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Scripture Text (NRSV)

Matthew 14:22-33
 

14:22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds.

14:23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone,

14:24 but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them.

14:25 And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea.

14:26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, "It is a ghost!" And they cried out in fear.

14:27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, "Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid."

14:28 Peter answered him, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water."

14:29 He said, "Come." So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus.

14:30 But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, "Lord, save me!"

14:31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?"

14:32 When they got into the boat, the wind ceased.

14:33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God."


Comments:

Years ago on Reading Rainbow, a Public TV program for children hosted by Lavar Burton, they had a feature on the mummies of Egypt. This program explained that the Egyptians believed that they would live again after they died, and it was important that they have a body for that new life. So they preserved the body for new life. At first, the bodies were preserved by burying them in the sand where the hot desert sun would literally bake all the body fluids away. Eventually, professionals developed a process of mummifying the bodies with chemicals, after removing the internal organs, including the brain, from the body. The mummification process took about 8 months, after which the bodies, were buried, along with the person’s possessions, as it appears they believed you could take it with you.

One might wonder how they could believe as they did. After all, surely they knew that those bodies remained dead when grave robbers stole all the possessions but left the body just lying there. Or maybe they believed the new life would be much further in the future, and that the only problem would be that those unfortunate bodies would wake up to new life in poverty since the robbers had made away with their possessions from the graves.

A question brought up by a young girl at the time was whether being made into a mummy would help those people get to heaven, but we need to remember that they didn’t believe in heaven like we do. However, is our teaching of the resurrection really any easier to believe than the Egyptian teaching of the new life to come?

You know, when you watch a television program or a movie based in the future, the characters will on occasion make a reference to the ancient teachings of Christianity, as if Christianity is finally no different than the Greek and Roman mythology developed to explain the unexplainable in a pre-scientific world. Even the stories supposedly in current time rarely deal with the reality of Christian beliefs. We see the human side of church-goers, their sinfulness, fairly often, and in graphic detail, but rarely is the truth of Christian faith shown in such a way as to be observable on even the smallest scale. Maybe faith is too difficult, or unbelievable, to portray on the movie screen.

So we ask, “Do we really have anything that the ancient Egyptians, the Greeks, and the Romans didn’t have, to prove the truth of our faith? Is there any guarantee that our teachings won’t have become just one more ancient religion among the many mythological collections in the books of history?”

You might immediately think of the Bible. But the truth is, that much of our own Bible was passed on orally, by word of mouth, for years before it was written down, just like the Greek and Roman mythology were told and retold time and again.

Or you might recall that we had eye-witnesses to Jesus, his life, his teachings, his death, and the resurrection; but Greek and Roman mythology also had human characters who may have been seen as eye-witnesses by those who believed the stories. We can’t claim to go back 2000 years for irrefutable proof any more than they could. If that’s all that we have, if we have no more than those who believed the stories of Zeus and Apollo, we might be convinced just to go on home, because there’s nothing really there.

And that’s when we are where Peter was as he walked toward Jesus on the water in today’s Gospel lesson. Everything was going just fine. Sure, the wind had caused the boat to be pushed far from shore as they tried to hold it near, waiting for Jesus, but here Jesus was, coming to them, walking on the water toward the boat. And Peter, too, was walking on the waves toward Jesus. What could be better, or greater for Peter, than to experience such a miracle as this? Surely, he had to be convinced!

But then another great gust of wind pushed Peter just a little bit off balance, and the lightening flashed, and the thunder boomed, and Peter looked around and said, “What am I doing? I can’t do this! No one can walk on water -- except God -- and I’m not God!” Peter saw the truth. He was only human. He could not walk on water, because he was human, and he began to sink. He had believed. He had believed that he could walk on water when he saw Jesus doing it, but when confronted with the facts, he knew it was impossible, and he could no longer believe.

Maybe not every day, but certainly on occasion we, too, are confronted with truths that seem to tear away at our faith, facts that seem to describe our teachings as nothing more than myth, invented to make people feel better about themselves, and to lose their fear of dying. It is absurd to believe that the cross of crucifixion can be a sign of life for us as Christians. Paul calls it foolishness in his letter to the Romans. How can we believe in the resurrection, when we’ve seen bodies decayed to dust and burned to ash? How can we believe when science points in different directions all over the place? The body dies and disintegrates. People cannot walk on liquid water. Water does not turn into wine without a lot of mixing and measuring and most of all, time. How can we believe these things, without being ridiculed as fools in this world? It’s impossible.

Yet with God, all things are possible. Peter could walk on the water, even when it wasn’t frozen as it can become during the cold, icey winter, because God made it possible. Way-back-when in Cana, the water did become wine in an instant, because God made it possible. And the resurrection to new life, even after the flesh of these bodies has turned to dust or ash, that resurrection is true, because God makes it possible.

And to believe the impossible, that is the greatest gift God has given us so far, for the sacrifice of the life of Jesus is nothing if you cannot believe it. The life that you were given in the womb of your mother is nothing out of the ordinary, until you believe that life is given to you by God. And the resurrection -- which lies out of sight beyond the wall of death -- that, too, is nothing to you unless you believe.

