|Pentecost 19, year A||October 19, 2014||Proper 24, Year A||Isaiah 45:1-7, 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10, Matthew 22:15-22|
|Pentecost 17, year A||October 5, 2014||Proper 22, Year A||Isaiah 5:1-7, Psalm 80:7-14, Philippians 3:4b-14, Matthew 21:33-46|
|Pentecost 16, year A||September 28, 2014||Proper 21, Year A||Sermon, Proper 21, Year A Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32, Psalm 25: 1-8, Philippians 2:1-13, Matthew 21:23-32|
|Pentecost 14, year A||September 14, 2014||Proper 19, Year A||Matthew 18:21-35|
|Pentecost 13, year A||September 7, 2014||Proper 18, Year A||Ezekiel 33:7-11, Romans 13:8-14, Matthew 18:15-20|
|Pentecost 11, year A||August 24, 2014||Proper 16, Year A||Matthew 16:13-20|
|Pentecost 10, year A||August 17, 2014||Proper 15, Year A||Matthew 15:10-20, 21-28|
|➤Pentecost 9, year A||August 10, 2014||Proper 14, Year A||Matthew 14:22-33|
|Pentecost 8, year A||August 3, 2014||Pentecost 8, year A||Matthew 14:13-21|
|Pentecost 6, year A||July 20, 2014||Proper 11, Year A||Romans 8:12-25|
|Pentecost 7, year A||July 20, 2014||Proper 12, Year A||I Kings 3:5-12, Romans 8:26-39, Matthew 13:31-33|
|Pentecost 5, year A||July 13, 2014||Proper 10, Year A||Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23, Psalm 65:9-14|
|Genevieve Davis’ Funeral Homily||July 13, 2014||Burial of the Dead, Rite II||Isaiah 35:1-10, I John 4:7-8,11-12, John 14:1-3|
|Pentecost 4, year A||July 6, 2014||Proper 9, Year A||Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30|
|Pentecost 3, year A||June 29, 2014||3rd Sunday after Pentecost, Year A||Romans 6:12-23, Matthew 10:40-42|
Pentecost 9, year A
Sermon Date:August 10, 2014
Scripture: Matthew 14:22-33
Liturgy Calendar: Proper 14, Year A
"Jesus Walks on the Water" – Ivan Aivazovsky
I think, Andrea, if she were here today, and she has given me permission to talk about this situation in this sermon, would say that this past week was a week of being in a boat that was battered and tortured by a horrible storm that raged around Andrea’s family.
Andrea’s nephew, Marcus, a successful young man with a promising career, became brain dead in a freak accident in Los Angeles, where he was working.
So last week this family had to go through the agony and torture of being with Marcus, knowing that medically nothing could be done to save him, having to make those hard decisions about organ donation, the removal of life support and then the logistics of returning home, not with a living breathing son and nephew, but with a box of ashes.
And it’s only natural to ask, “Jesus, where are you while this storm is carrying away someone we love so much for reasons we’ll never understand?”
“Can we even trust or believe in God, a God who would let such a tragedy happen?”
And so I came to today’s gospel trying to imagine the unimaginable, looking for answers, searching for some word of hope I could offer to Andrea across the miles.
Here’s what I found.
First of all, after Jesus packs the disciples off in the boat so that he has some time alone to pray, they are left on their own, and when they are far from land, and far from help, they run into a storm, a bad storm, and they battle this storm alone all night.
The hours must have dragged. Time must have stopped with no end in sight.
And then in the hours of early morning, when the hopeless and exhausted disciples must have been ready to give up, something happened.
They saw someone walking toward them on the water.
This timing brings with it a tiny glimmer of hope—the early hours of the morning being darkest hour of the night, right before the turning of the earth and the coming of dawn turn the black night first to an inky blue and then, from the pale light of dawn to the brightness of a new day.
The darkest hour of the night, right before the dawn, is the hour of the resurrection itself.
So the very timing of this story brings with it hints of hope.
But still, the disciples cry out in fear.
It’s ok to cry out in these situations. Most of us cannot be stoics, and just lower our heads and take this sort of an emotional beating without crying out—either in fear or in anger or in desperation—in the gospel, the disciples cry out in fear. And we as well, facing into the grave and staring into our own mortality, also fear as we imagine how our lives will be depleted, different, and unbearably lonesome without the person or things that this storm is destroying and washing away before our very eyes.
