Sunday, August 16, 2020

JUSTICE: Walking on Water


All the justice issues we are addressing are represented in Jesus' walking on the water.

Between three and six o'clock in the morning Jesus came to the disciples, walking on the water.  Matthew 14:25 (GNT)

Sometimes, when I think about the things that Jesus did, a lot of times, it only says once, maybe, in the Bible, that He did it. But I think, then, you probably extrapolate that, that might not have been the first, or the last, time that He walked on water, just the only time it was written down about it.

Transcript of sermon
Preached Extemporaneously [Video] on August 9, 2020  
for Briensburg UMC

And, in this particular case, He had just come from the feeding of the 5,000, and there was all this leftover, even though such meager resources they had to start with. But, He multiplied all that, and made it more than what it was, and made it more effective than it would have been, otherwise. And so, there was so much leftover that everybody was surprised. And the crowd, when they found out that Jesus and the disciples were going over to the other side of the lake, they began there, and walked around to the other side.

Jesus Walked on the Water

Between three and six o'clock in the morning Jesus came to the disciples, walking on the water.  Vs 25 (GNT)

 In the meanwhile, the disciples headed over on a boat, and encountered some rough waters and stormy weather. And Jesus went up into the mountain to pray. And then, after being up there all evening, in the mountain, then He came down, and He decided to take that shortcut across. And He walked across the lake. And, of course, when the disciples saw Him coming up to them, they were all shook up. They were all scared, because this was not something they were used to. They thought, maybe, He was a ghost, or something.

So, when I'm thinking about this event of walking on the water as being, itself, unusual, and not very often happening, and not necessarily really required of us. But then, when I think about it through this lens of justice, then that makes me think that it stands in for a whole lot of things. All these various issues that are a flurry around us in the news, and in our personal lives, in our community, that any one of them can be, sometimes, like walking on water, can't they, to be able to address them. And they're very difficult, and it would take a miracle. It would take resources beyond us, and capabilities beyond those that we have, and it would be scary to try. And so, really, that walking on water, in a sense, can represent any one of these issues and challenges that we face, or that we stand up for, or that we stand against. Any of these things that are going on in our lives, and in the life of the world around us, is walking on the water.

Have Courage

Jesus spoke to them at once. “Courage!” he said. “It is I. Don't be afraid!”    Vs 27 (GNT)

And so, everybody was scared. And we're scared sometimes too, in the facing the situations that we're in, when we don't know what to do, or how to handle them, or what's coming at us next, or when the other shoe's going to drop. It seems like, we're like a centipede, sometimes, where it's not just the other shoe, but it's one of the many other shoes, dropping all around.

And so, Jesus spoke to them. And, in the Good News Translation, it says, "Jesus spoke to them at once. 'Courage,' He said. 'It is I. Don't be afraid.'"

It reminds me of our grandson, when he was little. We were at Lourdes Hospital. Kyler went up to the little fish tank they have there, in the visitor's area at Lourdes. And, when he got close, the fish kind of scattered away, and he said, "Don't be afraid, little fishes. It's just me." And, I think that's what Jesus was saying to His disciples, just, "Don't be afraid, it's just me. It's all right. Don't be afraid."

But I like how it's brought out in this translation, too. The words, "Have courage." That idea of not just being scared, don't just not be scared, but also, be encouraged, have courage, take courage, because it is Christ, and Christ is doing this work. He's the one that has called us, and invited us to be a part of the work. He's the one that empowers us with his gifts, the spiritual gifts. He's the one that gives us our sense of vision, and our purpose, and our understanding, and our hope. And He's the one that gives us the reward, along the way, for our faithfulness.

Join Christ in What He is Already Doing

He said, “Come ahead.” Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus.  Vs 29 (MSG)

And so, we leave the success in Christ's hands, and we do the part that He invites us to, as He did with Peter. Peter said, "Well, if it's really you, call me Peter. Tell me to come, and I'll come walk to you on the water." And so He said, and this is how He said it in The Message, "He said, 'Come ahead.' Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus."

