St. Matthew’s Sermon 08-13-2017

St. Matthew’s Sermon 08-13-2017

Get Out of the Boat (and into the storm)

Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28, Psalm 105: 1-6, 16-22, 45b, Romans 10:5-15, Matthew 14:22-33

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God. Amen

The sea has long been a symbol of chaos. Even in the earliest part of the Bible we hear the story of God making order out of chaos,

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters…  And God said, “Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. God called the dome Sky. (Gen 1:1,2,6-8a)

Then, a little bit later in the same book we hear of God working in reverse order, using water to create chaos and destroy.

It also comes about that God alone can dominate and control the waters as we find in the story of the parting of the sea in the Exodus and in Job where Job says “but how can a mortal be just before God? …who alone stretched out the heavens and trampled the waves of the Sea” (Job 9:2,8)

Neatly connected to this theme of water and sea as symbols of chaos, boats or ships become a symbol of human reliance on God within the chaos. Going back to the story of Noah I alluded to a moment ago, it was the ark that spared those whom God selected. And, even to this day, the Church has imagery of carrying its precious cargo of believers through a chaotic world with nautical terms like “Nave” (from Latin for ship) to define the area where the congregants assemble for worship, and with designs of pulpits that look like the bow of a boat, a crows-nest at the top of a mast, or a wheelhouse; all where the ones in charge of guiding the ship safely on its tumultuous journey stand.

How wonderful, then, is the imagery of today’s Gospel story with the Disciples in a boat on a stormy sea and Jesus walking on the water!

I really hate to interrupt that mood but, again, there’s a couple of those pesky translation problems within the reading that causes us to miss the full tally of its wonder. The first, you see, is in that part where Jesus says, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” It wouldn’t seem, at first glance, to make much sense if it were directly translated; the result of which would read “Take heart, I am; do not be afraid.”  I am; do not be afraid.” (?)

But what does this add to the story, you may ask! The phrase “I am” calls us back to Exodus again; this time not to the parting of the sea, but to Moses’ conversation with God on the mountain when Moses said to God …

“If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM, I AM.” (that, too, is adjusted in translation to read “I AM WHO I AM). [God] said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I AM has sent me to you.'” (Exodus 3:13-14)

Back to today’s reading, now we get a better picture of Peter’s words “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” What he actually means to say is “Lord, if you are who you say you are, if you are the Son of God, command me to come to you on the water.”

Now how beautifully is the story developing; Peter is awakening to the true identity of Jesus, the Son of God! And, with the word “command”, “command me to come to you on the water”, Peter is not only awakening to the truth of Jesus’ identity but is also offering, requesting, to join Jesus in the chaos; outside the safety of the boat!


Peter gets out of the boat and, at first, is successful. But then he notices that strong wind blasting against him and he begins to sink. Here we find another problem in translation. When Jesus says “…why did you doubt”, the word for doubt isn’t the same word Jesus usually speaks when speaking of doubt. It is used only two times in Matthew’s Gospel, here and when the disciples encounter the resurrected Jesus in chapter 28 where it reads “When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted”. (vs. 17)

In both cases, the word would be better translated “vacillate”, or “waver”. So it isn’t that Peter doubted Jesus nor did he doubt his ability to walk on the water, he started out fine, but it was the fear of the great wind, the fear of the chaos, that caused him to waver and, thus, begin to sink and cry out “Lord, save me”! And “Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him…”


We are in a sea of chaos. We live in a turbulent world. We seek our refuge in this ship we call St. Matthew’s, straining at the oars with the wind against us as the waves batter against her sides. It’s scary, but we feel safer here in the questionable security of our ship than out there in the turmoil. Yet Jesus commands those of us who know who he is, the Son of God, to get out of the boat and come to him on the water.

This situation causes great tension. Tension between faith and fear; tension between courage and anxiety; tension between hearing Christ’s call to serve and looking at the terror of the storm around us; tension between trust and doubt.

Yet if we are to be of any earthly good for Christ’s cause we must strengthen our faith to pull harder than our fear, our courage to overpower our anxiety, our desire to be at Christ’s side to overrule our terror, and our trust to outweigh our doubt. We must get out of the relative safety of our boat and join Christ wherehe is, doing the work where his work needs to be done; out there in the chaos! We need to heal all sicknesses, feed all people physically and spiritually, and we need to speak the message of hope, love, peace, and joy where it needs to be heard. We cannot calm the sea by riding over it but only by taking the risk and getting in it!

People, we can do this! In faith we can courageously walk with our Lord in the chaos knowing that if we do waver and begin to sink, he will immediately reach out his hand and catch us!

Take heart, he is who he says he is, do not be afraid! Amen!


Matthew 14:22-33
14:22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds.
14:23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone,
14:24 but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them.
14:25 And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea.
14:26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear.
14:27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”
14:28 Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”
14:29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus.
14:30 But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”
14:31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
14:32 When they got into the boat, the wind ceased.
14:33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”


Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28
37:1 Jacob settled in the land where his father had lived as an alien, the land of Canaan.
37:2 This is the story of the family of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was shepherding the flock with his brothers; he was a helper to the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives; and Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father.
37:3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he had made him a long robe with sleeves.
37:4 But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him.
37:12 Now his brothers went to pasture their father’s flock near Shechem.
37:13 And Israel said to Joseph, “Are not your brothers pasturing the flock at Shechem? Come, I will send you to them.” He answered, “Here I am.”
37:14 So he said to him, “Go now, see if it is well with your brothers and with the flock; and bring word back to me.”So he sent him from the valley of Hebron. He came to Shechem,
37:15 and a man found him wandering in the fields; the man asked him, “What are you seeking?”
37:16 “I am seeking my brothers,” he said; “tell me, please, where they are pasturing the flock.”
37:17 The man said, “They have gone away, for I heard them say, ‘Let us go to Dothan.'” So Joseph went after his brothers, and found them at Dothan.
37:18 They saw him from a distance, and before he came near to them, they conspired to kill him.
37:19 They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer.
37:20 Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; then we shall say that a wild animal has devoured him, and we shall see what will become of his dreams.”
37:21 But when Reuben heard it, he delivered him out of their hands, saying, “Let us not take his life.”
37:22 Reuben said to them, “Shed no blood; throw him into this pit here in the wilderness, but lay no hand on him” –that he might rescue him out of their hand and restore him to his father.
37:23 So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the long robe with sleeves that he wore;
37:24 and they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it.
37:25 Then they sat down to eat; and looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels carrying gum, balm, and resin, on their way to carry it down to Egypt.
37:26 Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood?
37:27 Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers agreed.
37:28 When some Midianite traders passed by, they drew Joseph up, lifting him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt.

Romans 10:5-15
10:5 Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that “the person who does these things will live by them.”
10:6 But the righteousness that comes from faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?'” (that is, to bring Christ down)
10:7 “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?'” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).
10:8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim);
10:9 because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
10:10 For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.
10:11 The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.”
10:12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him.
10:13 For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
10:14 But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him?
10:15 And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”