Saturday, August 9, 2008

I stared at the blinking cursor what seemed like hours, recalling my life and the illustration I would use for this scripture and sermon. I had what was the opposite of writers block. There were just too many. Countless of times I had been terrified by life, knocked down by the winds of change, and beat up by the rocking of the stress in my life and Jesus was there to rescue me. I recalled by training as a lifeguard and how they stressed the most important thing is to hold on tight to your victim, let them know you where in charge, because if they feel secure and safe they will not fight you. They will relax and allow you to pull them to safety. Jesus has been there and done that to me. Just at that moment when I was scared, tired, and ready to given it, I found myself secure in those whom Jesus sent to save me. Pulled me out of the water, dried me off, warmed by chilling body, and sent me on my way. I am sure some of us here this morning can identify without having to share the details or specifics of our life. We all share in the fact that somewhere, somehow, through someone Christ was there for us. So for many reason this is one of my favorite stories of Jesus.

Jesus had feed the thousands, preached all day in the hot sun, retreated to a quite place to pray. He had sent the disciples on ahead in the boat. Each gospel tells this story with different details but the facts were the same. The wind picks up. If you have ever been in a boat, when the wind or a storm picks up, you realize in an instant you really have no control. You are at the mercy of nature. The next fact was these fishermen, the guys that make a living on the seas, were scared. They knew exactly how dangerous the situation was. Then they spot Jesus. But at first they think he is a ghost and are scared. The scripture tells us of their fear, but we are not sure what they are exactly afraid of. Are they afraid that Jesus is an evil spirit? In those days, people believed that the evil spirits and demons lived under the seas. Were they afraid that Jesus was going to drown? They were going to watch their friend perish in the water. Or were they afraid that Jesus possessed a power greater than the nature order of our world. A human being can not walk on water. The reasoning behind their fear is so unimportant because each of us have different fears, don’t we.
Peter calls out. Jesus answers, “take courage, it is I, don’t be afraid.”
Peter tests Jesus. “If it is you, tell me to come to you.”
Jesus says, “Come.” And Peter did.

Here where it becomes tricky. Peter follows Jesus request. Jesus did not forced Peter out of the boat. Peter out of love, devotion, commitment, forgets his own situation or fear and follows Jesus. Peter totally forgets his own fear, and focuses on Jesus. Did I say, Peter takes his focus off of his own situation, his own predicament, his own fear, his own self and focuses on Jesus’ instructions? Peter risks it all when he placed his foot from the rocking but secure solid bottom of the boat on to water. When Peter’s attention, focus, and concentration was on our Savior, he walked on water. But the second, moment, blink of an eye he took his attention away form Jesus, Peter began to sink like a rock. (All pun intended as Peters name was changed to Rock) Remember normal people do not walk or water of defy the laws of nature.

Now that is the lesson in it’s self. That no matter what the winds of life throw at us, if we keep our attention fixed upon our Savior Jesus Christ, things will work out. I think we can all agree on that fact but if we really look at this story it is more that Peter’s water aerobics.
Peter had the ability to suppress his fear enough to follow Jesus directions. Peter had the confidence, love, respect, devotion, courage, and craziness to do exactly what Jesus called him to do. He did not rationalize it. He did not call a meeting of the rest of the group, make a motion, look at a budget, and take a vote or a poll to see what the rest group wanted to do or waited until things calmed down a little. He just heard Jesus’ voice and did it. He reacted out of his love and devotion to God. He risked it all, his future, his own personal safety, and his position in the group to follow Jesus’ voice. It was Peter that took that chance, the one whom Jesus would use to build the church. As the church that again is another lesson to us all.

But that’s not all.
When Peter risked it all, when he followed Jesus voice, stepped out of that boat something bigger happened that often gets overlooked. As the wind rushed violently against the boat, in the midst of the storm when everything was chaotic, when fear was the theme of the hour, when Peter stepped out, he received the greatest reward of all. Something the others would never get to experience. For a brief moment, Peter got to feel what it was like to live in Jesus world. When he risked it all and got out of that boat, he stepped in to heaven. He felt was it was like to live in the Holy place where God reigns, the place where our environmental laws of nature do not apply. Because of his risk, because of Jesus’ love for Peter, Peter got to experience what it was like in Jesus’ realm. Peter got a small taste of God’s blessings and ultimate glory. Those who stayed in the boat, only got to watch from the sidelines, but Peter got to live it. He got to feel it, taste it, understand it, and personally experience it. Those that stayed in the boat only witnessed it, which was also important.

When Jesus and Peter returned to the boat, the fear was gone. The storm was over, the uncertainly had subsided, and they worshipped Jesus. They sang praises to God for His goodness, his holiness, for saving them from the whatever. They told of their witness and worshipped exactly who Jesus was, “The son of God.” I can only imagine what the rest of that trip was like. I am sure it was full of laughter, praise, joy, excitement, and enthusiasm without the slightest inclination of fear. I know they now felt secure and safe, ready to do whatever Jesus asked of them.

I am not sure exactly where you place yourself in this story. We all need people like Peter to risk it all, to step out of the comfort zone, to risk it all for Jesus. The rational thing to do in times of fear, uncertainty, and chaos is to hang on tight to the boat. The boat is the object of security in this story, isn’t it? When on water, the only thing that floats well is a boat, especially during high winds. I know if I am drowning in a storm and I am cold, sacred, tired, feeling alone and abandoned the first and only thing I want to see is a boat. But Jesus says if you truly love me, if you are committed to me and my ministry, if you want to experience something more that just survival, if you hear my voice, get out of that boat, there is where you will experience the full capacity of my love for you. I want to stay where I’m at, Jesus says get out of that boat! Where are you?

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