Do you believe? Can you believe? Is it possible for you to believe the impossible?

I say, “Yes. It is.” You can believe the impossible, because there’s something else at work here. It’s not only your brain, not only your heart, something else is working inside you, right now. God is here. God’s Holy Spirit is here, right now, working to inspire faith in you. God is here, making it possible for you to say, “Yes! I believe!”

And this is where we have more than the ancient Romans and Greeks with all their gods and stories. This is where we have more than the Egyptians with their belief in an afterlife. This is why Christianity will endure into the future, no matter how far we travel in space or time. Because God the Father remains with us, the Holy Spirit continues to work in us, and Jesus waits to greet us in glory. Let the Holy Spirit inspire you to say, “Yes! I believe!”

In Jesus’ name… Amen.


In our lectionary group this past Thursday we spent a good deal of time discussing the idea of chaos. As we read this story about walking on water, we think about gravity. As the original readers of the story heard it, they didn't think gravity, they though chaos. The sea was chaos, a symbol of chaos, and had been for thousands of years.

Jesus walks across that chaos out to his disciples. As he approaches the boat one of his disciples decides to step out into that same chaos knowing that as he does he can do it if it is indeed Jesus. And he succeeds for just a moment until he loses his focus and the chaos overwhelms him and as he sinks he cries out to the one walking on chaos.

Without too much work, but needing to have a bulletin prepared while I'm gone, the title of this week's sermon will be "Walking on Chaos." I'll be canoing the Boundary Waters of northern Minnesota this week, speaking of chaos. I look forward to all your posts as I check back in on Saturday night in preparation for next Sunday.

Mark in WI


I have a dilemma that I'm hoping someone can provide some advice and/or resources for. I have a couple with a seven month year old girl that tragically is not expected to live past a year. The parents would like to baptize the child, but by their own admission do not adhere to belief in the confessions and are only marginally what they would consider to be Christian. I am thinking a baptism is not appropriate at this point, but perhaps a dedication of the child is more what they are seeking. They seem somewhat agreeable. Does anyone know where I could get a service of dedication. Thanks so much. PL, California


I reread some of the comments about this text from three years ago and was struck by the assumption of a few of the writers that that the disciples' boat was a stable refuge from the raging storm. If you have ever experienced a storm at sea, you know that there is no stable point of reference. Being in the boat is as chaotic as being in the raging sea. Take a look at Psalm 107:23-32 which describes those tossed about by the sea as having hearts which are melting because of their peril. If whatever boat we are in is being tossed around by a tempest, then there is no apparent safety either inside or outside the boat. Peter left the boat to see if it was Jesus coming across the water, then he began to sink. Jesus asked him why did his faith waver. Perhaps if his faith were strong, he would have realized that Christ was present with the disciples in the boat, just as Christ is present with us whenever we are in stormy seas. The storm and the boat do not provide us a stable point of reference. Christ is our only stable ground in life's storms. --- At least that is where I think I am heading with this text. BOZ


PL, California

This situation has me wondering who the baptism is for. Is it for the parents, the church, the child, or God? The parents obviously see some value in the batism. That tells me they believe more than you have communicated. I vote baptize the child. "Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." Matt: 19: 14  BT IND


PL, California

I,too, would opt for baptizing the child. Baptism is the activity of God and the one being baptized is the recipient of grace and incoporation into the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The parents-though not very decisive- will witness this and thus they may come to believe. ("And a little child shall lead them.")

I can not think of a potentially more powerful service than baptizing a child not expected to live long on this earth.

This will be a future source of consolation to them and to you.

Please baptize the child,

Pr.del in Ia


Walking on water seems to be easy at first but then all of a sudden Pete realizes what he is really doing and then fear takes over. It is my conviction that fear is the biggest issue in our churches. I am afraid to do that because people will talk about me. I am afraid to share my faith with our young people. I am afraid to step forward for this council or committee. I hope to speak to the issue of fear and to tell the folks that fear slows us down to the point that we will do nothing. And trust in God strengthens us to the point where we can do all things because of Christ who loves us. Fear is useless what is needed is trust. priest in Iowa


PL in California,

I come from a tradition where we do not baptize infants, but I'm still leaning towards agreeing with the others that baptizing the baby at this point might be the most pastoral thing you can do.

My tradition believes that children are innocent and do not need baptism until such time that they are conscious of their sin and are able to make an informed choice about baptism and membership in the church universal. When babies are healthy, there is time to educate the parents about this concept and the decision to dedicate rather than baptize. However, when the child is not expected to live and the parents are in agony, they probably aren't ready to hear about such things.

When I was doing hospital chaplaincy, I baptized a 4 month old fetus. I also spent a lot of time once trying to find a Catholic priest willing to baptize a stillborn baby. The family insisted it was their Catholic tradition that the baby had to be baptized. As a protestant minister, I was not acceptable to them for this purpose. The priest on call refused to come in, saying that baptism was for the living, not the dead. I finally found a priest who was quite happy to come and talk with the family and do what they needed to be comforted and brought close to God.

Obviously, there is a lot of disagreement on this issue within traditions, but I find being pastoral and loving in times of crisis gives me a more credit when it's time to talk about doctrine or such things.

