Jesus is Calling

Jesus is Calling – August 13th, 2017

 

Matthew 14:22-33

Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land,* for the wind was against them. 25And early in the morning he came walking towards them on the lake. 26But when the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear. 27But 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.’ 29He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came towards Jesus. 30But when he noticed the strong wind,* he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ 31Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ 32When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’

It’s the Sea of Galilee.  It’s a place where fierce storms rise up in a matter of minutes.  The typical first century boat was small, narrow for its length and easily tossed about by the raging waves.  Already the disciples are afraid.

In the predawn light…Look!  An apparition, a phantom being walks across the water.  With one voice they cry out:  “A ghost!”

Now, remember, these men have spent a lot of intimate time with Jesus.  They knew him well, yet in their fear, they did not recognize him.  They did not recognize him even when he spoke saying, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”

Upon hearing these words, Peter does a very strange thing.  Still uncertain as to the identity of this ghostly apparition, Peter says, “Lord, if it is you –hear the uncertainty, the desire for proof—“If it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”

If it is you, Lord, ask me to risk the rising waves and the deep sea.  If it is you, Lord, command me to put my life on the line.  If it is you, Lord, require of me the impossible, or at least the improbable.

You may recall earlier in Matthew’s gospel Jesus called a very ordinary group of people to drop their fishing nets, to leave their families to venture forth with him on a perilous sea of discipleship.  Evidently Peter has learned that if it is Jesus he is calling his disciples to risk a perilous adventure.

George Carlin used to do a comparison between football and baseball.  He compares them in several ways and then:  “In football the object is for the quarterback, also known as the field general, to be on target with his aerial assault, riddling the defense by hitting his receivers with deadly accuracy in spite of the blitz, even if he has to use the shotgun.  With short bullet passes and long bombs, he marches his troops into enemy territory, balancing his aerial assault with a sustained ground attack that punches holes in the forward wall of the enemy’s defensive line.

“In baseball the object is to go home! And to be safe!”

Too many people think Christianity is about being safe at home.

“Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling, calling for you and for me,” goes an old gospel song. Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling you in today’s scripture to risk your life, to throw caution to the wind, to step out of the boat and defy death.

“Jesus calls us o’er the tumult of our life’s wild, restless sea, in our joys and in our sorrows, ‘Christian come and follow me.'” Isn’t that how another old gospel hymn puts it?

In today’s Gospel, Jesus doesn’t simply call us over the tumult. Jesus doesn’t call us out of the tumult. Jesus calls Peter into the tumult. Jesus calls Peter out of the relative safety of the boat and on to the waves. And Peter, on the basis of all his past experience with Jesus, calls out, “Lord, if it is you, command me to walk on the waves.”

Friends, you and I are living in turbulent times.  The sea is rising all around us, both figuratively and literally the sea is rising all around us.  Surely it feels like a good time to go home and be safe.  But that is not what our Lord requires of us.

I am reminded of Abraham.  God said to Abraham, “Get up and Go.  Take all your people, all your possessions and go.”  Abraham said, “Go where?”  God said, “Just go.  I’ll tell you later.”

I am reminded of Moses whom God sent back to Egypt where he was wanted for murder.

I am reminded of David facing Goliath.

I am reminded of Esther who risked her life to save her people.

God’s people have always been men and women ready to risk everything in order to do the right thing.

You and I are rarely asked to leave our homes and go to an unnamed place, or sent on a mission of absolute madness.

Nevertheless, there are risky things that Jesus may be calling you and me to do.

 

Like:

  • Love your neighbor and when you get good at it, love a politician.
  • Love your enemy and if it’s Kim Jung Un, at least don’t hate.
  • Give generously even in a poor economy so Jesus’ sheep may be fed.
  • Forgive abundantly and be reconciled to those who have done you harm.  And if you can’t forgive today, hope to be able to forgive one day.  Most of all, learn to forgive yourself.
  • Turn the other cheek, walk the second mile.

 

Well, those are fine principles, but let’s take a look at some things you will actually be asked to do during this time of renovation and transformation.

I’m told the church officers’ nominating committee will begin meeting soon.  Some of us will be asked to take on a new job.  I want you to think about that as an opportunity.  I want you to think about Jesus calling you out on the water.  Sure, you may be asked to do something you’ve never tried.  Aren’t sure you can perform up to standard.  Or you don’t like meetings.  You don’t like meetings!  That makes you the perfect meeting chairperson.  People who don’t like meetings get us out on time.  At least consider the possibility that this is the year for you to stand up and be an elder or a deacon.

I remember the first time I led a church stewardship campaign.  I thought, “Whew!  That’s over.  That’s over and well done!”  And then it hit me.  I’m going to be doing this every November for the next fifty years.

Some of you have been listening to stewardship sermons for fifty years.  If I’m here in November I might not have anything to say you haven’t heard before.  Then again, I think I might.  In any event, you will be challenged to step out of the safe boat and onto the wave of a new adventure in giving.  I can’t say Jesus is calling all of us to do that.  I am confident he is calling some of us to do that.  At least consider the possibility that this is your year to increase your percentage of giving.

Then there are a host of committee memberships and offices and opportunities.  We have to consider these things seriously as a potentially being Jesus calling us to an adventure.

Now I admit, we have to consider our limitations.  Jesus is not calling me to sing in the choir.  I have tested this.  I tried.  I have great admiration for people who sing well.  I will teach you to pray.  I will teach you to carve wood.  I will teach you to play the Native American flute.  Don’t expect me to sing.

When I was in college and thinking about ministry I took an elective course in public speaking.  I thought it might be useful.  For my first speech I was well prepared with an interesting topic.  I stood in front of the class, closed my eyes and debated whether to faint or start talking.  I started talking.

You and I are invited to take a risk.  The management guru, Peter Drucker, wrote, “People who don’t take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year. People who do take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year.”  With odds like that, why not try?

When you are contemplating stepping out on the water remember this:

It is Jesus calling you.  Jesus is already there ahead of you.  Jesus is already there ahead of you to give you his hand if you should falter.

Third, if we should falter, Jesus is there to offer his hand and lift us up.

I don’t know what risk God may be calling you to take.  It probably isn’t to go home and be safe.  Find those who can help you know.

 

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