SERMON FOR THE TENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
SERMON FOR THE TENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
Pastor Michael Jarick
Title : FACING THE STORMS OF LIFE
Text: Matthew 14: 22-33
22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.
27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
29 “Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshipped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
When I was a young bloke, I remember diving into a swimming pool. Actually, I didn’t dive, because it was too terrifying. I was standing on the ten metre platform at the time. The best I could manage was to step off the edge and remain upright (unfortunately I didn’t remember to keep my legs closed). I remember thinking “That swimming pool looks very small. I’d better jump straight!” All my mates were suddenly very polite, too! “You first!” “No, after you!” “Oh, but I insist!”
I wonder how St Peter must have felt as he was about to take the plunge, not off the diving platform, but out of a perfectly good boat into the Sea of Galilee.
Jesus had spent the day with thousands of people. His friend and cousin John the Baptist had been executed, and Jesus had wanted some time on his own to pray. But the people had followed him, thousands of them. He healed the sick, and then fed them, too. Now he sends his disciples back in the boat, he dismisses the crowd, and he has another go at finding a quiet space by himself to pray.
While Jesus was praying late at night, the disciples are in strife when a fierce storm strikes. They’re getting desperate when they see a figure on the water. Is it a ghost? A demon? They hear Jesus say “It’s alright! It’s me, don’t be afraid!”
Peter is the bold one. When Jesus invites him to come to him, he puts his leg over the side. That must have taken a lot of trust and courage. It was like peeking over the edge of the 10 metre diving platform. He bravely clambers out of the boat and stands on the surface of the water, then walks towards Jesus.
And the reality hits him! What on earth was he thinking? Look at the size of those waves! Listen to the wind scream! He begins to sink.
My guess is that you can relate to Peter at this stage of the story. Sometimes reality hits us between the eyes. We feel like we are in the middle of a storm that threatens to drown us. Look at the size of those waves! Listen to that wind roar!
What storms have you faced? Maybe you’re facing storms now – relationship difficulties that can’t seem to be sorted out; or maybe you’re bearing the scars of relationships that failed years ago, husband, wife, parent, child, mate. Maybe financial pressures are squeezing you. You’ve only just got your nose above water, and it’s not going to take much to be swamped. There are lots of things you'd like to do, but you can't afford it. There's tension in your household over how money gets spent, and you wonder how you're going to survive.
Maybe the storms are ones inside you: loneliness, anger, depression, feelings of hopelessness and uselessness. Outside, most of the time, you look calm. Just occasionally a glimpse of the storm within is seen in the impatience, the sudden anger, the risky behaviour. But inside, storms rage.
Perhaps the storms for you are on the horizon. You’re calm now, but you can see what lays ahead of you: finding a job, deciding what to do with your life, worry about how your children will manage without you, diminishing health of body or mind. It’s calm at the moment, but the wind is picking up.
When Jesus called Peter to step out of the boat and come to him, he knew what was in store for Peter. It wasn't going to be a cakewalk! He knew Peter would have a crisis of faith. A crisis of faith is the feeling that the problems and obstacles of life are more powerful than the one who calls us to walk towards him. Peter's crisis of faith was when he took his eyes off Jesus, and looked at the size of the waves. He had listened to Jesus’ words of invitation. Now he hears the wailing of the wind.
When we too, take our eyes off Jesus, then all we can see are the obstacles and problems of life. The difficulty is that we can't focus on Jesus if our attention is fixed on the storm. We can’t hear his words of promise if we are listening to the wail of the world.
But Jesus is our lifeline! Jesus is the one who gave Peter the ability to walk on water. Jesus is the one who gives us the strength and courage to face the storms of life, and to respond to his call. When we take our eyes off him, we are taking our eyes off the one who stretches out his mighty arm to grab us and then, just like Peter, we begin to sink, as problems and crises overwhelm us.
Did you notice that although Peter takes his eyes off Jesus, although he stops listening, Jesus stays focussed. When we take our eyes off Jesus, he keeps his eyes on us. When we can no longer hear his voice, he can hear us. Even when we feel overwhelmed and about to drown! Even when we can't see him, he keeps his eye on us! Even when we doubt and have a crisis of faith, he keeps his eye on us! That's the way he is! He is quick to save, and quick to forgive.
And he continues to call us, each one of us, to step over the side of the boat, and to walk towards him. Storms? Yeah, but focus on the one who hears your cry, the one who has his eye on you. Amen.
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