CMW in IL


PL in Calif: A service of dedication involves vows to bring a child up in a Christian home. This won't be possible for these parents. If you do want one, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) has a service in the service book for the new Chalice Hymnal. If you get stuck and can not get one from a local pastor, e-mail me at hunt@clover.net. PH in OH


Thanks to all who have contributed to helping me with my dilemma concerning the ill child whose parents are seeking baptism for her. I also apologize to those who prefer this site to remain for text discussion only. Many have voiced concern that the pastoral concerns for the parents should take precedence over doctrinal/theological matters. I agree in most cases. I was a chaplain faced with a similar situation of baptizing an infant not expected to live, which I did with little or no reservation. I think the dilemma I see here is more of the parent's reservations about the Lutheran service of baptism. They don't want to say the creed and are uncomfortable with some of the language of our service. They are not comfortable taking vows they do not intend to keep, nor in proclaiming doctrine they do not believe, which I respect. I'm not sure if this changes the picture a bit or not. Again, many thanks to all who have taken the time to help.  PL, California


PL, California,

I'm a Lutheran pastor too, who would be hard pressed to leave out the Creed. There are a couple options: 1. Have a representative from your church act as sponsor and answer for the child.

2. Phrase the creed in question form and ask the child.

3. Remember that the sacrament of Baptism pre-dates the Creed and some baptisms are referenced as being in the name of Jesus.  Pr.del in Ia


A few years ago I had a young man who wanted to be baptized after going through the confirmation class. I asked him how he wanted to be baptized and he replied, "By submersion." I said, "I think you mean 'immersion." "What's the difference?" he asked. "With immersion, I let you back up out of the water."

Peter also seemed anxious to avoid "submersion!"

OLAS


PL:

I too vote for baptizing the child. It is God who is at work in baptism. How God shall work through that little child's life has yet to be fully revealed. I agree with the unnamed post (A little child shall lead them) KS in PA


PL, California,

One more vote for baptism. It is God at work regardless of the words that are or are not said. I don't think John the Baptist or any of the disciples used the Creed when they baptized. Understanding the desire to stay within the denomination's guidelines, I like the suggestion of having a sponsor say the Creed.

Ultimately who you do or do not baptize is a matter between you and God. My prayers are with you that God will give you the right answer in a way you are able to clearly discern.

Peace, katinPA


PL and other dear friends,

Typically I don?t like to rebound stories, however, as stories really do have their own life, perhaps it is appropriate to do so at this point. Perhaps I might be forgiven for this bit of reiteration. For you see, this is a story about walking on water ? it?s a story about going onto the stormy sea, never sure of the result ? but sink or no, sometimes that is the place where we are called. And so, I offer this up ? it seems to speak to both questions at hand.

Baptism ? an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.

My friend, Jeff, tells this story.

?They had asked me to be on duty. I did not especially want to be ? on duty, that is. After all, it was going to be over the holidays, and holidays, well ? holidays are meant for the family. But, we were close friends and she was so excited about this birth and I WAS the hospital chaplain, so ?

They admitted her. They knew it would be a difficult delivery and didn?t want to take any chances, so they admitted her on a Monday evening. I took the night shifts for the week and because they wanted me there, I decided that I would sleep at the hospital. I figured that I would be there for one or two days, certainly no more than that. Of course, I was wrong. Babies being babies, she didn?t give birth until Friday.

By this time I was exhausted. It was in the wee hours of the morning and I had just settled into my much too small cot for a well-deserved snooze when my beeper went off. It was time. Quickly I arose, threw on my greens and rushed to the delivery room.

It really didn?t take me long to get there. Certainly not more than one or two minutes. But when I walked into the room, I knew something was wrong, terribly, terribly wrong. Where there should have been the warmth of new life, instead there was just the inanimate emptiness of cold linoleum and tile walls. Where there should have been the healthy wail of new birth, instead there was just the silence, the silence of shock and horror and loss. The silence soon broken by sobs of the mother and father, the heart-rending sobs.

I?m not sure I have ever felt so lost in all my life. What could I do? What could I say? I stood by them and held on to them and cried with them. It was all that I could do. And there we were, frozen into a tight circle of grief, clutching one another, holding on to one another?s pain, holding on, for we could do no other.

After awhile, over the ticking of the clock, ever so softly, her voice broke the silence. ?I want you to baptize my baby.? And then louder and more urgent. ?I want you to baptize my baby!? ?Please, baptize my little girl, baptize our daughter.?

The baby was dead. The baby was dead and in the Presbyterian Church, we don?t baptize dead infants. We don?t baptize dead infants.

But I did baptize my friends? daughter. I baptized her for the life that she was, the life that she is. I baptized her for the promise she represented. I baptized her because Christ had dwelled within that small body. I baptized her because she was a product of God?s continuing grace within our lives, within the body of faith, within the realm of our human condition, and the love within this family. I baptized her because her life had brought meaning and hope and joy to this community, a community which extended beyond this event, beyond this family, beyond this moment. I baptized her because it was the right thing to do.?

