Here is the text from my sermon on October 17, 2010 at First Presbyterian Church in Bend, Oregon. The sermon text was Matthew 14:22-33 I really don’t like hiking. I love being outside, I love physical exercise, I love seeing all the cool things that are around us. There’s just something about walking to a place that seems boring to me. The problem is, my wife LOVES to hike! Almost every weekend she’s dreaming up somewhere we can go and hike around. Every time she says, “Do you want to hike to this neat rock formation?” or whatever and I roll me eyes and think here we go again. Because I’m a huge push over and I know the old adage “if momma ain’t happy nobody’s happy.” I agree to go. We pack up our stuff grab our daughter and sometimes our dogs and we drive to a trailhead and begin our journey. Our journeys have taken us to Stein’s Pillar, The Painted Hills, up and over Smith Rock, Steelhead falls, bird sanctuaries, Dylan Falls, Paulina Peak, the Big Obsidian Flow and that’s just stuff around here. Almost every time during our hike I look at my wife and I say, “this is AWESOME! We should do this more often.” at which point she rolls her eyes at me and smiles.
You would think after realizing home enjoyable the hiking experience can be that I would be excited each time my wife suggests it, but for some reason I can’t get it through my head. Luckily, I am blessed with a patient wife. I also take solace in the fact that according to Matthew the disciples didn’t get it, either. It seems as if they had no short-term memory or an unwillingness to recognize and appreciate the miracles that they were apart of.
Take our Bible story for today. The disciples had just collected the twelve baskets of leftovers after feeding five thousand men, besides women and children with 5 loaves and 2 fish. Immediately Jesus makes the disciples get in a boat and sends them ahead while he dismisses the crowd and retreats to pray.
The disciples’ boat becomes battered by waves and they are stuck unable to work. Jesus at around 4 AM comes walking up to them on the water. They are terrified, I pretty sure if I saw someone walking on rough water, through the wind, especially at 4 in the morning, I would be 100% freaked out.
Jesus realizing that they are afraid seeks to calm them by saying, “Take heart, it is I do not be afraid.” And maybe just maybe Peter remembered the power of Christ to do more than we could ever ask or imagine and Peter speaks up says to Jesus, “Prove it!” which like the prophets that have come before him Jesus promptly does by inviting Peter to step out of the boat. I imagine the look on Peter’s face being one of utter shock, “Really!? You want me to walk out there?” or maybe, just maybe, Peter is excited by this proposition. Maybe his face lights up as he quickly bounds over the side of the boat and races to meet his friend and Savior?
He gets so excited that he’s been called to step out of the comfort of the boat that he races with child like glee to be with Jesus. Then as he gets to him he realizes, “wait a minute, I can’t do this, I can’t walk on water” at which point he begins to sink.
Isn’t this the way it always is? We go to a conference or we read about something in the paper or we hear a sermon and we get so fired up we can’t wait to jump in to a new adventure. We make all the contacts, fill out all the paperwork, get every thing lined up and then something doesn’t go right or it’s more work than we thought or others are not as excited as you are. It starts to feel less like passion and more like work, you start to feel overwhelmed, you feel like your drowning and then you just give up and think, well it just wasn’t meant to be. I think sometimes we forget that Jesus is standing there right next to us; we forget to ask for or accept his help even when he is trying his best to offer it. We flounder and try to swim back to the boat by ourselves when Jesus is holding us up.
It reminds me of one of the first things they teach you in life saving training for lifeguards. That the person you are trying to save will fight you. That’s why you’re taught only to get in the water as a last resort. Luckily for us, no matter how much we thrash and claw we cannot overwhelm Jesus. Jesus is ALWAYS in the water. Jesus is there asking us the question, “Why did you doubt?” I believe he is saying to Peter and to us, “Why did you doubt that I would save you? That’s what I came for.” Like the disciples I always forget that no matter what there is nothing that can separate me or you from the love of God found in Jesus Christ.
Jesus celebrates with us when it goes right and when we end up all wet, he carries us back to the boat, brings us back into the fold and we move on together.
I look around the sanctuary and I see these banners listing all of the ways that members of our community respond to their call and I am amazed. I would like to take a moment to honor and celebrate all that you have done in the name of Christ…These banners; these lists represent our feeding of the multitudes. We have fed the community, we have fed the world, we have fed each other and there were leftovers. Outside in the Commons area stretching all the way down the hall to Heritage Hall is your chance to step out, a chance for you to respond to Christ’s call to “Come!”
At every table one of the many ministries of the church has a place for you to learn about and sign up to participate in a new adventure; an opportunity to put your toe in the water; an opportunity to step out of your comfort zone.
You may be thinking, I have no time, I have no experience, I’m too old, I’m too young, they don’t need me. I know that’s often what I think, then I agree to go on a hike with my wife or walk in a marathon or mentor a troubled teen or help a friend move and every time I come away with a wonderful memory, new perspective and I’m left thinking, “why don’t I do this more often.”
We are now in a position for such a time as this to step out of our comfort zones, to not rest on our laurels and accomplishments, to celebrate what we have accomplished through the grace of God and use them as a reminder of all that we can do with Christ as our lifeguard, helping us to learn how to walk on water and when we slip feel like we are drowning, Jesus is there immediately to carry us to the boat and travel with us as we continue to move through waters of this journey of faith.
The question now is not IF you are called to step out, but WHERE you are called to step out. I invite you to walk up and down the halls of the church; the tables will be here all week. Grab information, ask questions; discern where God is leading you during this stewardship season to share your gifts and skills.
Remember God does not call the equipped God equips the called. All it will take is, as a retired Navy friend of mine says, to let go of the gunnel and step out into the ocean of possibilities that are ours through Christ who loves us.
May it be so.