And I love that image of, not just climbing out, or be tentative. Jumping out, and going. And a lot of times, that's how we do, we get going. We're excited, because Christ has given us something that He would like us to do, and the opportunity has opened for us, something that is happening, or some movement in an interesting direction. And God is inviting us. And so, we jump out of the boat, and head out. But, then, after we get going, then we do like Peter did, and realize, "Hey, there's some things going on around that make this, maybe, a little more challenging than what I was thinking that it might be." That we might, you know... The proverbial waves and wind start in on us.

And we see, and feel, the challenges of the moment, along with the opportunities. And so, we begin to sink in that, and we don't know what to do. But, it's exciting to know that Christ is inviting us, even if we don't know what to do, even with our fears, and our lack of resources and understanding, and everything else that goes with it. He's inviting us to join Him in what He's already doing. Christ was already walking on the water, with or without Peter, with or without the other disciples. Storm or no storm, Jesus was walking on the water. Jesus was already there.

And, if we look at these justice issues, again, through this passage, then we see that Jesus is already there in those issues, in the storms of our lives, in the deep sea, or the, however we want to... imagery that we associate with that. He's already here with our congregation, as we strive to turn corners, and make new, different opportunities in ways of ministry. He's already here in our community with the struggles and challenges that our community continues to wrestle with, and the rest of the world. He's there in our relationships, He's there in our workplaces, He's present in all of these difficulties and challenges of society.

And so, He's inviting us, not to just go, and Him stay back here, and us go out there and see what happens, but He's inviting us to come join Him in what He's already doing. To heal, and to help, and to make lives better for people. And to say, and to address all of these situations to reconcile, and to, you know. What's He doing? Bringing love to the world, Amen. He's already out there doing that, and invites us to join Him.

So we jump out of the boat. We start to run. We see ourselves sinking. Then, we're sinking for His cause. We're sinking because we're following where He has invited us. And so, we cry out to Him, with Peter, "Lord, save me." And He does.

Jesus Saves

When he noticed the strong wind, he was afraid and started to sink down in the water. “Save me, Lord!” he cried. Vs 30 (GNT)

I like how it's said in this Good News testament. It said, "When he noticed the strong wind, he was afraid, and started sinking in the water. 'Save me, Lord,' he cried." And so, then that kind of shows the dependency that we have on Christ, when nobody else can help, Christ can. And when we're sinking in any kind of a situation, or we're struggling with any kind of a situation, then we can always turn to Christ, and pray that simple prayer. "Lord, help me." That's my prayer I make more than any other others. I say, "Lord, help me," and He does.

And so, that's a rock in the middle of the sea. I've got this picture that my grandmother gave me, a long time ago. One she had gotten decades before I was born, when they had some, I think, Dutch cleanser, she told me, that had a contest. And, if you sent in something, so many wrappers, or something, then you would get this picture. And, it's a picture of two women, and they were in this stormy sea, churning all around. And there was this big stone cross that was emerging in front of the sea, and they were clinging to it. And the title of the picture is Rock of Ages. And, I think that's a good image for us, in the storms of life swirling about us, is that Jesus is our Rock of Ages, and we can cling to Him. We can call on Him, and He will help us. He will save us.

Don’t Doubt

Jesus didn’t hesitate. He reached down and grabbed his hand. Then he said, “Faint-heart, what got into you?” Vs 31 (MSG)

And then, finally, in verse 31 in The Message, it says, "Jesus didn't hesitate. He reached down and grabbed his hand. And then He said, 'Fainthearted? What got into you?'" So, we're encouraged not to doubt Christ, not to doubt His love, and His saving power. And, when Christ says "fainthearted," or "O ye of little faith," it's not to condemn us, or to discourage us, but to encourage us to put another layer of something on our faith. Put another layer of confidence in Him, put another memory together to remind us how that Jesus saves, how He cares for us. How He hears us, how He's ready to reach out, grab our arm and pull us up, and help us to the next step, when turbulent times come.

So, here we are, we're, in a way, we could say, we're all walking on the water, to some degree. We're all walking through challenges, and we're all willing to join Jesus in the work that He's doing. We're all ready. We know that there are going to be challenges, that there're going to be storms, but we're working, and we're praying. And we're hoping that we will be faithful, even in the midst of the storm, because we trust Him. And so, we accept His invitation to come. "Come ahead. Join me." Amen.

Amen. In the name of Jesus.

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