August 13, 2017, 10th Sunday after Pentecost YR A Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28; Psalm 105:1-6, 16-22, 45b; Romans 10:5-15; Matthew 14:22-33 The Rev. Anne Abdy
I love this story of Peter. Peter who always opens his mouth and inserts his foot. The Peter who Jesus rebukes. The Peter who denies Christ three times and was reminded of this fact when the cock crows. The same Peter whose name is “the Rock” and upon whom the church was built. This is the same Peter who climbs out of the boat into the rough swells of the Sea of Galilee.
The basic theme for this scripture is obvious. It is about faith. The kind of faith that one can walk on water. Who in their right mind can do that! I know I cannot. I have tried. I never got off the bottom of the bunny slope after two days of private instruction at an Special Olympics Adaptive Skiing camp. I would have done better sitting in the tethered bullet racing down the slopes. I never was able to fully stand up when I attempted to water ski. I might be able to do paddle boarding but I never was able to stand up on a surfboard either. The likelihood that I will be able to walk on water is probably zilch.
I have yet to see the movie The Shack and I know there is a wonderful scene where Jesus and Mack race against each other across the lake. In the book, this scene begins like this:
They are standing on the dock together looking over the lake.
“After you,” he said with a mock flourish and bow.
“You’re kidding, right?” sputtered Mack. “I thought we were going for a walk, not a swim.”
“We are. I just thought going across the lake would take less time than going around it.” . . . Mack walked to the edge of the dock and looked down. The water lapped only about a foot below where he stood but it might as well have been a hundred feet. The distance looked enormous. To dive in would have been easy, he had done that a thousand times, but how do you step off a dock onto water? . . .
“Only about a foot, it looks to me,” laughed Jesus, placing his hand on Mack’s shoulder. It was all he needed and Mack stepped off the dock. . . . The Landing was softer than he had thought it would be. . . . .Walking on water with Jesus seemed the most natural way to cross a lake, and Mack was grinning from ear to ear just thinking about what he was doing.”
There are so many layers in that simple act of jumping off the edge onto the water. For Peter there is the safety of the boat, albeit the boat was probably taking on water and not safe anyway. He and the disciples probably would have died in the boat. The boat which was a place of safety versus walking on water in rough seas but was a real unsafe and sure death act.
Here Jesus teaches that discipleship is living life on the edge. By staying in the boat the disciples are not engaged in the high adventure of discipleship. They are passively engaged and are scared. The Catechism suggests that Christian hope is: “living in confidence in newness and fullness of life, and to await the coming of Christ in glory, and the completion of God’s purpose for the world.” (BCP, 861) It is that fullness of life that places disciples lives on the edge. Extreme discipleship is about getting your feet wet. It is messy at times, and yes, fear can paralyze us. But we are called to step out in faith. Faith is believing in something sight unseen. We are to answer that call.
I want to break down this story line by line starting with: “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” The first thought that came to my mind was “You’d better be careful what you wish for.” But Peter rises to the occasion and responds to the call. Peter had to get out of the boat. If he didn’t, he would have egg on his face, and truly he is so impulsive that probably all he thought about was saving his own life believing that the boat was truly going to sink. When the Lord offers you a gift you have the choice to accept the gift.
“So he got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came to Jesus.” Peter was not filled with fear when he started walking. He was filled with faith. He kept his eyes on the prize. He looked at Jesus. The story never tells us that he touched Jesus like a kid playing tag, no, he just “came to Jesus.” Was he a foot away? Two feet? An inch? We will never know. Peter was obedient and he answered the call. We are called to be obedient in our life of discipleship.
“Lord, if it is you…” Here Peter demonstrates his faith. His believes and recognizes Jesus. Before this sentence everyone thought there was a ghost standing on the water. Kinda like a mirage in the desert. But a mirage is an ocular illusion caused by atmospheric conditions. Jesus is not an illusion.
In that moment, Jesus is very real to Peter. By engaging in acts of faith and as we walk into the unknown we get to know God.
“But, when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord help me.’” Peter got distracted. It just takes a second. He took his eyes off the prize. We are to keep looking at Jesus.
Jesus reaches down and caught him, then says, “You of little faith, why did you doubt.” Fear gripped him. Often we are held hostage by our own comfort zone and our own thoughts. Life is scary but in order to experience the fullness of life, we must confront the fear head on. Did you know that the statement “fear not” appears 366 times in the Bible so when fear is paralyzing know that Jesus is nearby everyday of the year, plus one. Jesus is always near even in the worst of times.
“When they got into the boat, the wind ceased.” Stepping out in faith does not mean we will not have fear or troubled waters, but instead we are accompanied by the re-assurance that Jesus is near and there to help. Jesus calms the storm. He can calm our storms too, if we will only let him.
I want to end with this story on faith and why this young man believes in Jesus.
He is from Sri Lanka and when in college he challenged his friends and teachers about their Christian beliefs.
He writes: “I knew plenty of Christians. In fact, I read the Bible often, just so I could argue with Christians. I wanted to know what they believed so I could break down their reasons for believing.”
In time this young man life takes a turn for the worse and he sits in the library one night believing that the solution to his problems is suicide. He continues, “As I sat there thinking of the best way to kill myself, I heard a voice say, “Have you ever asked me for help?” I looked around and couldn’t see anyone. I thought I was going crazy. Then I heard the voice say, “I’m Jesus, and I’m right here next to you.”
“Suddenly I felt God urging me to go see my biophysics professor. That’s right, the same guy I’d been arguing with all year. I walked across campus to the science building and found him working in his office. As I walked in, he said, “I’m so glad you’re here. God has put you on my heart and I’ve been hoping you’d come and talk to me.” We talked a long time.”
“But after my conversion, I felt humbled by God’s power to change me. I wanted people to see Jesus in my life, not me or my accomplishments. I was almost grateful for my struggles, because I knew God was using them to keep me humble and focused on him. So why do I believe in Jesus? Because he’s real. It was Jesus who saved me.”
Jesus is real. He is not a ghost. So in the days and months ahead do the following: Accept Jesus’ gift. Be obedient and answer the call. Get to know God.
Don’t be distracted. Know that Jesus is always near. Jesus will calm our storms of life. Have faith and keep your eyes on the prize.
 William P. Young, The Shack: Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity (Newbury Park, CA: Windblown Media, 2007), 140, 141, 142, and 143.
 Shamitha “Sam” Yaoa, “Why I Believe in Jesus: What Makes Jesus Different?,” Christianity Today, 1, accessed August 11, 2017, http://www.christianitytoday.com/iyf/truelifestories/interestingpeople/why-i-believe-in-jesus.html?