My friend, the friend who demonstrated love in the nightmare of this circumstance, understood sacrament. In that place at that moment, polity and debate and ?proper? theological activity had no meaning. All that had meaning was Christ. And in that cold delivery room, immersed in the overwhelming pain, he proclaimed the promise of Christ and the joy of God. In that cold delivery room, immersed in the overwhelming pain, he proclaimed hope and life and love. He proclaimed God?s grace.

Sometimes we are called into that place where we have never ventured, into the realm of storm where the end is always in doubt. Yet it is there, in the midst of the maelstrom, in that place where we no longer have control ? that Christ appears. And we wonder ? we wonder why we ever doubted at all.

Shalom my friends,

Nail-Bender in NC


PL, Baptize that child - This is a moment that may allow the parents to see God at work and as has been said, Baptism is a work of God. Let your hand carry that child to the water and pour its life on her.

About the text, I don't know where this came from but I remember someone observing that Peter step out in to the water and everything was fine until he took his eyes off of Jesus - that's when he got his socks wet.

This is something that is important in this story. If we start out toward's God and we falter - our striving for grace is honored by our wonderful Father who will extend the hand of Jesus to help us out of the depths. Deke in TX Pace e Bene


I baptize you in the name of the Father, because I believe in God the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

I baptize you in the name of the Son, because I believe in Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, and born of the virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

I baptize you in the name of the Holy Spirit, because I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.


ISSUE ONE-baptize the child. I agree with the others. God is the main force in baptizm, and it would be a great witness of God's adoption of this child, even if the parents won't make the vow. Can a child be anymre alone and yet God will receive the child?

ISSUE TWO---Does anyone think that Christ's question to Peter ("O man of little faith, why did you doubt?") might refer to Peter's initial doubt as to Christ's identity which prompted the challenge("Lord, if it is you, bid me to come to you.")

AUGGIE in Mem--pho town


Maybe it is just me, Nailbender, but I like the story better with the "wrong" punctuation marks. The question marks may speak a little better to what Peter felt as he left the boat as surely as you questioned and wrestled with the doctrinal issues of the baptism of the dead child.

jjinchassc


Many times we use Peter as the "straw man" in this story, of having too little faith--- "If only he would have kept his eyes on the Lord..."

Yet I am wrestling with the idea that maybe Christ called Peter to fail. Peter did have the courage to leave the boat (something the others did not). But it is in the experience, the risk, that Peter's faith would grow. Yes, he had little faith; but the only way it would grow would be to use it. In leaving the boat Peter risks. His growing faith can cry out "Lord, help me." Indeed, the disciples' faith grew out of this experience--- who they see as a ghost at first is not recognized after Peter's steps as the Son of God.

In what the world percieves as failure can come the growth of faith or the revelation of God. After all, didn't the folks at Calvary think it was all over with the cross?

Peace, jj in chassc


speaking of failure and risk and growing, I failed to proofread my submission before pressing submitting it should read ... "as a ghost IS recognized as the Son of God..."

Trying to learn from my failures, jj in chas sc


In the Lutheran tradition of late (ELCA) the phrase "Word Alone" has been kicked around pretty freely. Peter heard the word, "Come" yet he began to sink. The "Word Alone" did not keep Peter from sinking, his "little faith" caused him to sink dispite hearing the word. If we say "Word Alone" are we saying that God's revalation is dead? This is a wonderful preaching text, I like the comments about chaos. Ray in ND


Luther--Shmuter; Wesley--Shmesley; Calvin--Shmalvin! Jesus would baptize the baby. CSW in GA


jj.......I like the approach that Christ called Peter to fail. But for what purpose? Failure leads to a deeper questioning, and a deeper appreciation of others. Failure teaches us much more than success if we are willing to learn.... BABTIZE THE BABE...catholic priest here in Iowa!


Since to the early church Peter represented "the Church" I am taking the tact of the church needing to get out of the boat and risk and only then does it receive resurrection. This is not work ethics. Just that staying safe prevents new life. So I am listening to see what Jesus is calling my church to risk at this time. I'm thinking about the unjust war theory re. Iraq. What else?

The baptismal discussion reminds me this really is a baptismal text - great for adult baptism, but yet great for infant baptism - what is it that calls these parents to desire baptism even when the old words don't work for them? Is it Jesus saying, "Come?" Remember baptism is God's "Yes" to us! Maybe there is someone in the cloud of witnesses who is standing up to welcome this child into God's realm! I too would have a congregational sponsor.

Caroline in MA/USA


Faith without works is dead! Teaching that next week in VBS Adult Class... This sermon will be a teaser for that concept! I am using Roman and Matthew "Beautiful Feet" and Beautiful feat.... Going to use foot stories...all the way to John and Charles Wesley. I have rural farm people as a congregation.so Southern Gospel is the thing here... Going to Use the Song "When the waves are over your head they're under His Feet!" Verse 1- Jesus said Come, and Peter went, and when his faith and hope was spent, Peter Got out of the boat, yeah, he had fear and went down...BUT Jesus was right there all the time holding his hand, carying him thru... When Jesus says COME! DO we as Pastors, Do our congregations? I think I will preach bare foot this sunday! Pastor Mary


For all the well-spoken points already expressed, I too vote to baptize. It is God's gift -- who are we to judge who is appropriate? lsh in nj