Now here’s something else I love about this story, the fact that Jesus himself, the Son of God, is walking–walking, not running–but walking toward us in the midst of the storm itself, walking toward us over the waves.
The fact that Jesus walks to us is comforting. God works like this, in God’s time, patiently, intentionally. As much as we’d like an instant fix in the form of a rescue, which provides an immediate answer to our prayers, God doesn’t rush to bring us at once to the end of our sorrows.
And I’ll admit that I don’t always like God’s timing.
God’s timing sometimes has a lot to do with why I’m yelling out in fear, frustration or even in anger.
But when I think I can’t hold on, and the storm is killing me, I’m reminded that before this stormy night ends, God will intentionally come to me, in the very heart of the storm.
Now next, in the gospel story, Jesus speaks, even as the disciples are crying out in fear.
In those awful times in which we all will find ourselves, sooner or later, Jesus is still speaking to us with these words that can resurrect the tiniest flame of faith that wavers in the wind, but somehow stays lit in the darkness, even as the waves wash over our boat and threaten to sink us.
Jesus calls out these words.
“Take heart (take heart, especially you, the broken hearted)—TAKE HEART.”
“IT IS I.”
“Do not be afraid.” Every angelic messenger in the Bible bringing good news to a fearful person says these words that Jesus says “Do not be afraid” —to Mary, who is going to be an unwed mother, to the shepherds, who are overwhelmed by light and songs in the sky in the middle of the darkest night.
And here’s the best part of this story—what happens next.
Peter sees Jesus, the Son of God, coming toward him. And Peter reaches deep down inside himself and finds inner resolve and strength that he didn’t know he had. And he realizes that instead of hunkering down in this battered boat, simply trying to survive the storm, he wants to walk through the storm, to master it, to walk over the waves instead of sinking beneath them.
And he realizes that he can do this with God’s help.
And so when he asks to walk through the storm, Jesus, the Son of God, answers with one word, “Come.”
Here’s my word of hope to Andrea, and to all of us. When we see Jesus coming toward us and we ask for the strength, the resolve and the courage to walk through the storm to meet him rather than to sink beneath the waves, God will say the same thing to us.
And Peter does it. Peter walks on the water, across the storm, until he notices the strong wind, lets his fear blow him over, and begins to sink.
Isn’t that us?
In any tragedy or tough situation, we find ourselves coping at one moment, falling apart at the next, having trouble finding our stride when the footing is so downright watery.
But that’s ok. Because when we go back to sinking, and that tiny bit of faith we’re holding on to is in danger of blowing out or being washed away, we can call out, like Peter, and like the desperate psalmist in countless psalms—
“Lord, save me!”
In the gospel, Jesus immediately, upon hearing this cry, reaches out his hand, which is what he does when he heals people—reaches out his hand—and catches Peter, asks him why he doubted, and then gets into the battered, rocking, shuddering boat with Peter, goes right with Peter into the midst of the storm and to the heart of the fears that are pulling Peter down.
And that’s what God does for us when we start sinking down in fear and struggling not to drown—and we cry out. Immediately God comes right into the heart of our fear, reaches out a hand and not only helps us right back into the boat, but also gets in with us.
And the wind ceased.
It’s over. The storm is quiet. Our boat will never be the same—it’s been too beaten up to ever return to its new and pristine condition—but God is in that battered old boat with us, and the storm is over. The dark hours of early morning have finally turned to light.
Sir Thomas More knew what it meant to be in a boat battered by a storm. As he spent the last months of his life in the Tower of London, awaiting death because he would not put his loyalty to King Henry the VIII over his loyalty to God, More wrote a book called The Dialogue of Comfort against Tribulation. In this book, More reminds us to gather up what little faith we have into a narrow little room, and to ask God for aid and for comfort as we weather these storms in our lives.
Good advice—to gather up the little faith we have, scattered in tiny bits across the bottom of the battered boat where we’ve hunkered down—to gather up the little bits of waterlogged faith lodged in some corner of our broken hearts that we’ve flooded with our tears—
Faith that when gathered up will be just enough to open our ears to hear the words that Jesus is speaking to us.
“Take heart. It is I. Do not be afraid.”
Enough faith to find the courage to step out on the waves toward God, and when we start sinking down to cry out, “Lord, save me!”
Trusting that God is with us in the midst of the storm, and that the hour of resurrection will soon be at hand.