8th Sunday after Pentecost, Year A – Peter Gets Out of the Boat

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Title Sermon Date Liturgical Scripture
Last Sunday After Pentecost November 20, 2011 Christ the King Sunday, Year A Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24; Matthew 25:31-46
22st Sunday After Pentecost, Year A, Proper 28 November 13, 2011 Sermon, Proper 28 Matthew 25:14-30; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
21st Sunday After Pentecost, Year A, Proper 27 November 6, 2011 Sermon, Proper 27, Year A, All Saints’ Sunday Matthew 25:1-13; Wisdom of Solomon 6:12-20
20th Sunday After Pentecost, Year A, Proper 26 October 30, 2011 Proper 26, Year A Micah 3:5-12; Psalm 43; 1 Thessalonians 2:9-13; Matthew 23:1-12
19th Sunday After Pentecost, Year A, Proper 25 October 23, 2011 Proper 25, Year A Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18; 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8; Matthew 22:34-46
18th Sunday After Pentecost, Year A, Proper 24 October 16, 2011 Proper 24, Year A Matthew 22:15-22, Psalm 96
17th Sunday After Pentecost, Year A, Proper 23 October 9, 2011 Proper 23, Year A Isaiah 25:1-12; Matthew 22:1-14
15th Sunday After Pentecost, Year A, Proper 21 September 25, 2011 Proper 21, Year A Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32; Psalm 25:1-8; Philippians 2:1-13; Matthew 21:23-32
13th Sunday After Pentecost, Year A, Proper 19 September 11, 2011 Sermon, Proper 19, Year A Matthew 18:21-35; Romans 14:1-12
12th Sunday after Pentecost, Year A, Proper 18 September 4, 2011 Sermon, Proper 18, Year A Romans 13:8-14; Matthew 18:15-20
10th Sunday After Pentecost – “But who do you say that I am?” August 21, 2011 Proper 16, Year A Isaiah 51:1-6; Romans 12:1-8; Matthew 16:13-20
9th Sunday after Pentecost Year A – Canaanite Woman August 14, 2011 Sermon, Proper 15, Year A Matthew 15: (10-20), 21-28
8th Sunday after Pentecost, Year A – Peter Gets Out of the Boat August 7, 2011 Proper 14, Year A Matthew 14:22-33
Seventh Sunday after Pentecost – Feeding of the 5000 July 31, 2011 Proper 13, Year A Matthew 14:13-21
Third Sunday after Pentecost July 3, 2011 Third Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 9, Year A Zechariah 9:9-12; Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30


8th Sunday after Pentecost, Year A – Peter Gets Out of the Boat

Sermon Date:August 7, 2011

Scripture: Matthew 14:22-33

Liturgy Calendar: Proper 14, Year A

In the name of our eternal Father, strong to save.  Amen

Captain S.A. Gardiner,  barely able to keep a foothold on the shuddering deck of his ship,  stared into the darkness,  through  the  blinding wind and pouring rain and the ocean spray from the huge waves that threatened to tear his ship apart at any minute. 

He had left port in Providence, Rhode Island in October of 1896, headed for Roanoke Virginia, with his wife, three year old son, and a crew of seven on board the three masted schooner, the E.S. Newman.  

A hurricane had caught the  schooner in its clutches, and in a matter of hours had torn the sails from the mast and driven the boat before it over 100 miles off course  to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, an area known for its treacherous and shifting shoals, an area called “the graveyard of the Atlantic.” 

The captain had no way of making any headway. The ship and its crew were at the mercy of the wind.

Now as he peered through the driving rain, the captain thought, maybe dreamed that he could see a faint light in the distance, possibly land, and so, hoping against hope, he sent up an emergency flare.  As the light from the flare faded he waited.  And then he felt the ship practically rip apart  beneath him as it hit a shoal. 

And then he was positive that he had seen the light of a flare. 

Someone had seen them.

Hope surged through the captain’s exhausted body. 