RE: ISSUE TWO---Does anyone think that Christ's question to Peter ("O man of little faith, why did you doubt?") might refer to Peter's initial doubt as to Christ's identity which prompted the challenge("Lord, if it is you, bid me to come to you.") from AUGGIE in Mem--pho town

I was wondering the same thing. Isn't faith a gift from God, even to Peter? I have trouble with the idea that faith is something I intellectualize, and I struggle with the idea that Jesus would set Peter up to fail. But, after reading this story many times through the years, I was struck for the first time with the idea that perhaps it is Peter's statement "Lord . . . if it IS you . . ." that Jesus is asking "Why did you doubt?" The disciples thought Jesus was a ghost and were fearful. Perhaps Jesus was asking why Peter doubted that Jesus would be present in his time of trouble. Jesus had just proven that he was capable of taking their 'little faith' in the form of 2 fish and 5 loaves and multiplying it to take care of everyone.

The New Interpreter's Bible Commentary makes these statements I find helpful: "For Matthew, Peter's problem was not only that he took his eyes off Jesus, but that he wanted proof of the presence of Christ, and so left the boat in the first place. . . The message is not "If he had had enough faith, he could have walked on the water," just as the message to us is not "If we had enough faith, we could overcome all our problems in spectacular ways." . . . this view encourages us to feel guilty because of our "lack of faith." What if the message of this text were "If he had had enough faith, he would have believed the word of Jesus that came to him in the boat as mediating the presence and reality of God"? (emphasis on 'in the boat') Faith is not being able to walk on the water -- only God can do that -- but daring to believe, in the face of all the evidence, that God is with us in the boat, made real in the community of faith as it makes its way through the storm, battered by the waves."

It helps me to remember that the Gospel of Matthew is all about "God with us." See Matt 1:23 and Matt 28:20 which serve as brackets.

RevGranny in TX


Stormy waters in our neighborhood.

Last night a man was gunned down and killed in our church parking lot. Media frenzy out there and nieghbors are anxious and scared.

keep our area in your prayers.

Pr.del in Ia


I don't think Peter had little faith. I think Peter had a lot of faith. He was the one who got out of the boat.

I'm not even sure Peter was "called to fail", although I think I basically agree with the point that writer is making.

I think Peter succeeded. Firstly, he got out of the boat. He walked on water. Surely these are great things. He had the faith in Jesus. He did something we have no record of anyone other than Jesus ever doing.

Secondly, he was rescued by Jesus. Sure, there is a lesson to be learned that Peter should not have taken his eyes off Jesus, that he should not have worried about what was going on around him, that he should not have doubted. However, in the end he was rescued by Jesus. The rest of the disciples were still in the boat in the storm. They knew the safety Jesus brought when Jesus finally arrived at the boat. Peter knew that safety even sooner, when Jesus reached out to him.

How many of us as pastors, how many of our churches, are sitting in the boat -- afraid of the world which storms around us? It's time to get our sorry butts out of the boats, to reach out for Jesus, and as another writer here said, "Walk in Chaos".

-- Just another preacher in Philly


I don't think Peter had little faith. I think Peter had a lot of faith. He was the one who got out of the boat.

I'm not even sure Peter was "called to fail", although I think I basically agree with the point that writer is making.

I think Peter succeeded. Firstly, he got out of the boat. He walked on water. Surely these are great things. He had the faith in Jesus. He did something we have no record of anyone other than Jesus ever doing.

Secondly, he was rescued by Jesus. Sure, there is a lesson to be learned that Peter should not have taken his eyes off Jesus, that he should not have worried about what was going on around him, that he should not have doubted. However, in the end he was rescued by Jesus. The rest of the disciples were still in the boat in the storm. They knew the safety Jesus brought when Jesus finally arrived at the boat. Peter knew that safety even sooner, when Jesus reached out to him.

How many of us as pastors, how many of our churches, are sitting in the boat -- afraid of the world which storms around us? It's time to get our sorry butts out of the boats, to reach out for Jesus, and as another writer here said, "Walk in Chaos".

-- Just another preacher in Philly


PL -- for what it's worth, this Anglo-Cathlic Episcopalian votes for baptism, too!

About the Gospel lesson ... you've all said such wonderful things about Peter and Jesus walking (or not walking) on the water, but I am going to pretty much ignore all of that and focus on verse 23: "After he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone."

It came to me this morning that the single most important thing clergy can do for the congregations, parents for their children, teachers for the students, etc., is take physical and spiritual care of themselves -- (Don't as my why that came to me this morning, it was just part of a long train of thought.) -- and that Jesus here is setting the example of this.

When he tried to get away to mourn John, the crowds made that impossible, so he spent the day with them, healing, teaching, multiplying food... I'm sure that was about as emotionally, spiritually, and physically draining a day as Jesus could have spent. So going away by himself to pray, to rest, to spiritually recharge was absolutely necessary...

I wonder if he would even have tried that water-walking stunt without that personal care time.

I need to be encouraged to find and make use of personal time -- as I know many of my colleagues do -- and I am pretty sure that many of our congregants do too! My wife, for example, is absolutely the worst at making space and time for herself, and she pays the price every so often! We should encourage our folks to follow Jesus example, not by trying to walk on the water, but by going away to a private place to pray and find themselves alone with God.

