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2023-08-13 Pentecost 11







Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen!


Walking on water. One of Jesus’ most intriguing miracles! After a good long while of praying by Himself on the mountain top, Jesus goes to check on the Disciples who went on ahead by boat. It’s like little kids and toddlers, when all is quiet you know something is wrong! The kids are in trouble of some kind or another. So, Jesus walks out across the sea and sure enough, there is the Disciples’ boat being thrown hither and thither by a heinous storm. It’s not the first time this has happened. In the first storm, back in Matthew 8, Jesus was with them, sleeping in the boat. But this time, they are alone, facing the storm by themselves. Then, late in the night, Jesus came to them. Walking on water.


God coming to His people in the midst of suffering, affliction, fear and general tough times. This is indeed a common theme throughout the scriptures. Israel in slavery in Egypt, God comes to the rescue with a mighty arm. The three men in the fiery furnace, God stands in their midst and they go unscathed. Daniel in the lion’s den, God closes the lion’s mouths. We see this over and over again. So now, when God comes in the flesh in Jesus Christ, we ought not be too surprised to see Him coming to His people, doing the miraculous and the unthinkable. In fact, our English translation misses it, but when Jesus says “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid” He is actually saying “Take Heart! Be of good cheer! I AM.” . . . That sacred most Holy Name of God that was revealed to Moses at the burning bush. I AM is here. That very same God with the Mighty Arm who will save you and deliver you is here. Do not be afraid. Jesus walks on the water and comes to His people.


Now, to tell you the truth, I’ve never been really all that “wowed” by this miracle. After all, Jesus is God incarnate, the maker of the heavens and the earth. It’s not too surprising to me that He can do this. What I find more compelling about this miracle is that Peter does it too! Jesus comes to them and they think they’ve seen a ghost! Peter says “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” And this is where things get interesting. Peter walks out on the waves at our Lord’s bidding. His faith allows him to walk on the water, just as Jesus did. But a fine little detail here, that is quite telling, is that St. Peter doesn’t ask to do the miracle. He asks, rather, if he can come to Jesus - his desire is not to perform the miracle, but rather to be with the Lord.


It’s reminiscent of Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus while Martha runs around making dinner and getting things ready. Do you remember that familiar story from Luke’s Gospel? Mary sits at Jesus’ feet, and Martha gets mad because she isn’t helping her do all the stuff that needs to get done. Upon hearing the complaint, Jesus doesn’t praise Martha for all of her works and type-A personality. Rather, he applauds Mary for simply being in His Divine presence.

This aspect of the Christian life has largely been forgotten by us. We have forgotten how to simply be in the presence of our Lord, to exist in Communion with Him. Prayer, Bible reading and Bible study, the Divine Service, all of these are the places where we simply “are” with our Lord. And these places are what shape us and mould us into the image and likeness of Christ our Savior. “Being with God” is the ultimate outcome of our faith. It is the goal of heaven! It is why Christ died on the cross for us! Yet we have got caught up into thinking it is merely a “someday” thing. But, it’s a “nowadays” thing too - more than ever in our crazy, busy society. Many of us have sinned against the Lord by denying His presence, filling our lives with all kinds of other stuff that we have to do and get done, rather than choosing the good portion of Christ and His presence. It’s a very important aspect of our faith, so much so that God even appointed an entire day for it, the Sabbath Day, that we might honor it and keep it holy.


St. Peter, as he walks on the water, becomes by grace what Christ is by nature. That is to say that he shares in Christ’s Divine nature, at our Lord’s Word, and is able to do divine things, in this case, defying the natural essence of the waves by walking on them. He is permitted to do this amazing thing as long as he keeps his focus on Christ. As soon as he gets distracted though, seeing how scary the strong wind is, he becomes fearful. Then, he gets that unmistakable sinking feeling. Down into the dark depths of the water he goes, crying out “Lord, save me!”


Another common theme in human history is our uncanny ability to make a mess of life. And it is when we have hit rock bottom that we call out to God as our last ditch effort for help, healing and salvation. If you recall nearly 22 years ago when the twin towers came down, what happened? Over night the churches filled up with people. By some estimates, on the Sunday following the terror attacks roughly half of the adult population in the United States attended a religious service. But the attendance dropped off starting in November. The distractions of life are like a wedge, forcing God out. The closeness and communion to God evaporate like a mist.


The only cure for this is repentance. Leaving our life of sin behind and calling out to our Lord for Salvation. Just as St. Peter does here, as he calls out to Jesus, the Lord is there pulling him out of the waves and placing him in the boat. The wind ceased, the waves subsided. This promise is for us too. When we have made a mess of life, when we are sinking in fear and anxiety - Jesus is here for us. He welcomes us back into His presence, again offering us His forgiveness, His healing, His very life and strength. It is then that our hearts are led to confess with our mouths that Jesus truly is the Son of God!


We notice here too that Jesus does not rebuke the wind in this storm. Rather, He rebukes Peter. “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” It wasn’t the wind or the waves that caused Peter to sink, but rather his own lack of faith. It’s just great when we can blame other people or stuff for our situation, isn’t it? Car breaks down because you put diesel through a gas engine, it’s Ford’s fault. You build a deck turns out crooked, blame DEWALT. You lose your life’s savings playing VLTs, blame the government! But when you can’t blame others or your stuff, who can you blame? The blame falls squarely on us, ourselves, me, myself and I.

Just like St. Peter, the Law hits us like a dump truck driving into a nitro glycerine plant! We of little faith, why do we doubt? Why do we doubt our Lord’s love, compassion and help for us? Why do we doubt His presence in our lives? Why do we doubt His care? It’s because we’re poor miserable sinners, sick and in need of His healing. And so, we come to Jesus, with all of our hurts, pains, anxieties and even doubts. And in faith, He heals our infirmities. He grabs hold of us and places us into the boat, the Church, and the problems of life cease. Not because the wind and waves aren’t there anymore, no, we are still on the sea – but rather because Jesus is here, that good portion that won’t be taken away from us, He is in our midst. We set our eyes upon Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith and we are still and we know that He is God. The bright morning star has dawned on our darkness and we need not fear. To God be the glory now and forever, Amen!

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