“Get out of the boat” – Sermon by Rev. Brian Combs 7/16/14
Many a sailor has tried to convince us that faithfulness is sipping boat drinks and lounging starboard side, that the Christian life is the sunny promise of smooth sailing.
And yet, as Tom Long and Will Willimon have said, “The Church doesn’t exists to float around in a Sabbath sea all by itself praising Jesus,” “…merely splashing around in the safe shallows.”
No, no faithfulness is much deeper, much wetter for Matthew in today’s Gospel lesson.
Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Refusing to test Jesus, to ask for supernatural powers beyond ourselves
Trusting Jesus outside the boat, in the water
Remembering that Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us, in all situations, in all times
That only in facing our fears can we deal with our fears
In 1819, the Essex whaling ship was in the south Pacific, far from land fall. A huge beast, which would later be named Moby Dick, smashed the hull and sent sailors scrambling into life boats, grabbing rations on the way down. Although safety was likely waiting on nearby islands, the crew convinced Captain Pollard that cannibals lived there, that survival was sailing south. But the saltwater saturated the bread and the sun scorched the skin and the vessels took on water. Nine weeks in and out of supplies, the remaining men drew lots for whose body among them would be eaten next.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Peter had to leave the ship and risk his life at sea. Unless a definitive step is demanded, the call vanishes into the air. [And] if people imagine they can follow Jesus without taking this step, they are deluding themselves like fanatics.”
Suspender your yellow slickers if you like, batten down the hatches, and tremble in the galley. But just remember that life with God isn’t on the boat.
Lack of faith isn’t sinking; no, lack of faith isn’t getting wet.
“Nautical wheelers,” hurl yourself over the gunwale, instead, to take the watery risk. The risk of asking for help, the risk of being rescued. The risk of living without fear, the risk of drawing closer to your Creator. The risk of not being able to tippy toe touch the bottom (Jimmy Buffett).
There are a thousand dinghies charting idle courses, but there’s only one sea of spirituality in which to plunge.
Jesus doesn’t need any more deckhands, only swimmers willing to risk it all in the name of the one who first risked it all for us.