Blessings, Eric in KS


Yes, baptize the baby!

Now to the scripture...A question to ponder... Who had more faith - Peter, who got out of the boat and walked on water or the disciples, who remained in the so-called safety of the boat? Peter had questions, "If you are...", but at least he had enough to get out of the boat. Jesus did not say Peter had no faith. He had at least a little. We need to remember what happens if we have faith even the size of a mustard seed. Ahhhhhhhhhh! Is the average congregation more like the disciples in the boat. We like the safety of our four walls while storms rage around us. We need to get out of our fortress church boats and have at least the faith Peter had. How many of us are clinging to our boats as they sink? How many cling to old ways that just aren't working any more? PH in OH


PL in California, A vote from a Canadian Anglican: Please baptize the child! Liturgically, the service of baptism incorporates not only the child and the parents, but the gathered congregation and the wider Church. What an incredible witness to the parents that not only you cared enough to do this, but that everyone else present supports them and stands in solidarity with them in their time of deepest need. For what it's worth, I see this as an opportunity (for you, for the family, and for the wider Christian family) for baptism to be lived and embodied in love expressed in actions as well as words. My prayers are with you. I know that it's not an easy decision to make. Peace. Mike in SK


If we must err, let our errors be on the side of grace. God's grace is the only way we are saved. Please baptize that child. May God's grace abound. from a Lutheran Pastor in NJ (who is also the mother of a child who died).

As for the gospel - yes - we need to get out of the boat - into the waters - the chaos of the world. By baptizing that child, you may be stepping into chaos, but Christ is with you.


It seems to me there is a little more in this gospel that inspires me to think more deeply. The boat, full of the other disciples, was probably pretty crowded - as fishing boats went in those days. But there was an awful lot of room on the water - for anyone willing to go. Just my initial thoughts as I prepare for this Sunday. Would appreciate other thoughts on this.

Thanks. - WE in AB


I wonder how many of us preach about faith and tell our congregations that faith has to stand on its own--that we aren't supposed to "test" or call on Christ to "prove" himself--that seeking proof is the opposite of faith. Yet, what I'm hearing is how faithful Peter was and unfaithful the rest of the disciples were by staying in the boat. We need to watch our exegesis here. If we're going to use this to tell congregations to get out of the boat--using Peter as an example?-- our folks are smart and if they compare, they will see we are asking them to ask Christ to prove himself. We need to be consistent with how we define faith--Christ had already identified himself. Christ had already spoken a word of comfort and Peter wants more proof. Maybe Peter was afraid to stay in the boat (They had been fighting this all night, it sounds like) because Peter suggested the test. Let me walk out of here! I don't mean to jump on Peter, but this Scripture is a little more complicated that we are making it out to be. Sometimes, it takes faith to stay where one is and not get caught where one is not supposed to be. If we want to tell congregations to get out of the boat, why didn't Peter ask Christ, "Lord, if it is you, bid US to come to you on the water." and then tell the guys, "It alright, boys, let's go!"

AUGGIE


I appreciate the discussion on Christ in the midst of chaos. It seems the disciples often find themselves in a dilemma, in chaotic situations (hungry crowds and little food, boats in storms, etc). And they draw conclusions or invent solutions that Jesus corrects or addresses. The Gospel writers record these situations that remind us of the power of God to work when hope seems lost and we are at our weakest. Eleven months ago, a team of us, to include chaplains, were removing the remains of Americans from the ruins of the southwest corner of the Pentagon. To be able to offer comfort to families, the Chief of Chaplains requested chaplain teams to assist and to pray over the remains as they were removed. In the soot-covered, darkened corridors, soldiers and civilians performed the awful task of search and recovery. As I blessed one body, then another, and another I asked God to sustain me. As I prayed over the remains of one woman, I noticed she wore a blouse identical to one that hangs in my wife's closet. Same color, same material. In awful times and places, we look for solace, strength, and courage to continue. And Christ IS there with His sustaining love and grace, ALWAYS. He is there in the darkest, coldest mines when life seems lost. He is there when death is all around on a battlefield. He is there when parents seek comfort when their child is missing. Christ doesn't show up in a nick of time. He is where He needs to be, abiding with His sheep. I know. ARMY CH E, Ft Belvoir, VA


When I was in high school, my best friend asked me to go sailing with him. His family had just bought a 27 foot Santana sailboat,berthed on Lake Meredith in the Panhandle of Texas (obviously a man-made lake). Meredith is shaped like a shoestring- long and narrow-and also deep- a canyon thtat invites strong winds.So Jim and I set out early one afternoon. Jim started using all these nautical terms, which, I, who had grown up on the plains of Northwest Texas, had never heard. Still, we managed to get the boat out on the lake, but the wind was very strong. The sailboat had several thousand pounds of ballast (at least that's what Jim said) to keep it upright. But the wind was strong, and as we tacked (turned) the boat into the wind, I thought to ask Jim, "So, how many times have you been sailing?" He replied, "Oh, this is only my second time!" (Jim spoke with a North Carolina drawl which mushed the words together. Still, I understood him perfectly-unfortunately)

So, we two rookies struggled (and when the wind is high and against you- the boat does not feel safe at all!)With our inexperience and the high wind, we came very close to turning over that 27 foot Santana racing sailboat (which was supposed to be impossible.) We somehow got back to shore, and as we were driving home to Amariilo, we heard a weather report "There are strong winds and a possible tornado has been sighted over Lake Meredith." All Jim and I could do was look at each other.