Pea Island Crew

Meanwhile, Richard Etheridge, the station keeper of the Pea Island Life Saving Station, and his surfman, Theodore Meekins, called their crew of five surfmen, gathered their rescue boat and their 182 pound gun which they would use to fire a line out to the stranded ship, and proceeded to slog  through three miles of sand and surf, often sinking up to their knees in the wet sand.   Finally they reached the schooner.

The schooner had come aground only fifty yards offshore , but between the rescuers and the people trapped on board were high waves and riptides that made launching a rescue boat impossible.  The crew was unable to stabilize the gun because of the rip tides that pulled the sand from beneath it and threatened to carry it out to sea. 

One solution was left. 

Etheridge called for volunteers.  He asked for two surfmen who would be willing to swim out to the schooner.  Meekins and another surfman volunteered.  They stripped down, put on cork life vests, and tied to one another by an eight foot rope,  clutching a second line, they swam with great difficulty through the icy water  against the waves and miraculously, at last reached the schooner, which was now in the process of breaking apart in the pounding waves.  Once the rescue line was secured to the wreckage, the two surfmen carried Captain Gardiner’s wife and son, tied  on their backs,  back to shore. 

Pea Island Crew in action

The surfmen on the rescue team took turns battling their way out to the wreckage, and by 1 AM, every member of the E.S. Newman’s crew had been brought safely to the life saving station by the brave surfmen of the Pea Island Life Saving Station. 

Richard Etheridge wrote in his log that night that all of the people on board the E.S. Newman had been saved and were “sheltered in this station.”

The grandson of a rescuer and the grandson of rescuee meet Oct. 11 in Manteo, NC during a ceremony to commemorate Life-saving Station Pea Island, N.C.’s 100-year-old rescue of the crew of the E.S. Newman. Capt. Dwight Meekins (left), of Maintenance and Logistics Command Atlantic, Portsmouth, V. is the grandson of Pea Island Surfman Theodore Meekins. Fairfield, Conn. Fire Chief Daniel Grandiner, is the grandson of E.S. Newman skipper Sylvester Grandiner. 

This modern day story mirrors the story that we heard in the gospel today.

After having spent the night alone praying, Jesus looked out into the darkness and saw that the disciples, who had gone ahead in the boat, were caught in the middle of the Sea of Galilee in a headwind and tossing waves that held them captive.  They were stuck. 

Because they were in the middle of the Sea of Galilee, they certainly did not expect to see help coming toward them in the form of Jesus, who was walking out toward them, and so they screamed in terror, thinking that they saw a ghost.

Was it only the wind howling that they heard next, or was it really the familiar voice of their Lord? 

“Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”

Peter wanted to be sure.  “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 

And so Jesus called out to him, over the blustery wind, “Come!” and Peter got out of the boat and started walking toward Jesus—

Why did Peter take a chance like this?  Why did Peter leave the meager protection of the boat, and the company of the other disciples to enter the angry waves?

Because Peter knew that Jesus could save not only him, but also the other disciples—he had faith that if the apparition were really Jesus, then if only he could reach Jesus, he and the other disciples would be safe.

As human beings, we tend  to respond to our fears in one of two ways.  

The first way is to hunker down in the familiar confines of our lives and to try to ride out the fear, to go into hiding. 

And frequently, those familiar confines in which we choose to hide will kill us in the end.  We hide in destructive relationships, we hide in chaotic situations of our own making, we hide in unsatisfactory jobs, we hide in addictions.  But these familiar outlines of our lives in which we hide may be the very outline of the fatal dangers that will kill us.  The captain of the E. S. Newman could have stayed huddled in the hold of the ship, and never sent up a flare, hoping for help. 

That’s the first way to respond to fear—to stay stuck in what is familiar, even if it is killing us.   

The second way is the way of faith.  This is the way of Peter, to hear the faint echo of a familiar voice, to see the glimmer of a beloved face, and to step out into an unknown –an unknown that may hold within it death, but an unknown that may also offer  the hope of salvation. 

