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A Sermon on The Gospel For Ordinary 19 - Proper 14 - Year A
Matthew 14:22-33
"Storms Will Come"
By Rev. David A. Tietz
(St. Paul's Lutheran Church, Taylor, Texas)

READING: Matthew 14:22-33 SERMON : "Storms Will Come" Rev. David A. Tietz D_Tietz@COMPUSERVE.COM This sermon was written by the Rev. David A. Tietz in 1999 for Pentecost 11, Year A (Ordinary 19) and posted to the PRCL List in August of that year. David states that some of his ideas came from a series of lectures by Smalley and Trent. You may have heard the story about a man who gets too close to the edge of the Grand Canyon, looses his balance, and slips over the edge. Just before falling 1000 feet, he grabs on to a root sticking out from the edge. "Help me!" He hollers. "Is there anyone up there? Help me! Save me! Is there anyone up there?" A voice answers, "I am the Lord. I can save you. Do you believe in me? Do you really want me to help you? " "O, yes, Lord, I believe in you, more than you'll ever know. Please help me." "OK," the Lord says. "I'll save you. Now, let go." "What?!" "Just let go of that root you're holding on to, and I'll save you. You have to trust me." The man pauses a moment, and then shouts out, "Is there anyone else up there?!" ---- Where does our faith fit in during the difficult times, the times of testing, the times of storms? There are some who say: · if you have faith, life will be smooth sailing. · If you have faith, God will cure all your ills and guard you from every danger... · if you have enough faith, if you stay close to God.... In our Scripture reading this morning from Matthew, we discover that that is not necessarily true. Last week we read the account of Jesus feeding the 5,000. You remember, the crowds had gathered to hear Jesus, and as the day wore on, Jesus tells the disciples, "Give the people something to eat." They are flabbergasted! Their immediate response is, "We don't have enough! All we have are two little fish and five small loaves of bread. That's not enough! We can't possibly do what you asked us to do, Jesus!" Does that sound familiar? Jesus says, "Give the food to me." They do, Jesus blesses it, and tells the disciples to pass it out. They do, everyone eats their fill, and there are even 12 baskets full left over! What do you imagine the disciples thought about all that? They were right in the middle of that miracle. Maybe some in the crowd didn't realize what had happened, but the disciples were right there, all the way through it. They participated in the miracle. What were they thinking? Did it change them? Did it strengthen their faith? Well, they seem to be slow learners. After the feeding of the 5,000 was all over, Jesus dismisses the crowd and sends them home. Then he tells his disciples, "Get in the boat and cross the lake. I'll join you later, but right now I need to be alone for awhile to pray." That probably was not too strange a request for Jesus to make. He could always re-join them by walking around the lake - it wasn't that far. Or maybe they figured he had arranged for another boat later that night. And so they set sail. Well, a few hours later we find the disciples caught in the middle of the lake in a wind storm. The waves are rolling, the wind is blowing. and they are getting nowhere. It takes everything they have just to try to keep the boat into the wind, let along make it across to the other side. Now, remember: Why are they out in the middle of the lake in the first place? Jesus told them - really, ordered them, commanded them - to get in the boat and cross the lake. They are doing exactly what Jesus had told them to do, and by being obedient to him, discover themselves now caught in a big storm! Do faith and obedience always mean smooth sailing in life? Apparently not. Sometimes we follow Jesus, and it leads us into a storm! Finally, in the wee hours of the morning before first light, Jesus comes walking out to them, actually walking on the water! The disciples' initial reaction is one of fear. They're terrified! "It's a ghost!" they say. But then Jesus calls out, "Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid." For whatever the reason - maybe he needed proof or something - Peter blurts out, "If it's really you Lord, command me to come out on the water with you." (He probably regretted it as soon as he said it.) Jesus answers simply, "Come... come on, Peter." It would be like letting go of that root that you're hanging on to for dear life. At this point, Peter is probably ready to call out, "Uh, is there anyone else up there?" But Peter is caught. It's do or die. So he cautiously puts one leg over the boat, then the other, still holding on to the boat. He lets go with one hand, and then the other, and there is Peter, walking on the water, too! Impossible? No more than feeding 5000 with a small lunch! As Jesus so plainly said, "With