If the winds of life are strong enough ("when sorrows like sea billows roll" to quote the old hymn.)there is no place that feels safe and secure. The waves are high, the waters dangerous, the boat is tossed on the waves like a brittle leaf ready to shatter- yet when we find the one (or he finds us-remember that Jesus is walking towards the boat) who can comfort us in the storms of life, we cry, Truly, you are the Son of God.

In the boat, upon the waves, on land, on sea- Jesus is with us- Thanks be to God

Revgilmer in Texarkana

P.s. to Auggie- if you can get of a copy of Pulpit Resource, William Willimon has some thoughts on why Peter wanted to walk on the water, along the lines of "I'm special"


When I was in high school, my best friend asked me to go sailing with him. His family had just bought a 27 foot Santana sailboat,berthed on Lake Meredith in the Panhandle of Texas (obviously a man-made lake). Meredith is shaped like a shoestring- long and narrow-and also deep- a canyon thtat invites strong winds.So Jim and I set out early one afternoon. Jim started using all these nautical terms, which, I, who had grown up on the plains of Northwest Texas, had never heard. Still, we managed to get the boat out on the lake, but the wind was very strong. The sailboat had several thousand pounds of ballast (at least that's what Jim said) to keep it upright. But the wind was strong, and as we tacked (turned) the boat into the wind, I thought to ask Jim, "So, how many times have you been sailing?" He replied, "Oh, this is only my second time!" (Jim spoke with a North Carolina drawl which mushed the words together. Still, I understood him perfectly-unfortunately)

So, we two rookies struggled (and when the wind is high and against you- the boat does not feel safe at all!)With our inexperience and the high wind, we came very close to turning over that 27 foot Santana racing sailboat (which was supposed to be impossible.) We somehow got back to shore, and as we were driving home to Amariilo, we heard a weather report "There are strong winds and a possible tornado has been sighted over Lake Meredith." All Jim and I could do was look at each other.

If the winds of life are strong enough ("when sorrows like sea billows roll" to quote the old hymn.)there is no place that feels safe and secure. The waves are high, the waters dangerous, the boat is tossed on the waves like a brittle leaf ready to shatter- yet when we find the one (or he finds us-remember that Jesus is walking towards the boat) who can comfort us in the storms of life, we cry, Truly, you are the Son of God.

In the boat, upon the waves, on land, on sea- Jesus is with us- Thanks be to God

Revgilmer in Texarkana

P.s. to Auggie- if you can get of a copy of Pulpit Resource, William Willimon has some thoughts on why Peter wanted to walk on the water, along the lines of "I'm special"


PL in California et al,

I know the heartbreak and the immense need for pastoral care in a situation like this - I was called one night to do the same thing under very similar circumstances. The baptismal service transformed into an anointing of the dead and service of resurrection all in one. A proclamation of Jesus' life in us and the world in the midst of grief and sorrow.

As for the scripture at hand, let me offer another perspective: There are some scholars who link this scripture with the post-resurrection appearance of Jesus in John 21, not so much to explain what was seen and recorded, but to justify Peter's leadership in the early church. If you read through the sections in Acts where Peter is enjoined to take the Gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 10.1-11.18)the immediate response of the Church in Jerusalem is less than enthusiastic. Peter has to explain his actions to James and the other leaders. Even if the ultimate response of the Jerusalem congregation is one of praise to God, I get the sense that they definitely thought Peter was acting way out of line.

I think one of the reasons for this not just the ingrained fear of the Jewish Church for anything Gentile, but also the history of Peter's denial of Jesus during his trial. Stuff like that just does not get swept under the carpet. This action would be on the same level of treachery as Judas's betrayal, and would loom large in the minds of those who would try to find a reason not to have Peter be the rock on which the church would be built.

This would make the story a sermon on the church in the midst of chaotic choices (Do we remain Jewish or do we go to the Gentiles? How do we respond to hostility from those of our family in faith? from a government which suspects us of treason and atheism?) It is also a story of a remarkable restoration on par with the three-fold "Do you love me?" in John. Peter's walk out of the boat is a paradox - is it a response to Jesus' invitation or an abandonment of his seamates? Did (as one of you pointed out) Jesus set Peter up to sink?

Peter has a monkey on his back called foot in mouth disease - a strange combination of reckless bravery and equally reckless cowardice. Who in God's name would want a leader like that? And what right does anyone have to leadership in the church who denies Jesus to save his own skin?

In both cases, a church in turmoil over its mission and its leadership, the story proclaims that the presence of Jesus brings peace in the midst of the storm and restoration and forgiveness to its very human leaders. After all, Jesus walks with Peter on the water back to the boat.

Some thoughts during my midweek ramble...

Blessings,

RevEd in Ontario


One thing I'm missing in this discussion...and I've wondered about it for some time.

