Walking on Water (Condensed Version) by Dr. John Palmer

Ministers Message: Dr. John Palmer

October 5, 2014

I picked this passage because it is a picture of Jesus, and a picture of life.  I don’t know about you, but I’m better at getting the message if it’s in story form, rather than an abstraction.  I know there is significance in the abstract, but if it’s abstract, I never quite get it…..I like Rembrandt’s paintings with people and sheep and dogs and nature scenes that I can grasp hold of and I  like the gospel stories because they present a clear portrait for us. This particular story, on worldwide communion Sunday, focuses on who and what we are as Christian people.  You need to know that Matthew probably put this in the scripture because he was thinking of the church under persecution and martyrdom.  This passage is a word of faith to the people and followers of Jesus Christ.  
The disciples are in the boat in the middle of the night….in the wind, and fearful for their lives.  You know what happens in water when the wind comes up rapidly …..you can easily be overcome by the waves or drift off to a place you didn’t intend.  I understand that good sailors have to be careful about taking the boat out if it’s extremely windy, and if it’s over 10 knots it’s best not to go out.  The disciples are in their boat….feeling overcome by the waves, drifting off course….and they are afraid.  
Isn’t this a picture of life?  There are times when we are in our boat, our boat of life, against which the winds blow and the waves crash, and we fear for ourselves…. It doesn’t matter what age we are, there is always some concern that makes us feel as though we are being overwhelmed.
Scott Peck says “life is difficult”.   Life is difficult….it can feel dangerous being out on the “sea of life” in our small boat.  Peck talks about the things in life that can overwhelm us and make us anxious or fearful; the things that we have to lose in order to live a full life.  Not the things we have to gain, but the things that we have to lose.  This can be a real challenge for us; everything from growing out of our infancy, to our imperfect health as we age,  gradually losing independence, and at the end of life , even losing our life itself.  It doesn’t matter whether we’re young or old, all of us have anxieties and we worry about life.
God sees us in our boat…..young and old…..all of us  in the same boat of life challenged by fear and anxiety….God sees us in our boat and says we are not alone,  no matter how insignificant it is.  Whatever you’re concerned about today….(and everyone here in this congregation has something that matters  to them….) God comes to you in the spirit of Christ.  Many years ago we were visiting our son in Red Lake and attending his church under their new minister. What this minister said in his sermon has stayed with me since that time….“what matters to you…..matters to God……”  Let me repeat that….”what matters to you….matters to God…..”   In this passage I hear the word of God saying…’I am with you and the spirit of Jesus Christ is here to help you through the winds of life, wherever they may blow….you are not alone.  ‘The wind may not cease completely, but I am with you to see that you get through it.’  How does it feel to have God come and be with you in your worries and fears….in your worries about children or employment or health or disease or things that are happening internationally or things in close range?  What matters to you, matters to God.
The other part of this passage deals with Peter’s relationship to Jesus.  We often read about Jesus calling the disciples, but you might not have noticed this before:  When Jesus comes to them on the water and tells them to have courage, it’s Peter who initiates the move toward Him and who says …”Lord … bid me come to you” …Peter initiates the step ….Peter  asks Jesus to call him onto the water.  
And Jesus responds …..”come”….

What was in the mind of Peter when he did that?  What was going on with him that he wanted to be there with Jesus…..what motivated him…..why didn’t he just stay in the boat?  Peter, always impulsive, wanted to get out of the boat and be with Jesus and share in his ministry.  You have to remember that this is a post-resurrection story; it is telling us that this is the same Lord who went through all of life with love and care and compassion, and in the end was not deserted by God but was raised from death to life.  Peter wants to trust…. but he still doubts….. When he gets onto the water he loses his courage and begins to sink. We all do that, don’t we?  We believe in Jesus but are not sure what he has in store for our life as we seek to live it.  
 What was going on in the mind of Jesus?  Was he looking at Peter, saying…?” You’re sinking because you just don’t have what it takes and I can see all your flaws?”  No…Jesus says, in essence….I see in you the possibilities of a larger life with me, of a better life, of a more wholesome and loving and caring life….a life of compassion and a life of love…..wholesome and whole and Holy.  God sees those possibilities in Peter and says to him, without hesitation…..”come, come and be with me.”    Jesus reaches to Peter and immediately takes his hand.  
As we gather with Christians around the world, we gather with people who have heard the word….”come” and who, in some way, have sought to be followers of Jesus Christ.  Would it be too much to suggest today that Christ calls us to be “water walkers”….to be walking on the waters of life, bringing to others a sense of hope and compassion and wholeness….loving people….doing as Jesus did in his ministry?  Would that be too much, as followers of Christ?  We did profess, at one point of our life, when we professed our faith, that Christ is our Saviour….he is with us in life to get us through the stormy seas…..but he is also our Lord and he calls us to follow him.  As we gather around the table with millions of Christians throughout the world, we need to hear again the words “come….come, and be not afraid”    

Amen.