic is that so many things are shut down and limited. So many of our opportunities of busyness have been taken away. 

This can be a great opportunity for making the most important things important again. Husbands and wives praying together, Moms and Dads leading their children in family devotions. Spending time talking through current events and how we might respond to them in a biblical way. Giving back time and attention to your grandchildren perhaps in ways that you never had, seeking out opportunities to connect with your family. Jesus and the disciples show us that it is important to take time away, retreat to quiet natural places, and seek out Jesus in your life. 

The pandemic can give us a chance to refocus our lives and put the most important things first. Have you gotten off track in some areas of your life? Have you overlooked self care, praying, rest, or making time for Jesus? Do you feel disconnected from your spouse, children, or family members? Every huge upset in our lives can be an opportunity for growth and change for the good. 

Sometimes some things need changing and huge, scary moments are the impetus that moves us or helps us to refocus. We have tried to focus on getting sleep and eating nourishing meals to care for our bodies. We are also trying to learn how to grow edible plants and care for an ever growing and changing puppy.  

In the scriptures we find Jesus like so many parents who are weary from the work of just living life seeing the disciples and knowing they need help. He leaves the quietness of communion with the Father to enter the raging sea and to rescue or reassure them of his presence and care. The boat had gotten far from shore and despite the fact that they were professional fishermen they were unable to control the boat due to the high winds and blinding darkness. Jesus sees them floundering and comes to them walking on the water. 

The marginal reading ‘out on the sea’ is literally ‘in the middle of the sea’; either reading therefore excludes the suggestion that they were close to the shore, and saw Jesus walking either on the shore or in shallow water. What they saw in the pre-dawn dimness (the fourth watch is 3 to 6 a.m.) was a physical ‘impossibility’, and in such circumstances, after a mind-stretching evening and a gruelling sleepless night, it is no wonder that they registered Jesus as a ghost.

Jesus’ response to the disciples speaks volumes to his attitude and his acclimation of who he is.Take heart is an assurance for those who have good reason for fear: it does not indicate that the crisis is not real, but that in the presence of Jesus fear can be dismissed.How many of us walk in such a time of great fear or uncertainty? How many of us are walking in such a time as this needing the presence of Jesus walking upon water for us. The situation does not change but the realization that Christ is present does change everything. We can let the fear drain away or have less of a hold on our lives. 

In the original language of greek Jesus’ response of “It is I”  (egō eimi) is an expression used by Jesus at other moments of revelation (Mark 14:62; Luke 24:39; John 8:58; 18:5–6), and it may not be fanciful to see in it an echo of the divine name in Exodus 3:14, here connecting the one who has power over the sea with the God who made it. 

Exodus 3:14, “God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, “I am has sent me to you.” Jesus was clearly articulating who He was in the lives of the disciples and of those who would follow Him. Jesus is declaring to us today in a profound way that He is the One who is in control of the situation. He was there in the beginning of the world and in the creation of those waters that surrounded the boat. Jesus was there in your creation of your situation as well. 

No matter what your life holds Jesus can step into the midst of it and bring order, peace, and godly direction. There is no storm too large for Jesus to step into the midst of and bring about change. 

A lot of you know that one of my passion projects is working with doTERRA, which is an essential oils company that seeks to provide natural solutions for people’s lives. And one of the main things I love about this company is it’s drive to make other people’s lives better. 

They directly support multiple organizations that rescue people from the sex slave trade. One of them in particular is called Operation Underground Railroad has gathered the world’s experts in extraction operation and in anti-child trafficking efforts to bring an end to child slavery. In the past 5 years, OUR has rescued 2800 victims and assisted in the arrests of more than 1500 traffickers around the world. 

The United States is one of the larger consumers for human trafficking. The people involved with this bring light into an incredibly dark and evil existence. This is the kind of place that you can find Jesus. He does not back away from pervasive evil but rather came into the world to conqueror sin and evil, and to set captives free. 