Often we state (or assume) that Jesus told Peter to get out of the boat...and that it was a sign of faith for him to do so...take a risk of faith!!

However, I'm not sure the text supports this. After all, it was Peter who said to Jesus "If that be you, tell me to come out!!" All we read of Jesus responce is "come...or...whatever"!!

When Jesus reaches out his hand to Peter and speaks of his little faith...perhaps it is his little faith to not Stay-in-the-boat for Jesus surely would come and take care of him and save him and the others!!!

How about those in ministries where the storms of life continue to hammer them...like Jeremiah...and we cry, "Jesus, get me out of this boat!!"

Maybe Jesus is saying...have faith...I've called you to this ministry...stay in the boat. I'm with you and I will calm the waters.

Wednesday thoughts!!!

DpinDl


A member came up to me just before service Sunday expressing that he was having trouble with doubt. I gathered it was the science vs faith view of creation. We are to meet later this week. It did cause me to pay special attention to the words of Jesus, "Why Do You Doubt". Why do we doubt? jrbnrnc


This is not one appropriate for church but I thought it DOES provide a little levity to the discussion...

The SCENE...

A camp with Sr. High Youth...

The TEXT...

This one from Matthew regarding faith in Christ and Peter's stepping out of the boat...

The PASTOR...

A friend of mine... commented that Jesus took Peter by the hand and Jesus got into the boat with a "soggy Peter"...

The ROOM...

Erupted... especially the adult counselors and most of the youth...

THEN...

A young woman down front finally was enlightened to the humor of it all... Jesus got into the boat with a soggy Peter...

Too funny...

DON'T USE THIS ON SUNDAY...

just a warning, unless you'd like to move to ND!

With grins,

Pulpitt in ND


Hello All,

I appreciated the discussion last week, although I didn't end up preaching afterall... my lay person... SPR Chair did... I forwarded the discussion to him from camp and he used much of what YOU said in his "sermon". He received many fine comments and I wanted you all to know how thankful I am for your contributions, week in and week out... I think WE ALL preach better having shared this time together.

Blessings and thanks,

pulpitt in ND


"Why do we doubt? jrbnrnc"

This reminds of the theologian who was asked, "Do you believe in free will?" He replied, "Of course I believe in free will! I have to! I have no choice in the matter."

Why do we doubt? Because God made us that way! We're hardwired for it.

Blessings, Eric in KS


to jrbnrnc: just remember that if all faith is based on truth than all doubt is error. doubt is an essential element to faith, it was for Thomas and it was for the disciples in the boat. If they had not stayed in their doubts they wouldn't have seen the storm stilled. Their faith would not have been confirmed by their experience, just some ramblings from Canada, mark


I've been sitting on the front porch of this great gathering of minds & hearts, listening, benefitting for quite a while. Guess it's time to say THANKS! and hope I can join in and contribute now and then.

Thank you for the two water stories discussions... two watery graves for the old self...of a baby leading outsider parents (If it is you Lord, bid/command me to come to you) and of the inner circle member, Peter. "Come."

In the next chapter (MT.15) we hear Jesus say with a manor of astonishment in his voice, "Woman, how great is your faith!" The Canaanite female whom the disciples wanted to send away (like last week's lesson with the hungry crowd) because she was a great nuisance and noisy pest, the outsider is praised for having what the insiders didn't...she would not sink in her mission to reach Jesus for the sake of her daughter. Her life as a mother with a child so ill is not unlike the boat being beaten by the waves (Lit: tortured-basanizomenon). With Matthew's mission to gather Jew and Gentile into the fullness of God, he seems to collect stories where both insiders and outsiders take turns being faithful and/or clueless.

Re: Chaos. My currently FAVORITE book is Leadership and the New Science (Second Edition) written by Margaret Wheatley. She replaces the "Newtonian machine" metaphor as applied to life and organizational systems with a metaphor borrowed from the new sciences. She speaks of chaos, deep order, fractals, intersections, relationships, strange attractors. I don't get most of what she is explaining, but something of my life experience says her descriptions make sense! Here's a quote that probably will seem like gobbletygook outside of the rest of the book, "Chaos has always partnered with order--a concept that contradicts our common definition of chaos--but until we could see it with computers, we saw only turbulence, energy without predictable form. Chaos is the last state before a system plunges into random behavior where no order exists. Not all systems move into chaos, but if a system becomes unstable, it will move first into a period of oscillation, swinging back and forth between two different states. After this oscillating stage, the next state is chaos, and it is then that the wild gyrations begin. However, in the realm of chaos, where everything should fall apart, the strange attractor emerges, and we observe order, not chaos." (p.117)

There is, as Eric in KS notes, the high contrast between the calm presence of Christ, finally, having had time to get grounded, centered, connected with his Father after news of the violence of John's beheading. I imagine Jesus desperately needed to be reminded that in the face of brutal and senseless use of human power, God was still God of life. Where Jesus would put his eyes--on his Father or on Herod--would be parallel to where Peter (the disciples, the early church communities) and the Canaanite woman would put their eyes. Where they would fix their gaze would determine the experience, meaning and outcome of their moments.

So, "take heart." Aslanclan


 

 




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