God, all things are possible!" Contrary to all the laws of nature, the impossible is happening - because the Lord of the universe is there. But then something happens to Peter. It's almost as if he woke up and realized where he is. Often we see in the cartoons: a character runs off a cliff and stays suspended in mid air until he finally realizes what a stupid thing he just did - and then down he goes. Well, here is Peter, walking on the water toward Jesus. Everything is fine, but then he takes his eyes off Jesus and begins to look around. And what he sees are big waves and a driving wind, and there he is in the middle of it, unprotected, without a life jacket. He becomes afraid, and he begins to sink. The name "Peter" means rock. But now instead of being a solid rock of faith, he's sinking like a rock. In desperation, Peter cries out, "Lord, save me!" Have you ever been there before? It is the elemental cry of every human being when we are confronted with that which is · beyond our strength, · beyond our ability, · beyond our control. In the midst of our helplessness and powerlessness, we cry out, "Lord, save me!" Jesus reaches out and grabs hold of Peter, pulls him up and helps him back into the boat. "Why did you doubt, Peter? Where is your faith? Didn't you believe me? (Didn't you believe me when I told you to let go?" Suddenly the wind dies down, the waves settle. The disciples are filled with awe and amazement. Falling to their knees they declare, "Truly you are the Son of God!" --- As I hear God speaking to us this morning through the Scriptures, what I hear is the Lord saying to Peter and the disciples and to all of us: Life is full of adventures and encounters and accidents and experiences that remind us over and over again - if our eyes are open to see it - that God alone is God, and we are totally dependent upon the Lord as our source of life and hope and strength. And even when we are certain that God is leading us and we are acting according to God's will, we dare never think that therefore we can go it alone, relying solely upon our own resources and abilities. The disciples were only doing what Jesus had told them to do. If they would have remembered that, they could have pressed onward without fear, even in the middle of the storm. Peter only did what the Lord invited him to do. He was actually doing the impossible, by worldly standards. It was only when he took his eyes off Jesus and focused on the storm raging around him that he began to sink. Jesus told us, "Without me, you can do nothing....but with God, all things are possible." --- I'm sure Peter never forgot that moment. There were still other times of doubt and testing in his life, and he wasn't always successful, but we he floundered he always ended us crying out, "Lord, save me! And the Lord was always there to reach out and save him. He always found the help and the strength he needed. Life is full of adventures and encounters and accidents and experiences that remind us over and over again that ultimately we are completely dependent upon God for our life, our hope, our salvation. Ultimately, finally, we discover that there isn't anyone else up there, and the only choice we have is to let go, and the let God work his will in our lives. --- As a congregation of God's people, we often are faced with opportunities to let go and let God's will be done in our midst. · Every time we bring a little baby to the waters of Holy Baptism, · Every time we gather around the table of the Lord, · Every time we adopt a budget and decide how to spend the money God has entrusted to us, · Every time we face a new challenge, a new opportunity for ministry, · Every time we gather at a funeral to mark the passing of one of God's faithful servants, We face again the temptation to doubt and falter, to focus on the storms that rage around us, Or to focus instead upon Jesus, the Lord of life, the Master of the winds and the waves. We do know that Christ is calling us forth as his people, and God invites us to trust him, to let go and let God. And so we go from here, seeking to be God's faithful people, trusting and depending on our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, always keeping our eyes focused on the One who is our source of life, hope, and salvation. I remind you again of one of my favorite prayers in our hymnal, from the service for Evening Prayer: Lord God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the endings, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, Not knowing where we go, But only that your hand is leading us, And your love supporting us; Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen copyright: sermon - Rev. David A. Tietz 1999 - 2005 page - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild 2002 - 2005 please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.

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