WHEN WE’RE AFRAID, WE SINK
The Rev. Dr. Russell Rowland
August 13, 2017
ONE OF THE BIBLE’S VIVID IMAGES--
Is that of Jesus walking on water.
While compelling and photogenic,
It’s not entirely where the energy of Matthew’s story lies.
WE HAVE A SITUATION
In which Peter tries to “come to Jesus,”
In response to an invitation from his master,
But is prevented from reaching Jesus’ side.
Prevented by what? Not by ocean waves.
Not by stormy gusts.
PETER IS PREVENTED BY FEAR.
He fails to reach Jesus because he is afraid--
Intimidated by the storm raging around him.
He’s more afraid of the weather, than trustful of Jesus.
As long as he believes, he walks on the waves.
When he starts to get scared, he sinks.
YOU AND I COULD WORK TOGETHER,
And compile a list of the fears that sink us.
That old fear of failure we acquire early on.
Fear of unemployment. Fear of being dependent.
Fear of disability, blindness, or deafness.
Fear of those different from us. Fear of conflict.
Fear of having to leave a beloved home for a nursing home.
Fear of change. Fear of being alone.
ON-LINE, I FOUND A LIST
Of some of the more exotic phobias.
It included: Altophobia, the fear of heights.
Anuptaphobia, the fear of remaining single.
Cyclophobia, the fear of bicycles.
Dentophobia, the fear of dentists.
Francophobia, the fear of France.
Octophobia, the fear of the number 8.
Ecclesiophobia, the fear of churches.
WHY GO ON?
There is an option to all these fears--
And to Jesus that option was so obvious,
That he became impatient with his disciples,
And humanity in general, when they didn’t get it.
“TAKE HEART, IT IS I; DO NOT BE AFRAID.”
“Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you.”
“Lord, save me!”
“You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
“Truly you are the Son of God.”
ISN’T THIS THE DIALOGUE
We have with Jesus all our lives?
Put in your own details, your own biography.
INSERT THE CHILDHOOD TRAUMAS,
The untimely bereavements,
The dreams that died, the loves that were lost.
Throw in everything you dread the most, this minute.
Hear the voices again, with your story around them.
“TAKE HEART, IT IS I; DON’T BE AFRAID.”
That’s the voice that spoke to you at your baptism,
The love that “from our birth, over and around us lies,”
“LORD, SAVE ME!”
That’s you and me—suddenly so aware
Of the illnesses, the accidents, potential disasters;
Of the cup that’s half-empty, rather than half-full,
That we no longer see the Good Shepherd at our side.
“YOU OF LITTLE FAITH, WHY DID YOU DOUBT?”
That’s Jesus, giving us the scolding we deserve,
As he reaches out a strong arm to save us yet again.
When was he ever not there for us?
Why is it so hard to believe he will always be there?
“TRULY YOU ARE THE SON OF GOD.”
Those words are the end of the journey.
That’s where we are going,
If we don’t let fears and anxieties swallow us.
When we’re afraid, we sink.
When we trust him, we “walk on water.”
JESUS IS WHO HE SAYS HE IS--
And that’s why nothing on our long list of worries
Will ever separate us from the love he has for us.
Whether we live or whether we die--
And we all do both—we belong to him.
Oh we of little faith, why do we doubt?
IT WOULD BE INTERESTING
If you and I, each of us, looked back over our lives--
Those moments when we felt especially blessed,
The occasions that inspired particular gratitude,
The times when our cups overflowed--
AND INSTEAD OF SAYING,
“Gee, that was lucky,” or, “Gee, those were good times,”
We could express our gratitude with Peter’s words:
“Truly you are the Son of God!”
What better words to express our faith
That our lives are in good hands?
INDEED, WOULDN’T IT BE NICE
If you and I cultivated the habit
Of interacting with other people in such a positive way--
Accepting them as they are,
Reaching them where they are needy,
Conveying something of God’s unconditional love--
That they, in turn, might have a similar revelation:
“Truly, Jesus is the Son of God!”
AT ITS MOST COMFORTABLE,
Life is safe and snug as a boat on calm water.
But sooner or later, life calls us to step out of the boat.
SOONER OR LATER,
We have to venture outside the comfort zones,
To places of challenge, insecurity, perhaps even danger.
The sky darkens over us, the wind rises, the rain falls.
WHEN IT HAPPENS TO US,
As it has in the past, and probably will again,
Let us listen for that voice out of the storm:
Don’t be afraid, it is I.
We will never be out there on the water alone.
HERE ARE SOME WORDS PREACHED ON THIS TEXT
By a senior colleague of mine, St. Augustine by name,
Bishop and theologian, who lived from 354 to 430
Of the Common Era.
“WELL, BRETHREN, MY SERMON MUST BE ENDED.
Consider the world to be the sea;
The sea is boisterous, and there is a mighty tempest…
Learn then to tread upon the world;
Remember to trust in Christ.
“AND IF THY FOOT HAVE SLIPPED, IF THOU TOTTER,
If some things there are that thou cannot overcome,
If you begin to sink, say, ‘Lord, I perish, save me.’
“SAY, ‘I PERISH,’ THAT THOU PERISH NOT.
For he only can deliver thee from the death of the body,
Who died in the body for thee.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself!