all at sea?

Talk given at St Michael-in-the-Hamlet Church, 9 August 2020

22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. 25 And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. 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. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”

28 Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Matthew 14: 22-33

I grew up on the south coast of Devon and Cornwall. I know all about the beauty and the power of the sea.

When I was still at primary school, my friend Jack lost his Dad at sea. Jack’s Dad was a fisherman. His boat was caught in a storm and began to sink. He couldn’t get his waders off quick enough and they filled with water. pulling him under like lead weights. My village was silent that day. I still have a vivid memory of school assembly when we were told of the tragedy.

Here we see Jesus’s disciples – some of them experienced fishermen – on a small sailing boat out on the open sea where a storm is brewing. And Jesus has sent them there!

Have you ever found yourselves in one of life’s trickier situations, and said to yourself, “Why on earth has God brought me to this place?”

You know the feeling? You’ve lost your moorings. The winds of change are against you. Battered by waves, crashing in one after another, you get knocked down and pull yourself to your feet, before another wave hits. Do you ever feel like that?

Scary God

Jesus’s disciples are in such a situation out on the sea. Then they see a figure coming towards them. Its Jesus, but at first they don’t recognise Him walking towards them on the surface of the water. Scary like a ghostly apparition. Scarier than the unruly sea.

God is scary sometimes. A personal encounter with the Living God is a powerful thing. Awe-some. The biblical phrase ‘the fear of God’ means exactly this – to be in awe of God’s presence and power. Anyone who has encountered the awe of God will know that it stops us in our tracks.

The disciples turn to face Jesus. Dispelling their fear, He says, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”

Peter, ever the hasty one, is the first over the bow, himself walking on the surface of the sea towards to Jesus…

The sea as a mysterious and fearful place, able to take a human life at a whim. A metaphor for life itself. Fishermen know this better than anyone.

Jesus often comes to us in the stormy seasons of our lives. Like Peter he calls us to step out of the shaky comfort of our boat, to rise above the tempest and to walk towards Him.

Easy at first maybe. Wahey! Here we go. Look at me. I’m walking on water!

That sinking feeling

Peter, the text says, noticed the strong wind, became frightened and began to sink.

In that moment was that Peter took his eyes of Jesus.

I have found this to be true in my own life as Jesus-follower. When faced with difficult circumstances and insurmountable obstacles, it is when I take my eyes off of Jesus that I begin to sink.

I don’t need to tell you that as a society we are living in unprecedented times. A storm is raging all around us. The winds of change are high and unpredictable. Covid19 is rising and falling and rising again, like a series of waves crashing in and beyond our control. Jesus is calling us to come towards Him across these choppy waters.

Remember to keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. The storm will not pass immediately. Storms never do. But if you keep your eyes on Him you won’t sink. Believe me.

So, if you feel as if you are are sinking in life, why not, like Peter, call out to Jesus to save you. Jesus is the Saving One. The literal meaning of His name. Jesus. Yeshua. The One who saves. We all need saving. It is the principle reason why Jesus came.

Lifesaver

Jesus is the life-saver. Like the lifeguards on the beach, risking their lives to rescue those who – in the words of the old hymn – lives are at peril on the sea.

“Lord, save me!”, cries Peter. Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him.

If we cry out to Jesus to save us, He will catch us and save us.

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