Much of the work that Operation Underground Railroad deals with begins with the consumption of pornography. Since the pandemic there has been an enormous surge of people consuming pornography and as clergy we have been encouraged to warn people about being involved with any of it. You can not just view a little but rather your brain will enter into a circle of addiction. When you view, listen, or read anything in that genre your brain experiences a dopamine hit and just like a drug addiction your body craves more of it. 

You need more viewing, listening, or reading in order to have an equal response from the brain. Over time the content will have to be more elicit to get a similar response or shift into real life experiences. Jesus is in the business of setting people free. Jesus is in the business of healing, restoring, and cleaning our minds. Jesus can give you self-control, tools for healing and wholeness. I encourage you to seek out help and to break yourself free from bondage that affects so many men, women, teenagers and children. 

Everyone of our lives could benefit from allowing Jesus to enter. Everyone of us, whether we are mixed up in complicated sinful life choices or just in the poor choices that we make are in need of Jesus. We do not have to be alone in the storms of our lives. We do not have to find our own solutions but rather we can go to One who can turn us around again and free us from our brokenness. As long as you have breath in this life God can work His will for good,restoration, and freedom in your life. 

We are now many months into this pandemic and the other day I was walking the dog and God reminded me that this lasts for about 2 years so we are about a quarter of a way through it. The Lord then began to recount the ways in which he has worked and longs to work. He gave me a sense that if I hang in there and draw near to Him that greater things were coming. Greater things in my life, greater things in my family’s lives, and greater things in our church. 

Perhaps things needed to change in how we live together, perhaps we needed to be shaken out of our complacency with our rather steady lives, perhaps God wants to draw us closer in order to love us more and to change us more significantly. 

Jesus calls to the disciples and tells them not to fear. Just like the angels came announcing the birth of Jesus and telling the shepherds not to fear. In many great and amazing moments of God’s power and sovereignty we hear the words to not fear. God has a plan and wants to show us His glory. 

Peter, our brash, bold, impetus disciple who is always ready for an adventure or a fight or some hard task, calls out to Jesus to let him come to Him on the water. Jesus welcomes Peter to come to him and as he notices the wind and waves he begins to fear and sink in the water. 

In greek the word used for Peter’s loss of faith or of little faith is oligopistos, a favourite word of Matthew used elsewhere in which it denotes rather unbelief than inadequate belief. Meaning that Peter allowed the material facts the wind and waves to weigh more heavily than the power of Jesus. How often do we begin to step out of our situations and think about all the things that might get harder, scarier, or just plain unknown? How often do we lose sight of the One who controls the world we live in? 

Jesus rescues Peter and asks Him why did you doubt? The greek word for doubt means literally ‘to be divided in two’. When we try to maintain a dual focus we will often miss out on the glorious work Jesus longs to do in our lives. The scriptures today seem to say that true faith is being single-mindedly focused on Jesus. What could it look like to give yourself and your life more fully to Jesus? How might you be called to live more single-mindedly on the Lord? 

Are you to share more of what you know with the world? Are you to give more of what God has provided for you to others? Are there ways that you can live more sacrificially in order to focus yourself on the work of the kingdom? Who might God be calling you to encourage and share your faith? 

When Jesus brings Peter into the boat the wind ceases and the storm is calmed. The others look at Jesus and begin to worship Him for they knew that they had seen a picture of the restoration of the kingdom of God. And they rightly called him the Son of God. As the disciples groped for adequate words to express their awareness that Jesus was more than an ordinary man, this phrase came to mind, perhaps because of its Messianic connotations for there was some evidence for the idea of the Messiah as Son of God in first-century Judaism. The disciples were seeing, hearing, and experiencing the power of One who could calm the storm and call creation into order. 

The Lord longs to draw our lives into the fullness of His mercy and into the fullness of our mission here on Earth. The Lord longs to get us out of our boats and into the water so that we can both sink at times and also experience restoration or the walking on water. He wants us to live lives of single minded focus in which we glorify Him in our lives so that the world turns and sees the power of Jesus. 

Your life is meant to draw others into the mercy and love of Jesus, so how does He want you to step out? What one thing can you do this week to boldly step out of the boat and take a risk towards Jesus? Ask Him and I promise you that  He is faithful and will answer you.

To God be the glory now and forever. Amen

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