Faith—taking a chance on hope. 

Faith—taking a chance on hope in spite of fear.

Because fear, waiting to grab us, and pull us down beneath the water, to drown our hope, suck the life out of us, and leave us walking around like empty corpses, can take over, even when we step out into the unknown in faith. 

 That’s what happened to Peter.  Fear grabbed him, and tried to pull him under, to drown him, and just before his head slipped beneath the waves, Peter managed to cry out—

“Lord, save me!”

And immediately, a familiar hand slipped beneath the waves and found Peter’s hand, lifted in supplication, and Jesus  pulled Peter up, back out into air, into new life.

As Peter coughed up water, and felt his lungs fill with air again, felt breath and life surging through his body as strong arms held him close, he heard Jesus chuckling.

“Oh you of little faith, why did you doubt?”  So proud of you for having the faith to enter the unknown…..but really, after all we’ve been through together, how could you doubt?  That’s you, Peter!

When Jesus and Peter got into the boat with the other disciples,  the wind ceased and calm descended. 

The disciples worshipped Jesus.  “Truly, you are the son of God.”

We have gathered here today to worship this same Jesus, the man we call our Lord and Savior.  Like Peter and the disciples, we frequently find ourselves caught in difficult places in our lives—some difficulties larger than others, some out of our control. 

This story reminds us to have faith—to take a chance on hope.

This story reminds us to step out into the unknown, with hope that we are walking into salvation rather than into death.

This story reminds us that even when we are in over our heads, drowning in misery, that if we cry out, “Save me!”

Jesus will take our hands, and holding us in his strong arms, will bring us into new life.

When we find this salvation, we feel a deep sense of peace in our lives, and our deepest desire is to be forever in God’s  presence and to worship him,

Because we know that truly, this man Jesus is the Son of God.

This is the peace of new life is the peace that a man named Horatio Spafford experienced. 

Horatio Spafford

Spafford was  a wealthy lawyer with a thriving legal practice, who lived in Chicago in the 1800’s with his wife, son and three daughters.  A devout Christian, he was devoted to scripture study and prayer.

And then a series of disasters struck.  First, the couple’s young son died.  Then the Great Chicago fire destroyed all of Spafford’s real estate investments. 

Wanting to give his family a chance to recover from these twin tragedies, and  planning to join Dwight Moody and Ira Sankey, famous evangelists of the day,  on an evangelistic tour of England, Spafford put his wife and daughters on a boat to England while he stayed behind in Chicago to take care of some last minute business. 

Word came that the ship carrying his family had been in a collision and had sunk. 

Only his wife had survived—all of their daughters drowned.

Spafford, feeling the hand of Jesus reaching down to him as this tragedy threatened to overwhelm him,

Wrote the following words, which were later set to music and became a familiar hymn that has inspired thousands and is still being sung today. 

“When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,

when sorrows like sea billows roll;

whatever my lot, thou has taught me to say,

It is well, it is well with my soul. “

It is well with my soul,

It is well, it is well with my soul.”

Spafford’s faith gave him peace, even in the midst of tragedy. 

Irish fishermen pray a simple prayer when they go to sea. 

It goes like this.

“Dear Lord, be good to me.  The sea is so wide, and my boat is so small.”

And so we leave here today, like the disciples,  having worshipped our Lord and Savior, taking our tiny bits of faith with us, only a little faith, but enough faith to take a chance on hope.   Dear Lord, be good to us.  The sea is so wide, and our boat is so small.

God, we pray for the courage to have the faith to enter into the unknown in spite of our fears, to take your hand, to feel your calming presence– to go with you back into the confines of our chaotic lives—full of the peace that passes understanding—and full of hope that having taken your hand, we can become channels of your peace for one another

As Fred Kann says in the words of the last verse of a contemporary hymn,

“Put Christ into each other’s hands, he is love’s deepest measure;

 in love make peace, give peace a chance

and share it like a treasure.”


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