Get out of the Boat - A Sermon preached at Homecoming at Wickliffe Church, Berryville on Sunday August 13, 2017
1o Pentecost, Proper 14A - Matthew 14:22-33
In the midst of a storm on the sea of Galilee, Jesus calls Peter to get out of the boat. Peter and the other disciples had gone out fishing in the evening, when a storm blew in. Storms like that could happen suddenly on the Sea of Galilee. They’d worked hard all night and were far from shore. Early in the morning, when they were exhausted, Jesus came to them, walking on the sea.
The disciples were terrified. Of course they were. I’d be terrified. Wouldn’t you be? Jesus offers assurance, but still they are afraid. Then Peter – I love Peter – impetuously says, “Jesus if it’s you, call me to come to you.” And Jesus calls Peter, “Come.” So Peter does. He gets out of the boat and begins walking towards Jesus on the water. And all is well, at least for a moment or two. Peter walks towards Jesus on the water. And then, Peter notices the storm around him, and he panics. He starts to sink. And Jesus reaches out to Peter and lifts him up, and they get back into the boat.
Now this storm that surrounded the boat was a literal storm on the sea of Galilee. But it could also have been a metaphorical storm. Following Jesus is a bit like that – it seems that there’s always a storm brewing. This story that we heard this morning is a literal storm right in the midst of two metaphorical ones.
Right before this story, Jesus feeds 5000 people with five loaves and two fish. He fed 5000 men – along with women and children, so we don’t even know how many people really got fed! And that act causes some trouble for him. And, the very next story that Matthew will tell after this one, is a story of Jesus getting into trouble with the religious leaders of his day because they don’t agree with his attitude towards the Sabbath laws. Things get stormy for Jesus and his followers because they pick grain on the Sabbath. Things are regularly stormy for Jesus and his followers because of who they hang out with and what they do.
So, this storm, the one that Jesus calls Peter out into, is a literal storm. But as followers of Jesus, the disciples encounter some metaphorical storms, as well.
Friends, it’s been a rough week. Can we just sit here for a moment and acknowledge that? It’s been a rough week.
It’s been pretty stormy out there. There’s fear internationally on a number of levels, but most particularly with the situation in North Korea. And then, yesterday, unspeakable things happened right here in our beloved Commonwealth of Virginia, in Charlottesville. Not to mention that some of us are experiencing our own personal storms – things like the death of loved ones or surgeries and illnesses for ourselves and members of our families. There are positive storms as well, things like weddings and the start of a new school year. Those are great things – but there’s often a bit of storminess when we enjoy big events or embark on new things.
Friends, it’s pretty stormy out there. And Jesus calls us to get out of the boat. Jesus calls us to leave the relative safety of the boat we are in and to step out into the storm.
When I look out at all of us here this morning, I don’t know how Jesus is calling each of you individually. But I do know this. Jesus is calling each of us to get out of the boat.
Particularly when we are faced with an event like the one that happened yesterday in Charlottesville, we are called to get out of the boat.
Perhaps for some of us, getting out of the boat means being persistent in prayer. For others of us, getting out of the boat may mean showing up and standing up for peace. The Bishops of VA called on Episcopal clergy yesterday to come to Charlottesville and stand with them in peaceful protest of those evil hate mongers. My guess is that for most of us, getting out of the boat will be somewhere in the middle.
But, especially for those of us who are white, the time is past when we have had the luxury to sit silently while these things are happening. Jesus calls us to get out of the boat. It’s important for us to stand with our brothers and sisters. Jesus calls us to get out of the boat and stand alongside our African American, Muslim, Jewish, and GLBT brothers and sisters. Many of them are afraid. And they need to know that we are with them. Jesus call us to get out of the boat.
Friends, there’s much that I don’t know this morning, but I do know three things.
First, Jesus calls us towards love. Jesus centered his ministry around the call to love God and to love neighbor. Love. Jesus calls us to get out of the boat and love. If it’s not about love, it’s not about Jesus.
Second, Jesus calls us towards justice. From the beginning of scripture and throughout the Bible, there is a call towards justice. We’re called to care for the poor, the hungry, the sick, the widows and orphans, and the strangers among us. Justice. Jesus calls us to get out of the boat and do justice. If it’s not about justice, it’s not about Jesus.
Finally, Jesus calls each and every one of us to get out of the boat. Jesus calls you. Jesus calls me. Whoever we are, Jesus calls us to get out of the boat.