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Monthly Archives: August 2014

Step Out into Failure (Matthew 14:22-33)

There’s a lesson in this text for all who wish to be disciples of Jesus: If you are faithful and obedient to Jesus, sooner or later you’ll sink.

I’m not kidding. Jesus just told the disciples to feed the thousands with a little bread and few fish. Now he “makes” the disciples get into the boat and go to the other side of the sea. Then he dismisses the crowds and goes up a mountain to pray.

He’s the one who sends them out into a stormy sea while he is praying by himself. The disciples, who are only doing what they were told to do by Jesus, are fighting the wind and the waves all night long. They are exhausted, having been trying to stay alive. And in the dark, before the light of dawn, Jesus strolls out to them on top of the water. In their exhausted, frightened state, they believe him to be a ghost or a demon, and I can’t blame them. Jesus reassures them, but Peter is willing to check it out.

“If it’s you, command me to get out of the boat and come out into the storm with you.” Jesus tells him to come on out, and Peter does.

Nothing but faith, obedience, and trust in Jesus. Jesus sends them into the stormy sea, and they go. Jesus tells Peter to get out of the boat and step out into the waves, and he does. What does he get for his faithfulness and trust? He sinks. And the rest of us Christians all over the world shake our heads and say, “Yup, dumb ol’ Peter. Never shoulda taken his eyes of Jesus. That’s what he did wrong. Shows he just doesn’t have enough faith.”

Of course, that might mean a little more if we weren’t critiquing him from the relative safety of dry land. The disciples, only because they trust Jesus and do what he commands them, are in the fight of their lives in a storm that’s threatening to sink them. And Peter, only because he trusts Jesus and does what he commands him, gets out of he only protection he has–their boat–and steps right into the waves and the wind.

I hear people all the time saying things like, “If you give your life to Jesus all will be well.” “Trust in Jesus and prosper.” “Everything fell into place; it must be God’s will.”

Uhmm. . . Read this text again. Trusting Jesus, obeying Jesus means we will end up right in the heart of a storm. It means we’ll be fighting wind and waves in the darkness. It means we’ll sink. It means we will fail. The storms and the winds will get the better of us. Follow Jesus and we risk our lives. Trust Jesus and things will be hard. Obey Jesus and we will sink. Jesus doesn’t keep us free from the waves, he sends us into them. He doesn’t keep us from sinking, he reaches down under the water and pulls us up. He doesn’t help us to be successful, he commands us to come to him–even if it means stepping out of the boat and into the storm.

And there we will sink.

Think about it. Can you honestly say that following Jesus–really following Jesus–is safe and easy? Have you failed at forgiving someone whose deeply hurt you? Have you begun to sink in your guilt for not being generous enough? Have you ever passed a homeless person without helping them or a hungry person without feeding them? Have you ever avoided sacrifice for the sake of convenience?

We all have, right? We have all stepped out of the boat and sunk. We’ve all been battered by the waves and beaten by the wind. We try to be faithful. We try to trust Jesus. And we’ve all failed sometimes. We’ve all sunk under the surface sometimes. We’ve all had to cry out, “Lord, save me!” because the wind is too frightening. It’s one of the things we all have in common.

We know what these disciples are experiencing. Peter floundering is more familiar to us than we might think. But because the wind is so fierce, because the waves are so high, these disciples come to the point where they fall down in worship, “Truly you are the Son of God!”

The love, compassion, power, and identity of Jesus are most evident in the chaos of the storm, because that’s when he comes to us and lifts us out of the depths and gets into the boat with us.

Oh, yes, we’ll sink, we’ll fail, we’ll mess things up. Even when we’re trying our very best, we’ll still fall below the waves. Following Jesus pretty much guarantees that we’ll be stepping into the storm. And we will be frightened and we will sink, because the wind and the waves of this world are very, very real. And they are frightening. And who really wants to sink?

When have your failed in your discipleship? What about following Jesus makes you want to just stay on the shore where it’s safe? Where are you sinking?

When we’re sinking, we need to know two things: 1) It’s not because you’re a bad disciple. It’s entirely possible that, like Peter, you are experiencing failure because you ARE trusting Jesus! If you’re not following him, you’re not in the storm right?

And 2) It’s when you’re sinking that Jesus reaches out to save you. And it’s when Jesus does save you and brings you back into the boat, gets in it with you, and calms the waves, that’s when you really say with Peter and the other disciples, “Truly you are the Son of God!”

 
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Posted by on August 12, 2014 in Sermon

 

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There is Enough (Matthew 14:13-21)

 

There’s enough. Already. Right here. There is enough.

But Jesus, there are 5,000 men, and likely 2-3x that many women and children. There is enough.

But Jesus, we are out in an isolated part of the country without resources. There is enough here.

But Jesus, all these thousands and thousands of people are hungry. There is enough.

But Jesus, shouldn’t we send them off to find some villages where there might be food? There is enough here.

But Jesus, it’s getting late, we’re running out of time for them to find food. There is enough here.

But Jesus, all we have are five loaves of bread and a couple of fish. There’s enough.

But Jesus, we’ve done the math. 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish won’t feed 15,000 – 20,000 people.

And Jesus took “the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples” and said, Here you go. Go feed them. Because there’s enough. Yes, there is. There IS enough.

We had our annual council retreat a couple of weeks ago. One of the things we did was to try to describe this congregation. What images come to mind? What is an accurate way to look at LCM?

Lots of things went up on the white board, all of which seemed accurate. Then Hannah Snyder got up, walked to the white board, and said, “There are two themes that are showing up here.” Then she took a blue marker and circled a bunch of descriptors. Then she took a green marker and circled the rest.

Suddenly, it was obvious to us that everything that we have blue images and green images. Those items in blue were descriptions of LCM  based on images given by the world around us. These were the things that describe what we as a congregation we don’t have enough of. The things in blue included such images as:

we don’t have enough money, not enough people, not enough commitment, not enough kids, not enough involvement, not enough influence.

Not enough. We’ve done the math, Jesus. 5 loaves and 2 fish won’t cut it. The blue things are what we lack. There’s not enough. These are the things we worry about, that cause us to be afraid. The blue things cause us to turn inward and cling to the little we have.

Just as obvious were the items in green. These were descriptions of LCM based on the image of God.

The care expressed,

the community experienced,

the service given in the neighborhood,

the love shown—even to unlikely people,

the compassion revealed in unexpected ways.

The green list was the image of God right here and right now. The image of God as a congregational community bearing the name of Jesus Christ. There is enough. We are enough.  Here you go, Jesus says to us as he hands us bread and fish. Go feed them. Give it away. There’s enough.

The disciples, in considering only the blue limitations, were wrong. Jesus called them to imagine the green possibilities for distributing food for a hungry crowd so that there was enough for everyone. Matthew doesn’t describe how this happened. Here, Matthew describes Jesus handing the loaves and fish to the disciples and telling them to go feed the crowd. He says that in the image of God, in the vision of God, in the reign of God, there is enough right here already. The green list means we have enough. Now go do it. Share it.

I guess we can look at only the blue things—the scarcity, the lack, the weakness, the limitations and how we can’t feed 20,000 people. We can bemoan all the things we can’t do. That’s usually how we view ourselves personally, how we view ourselves as a congregation, how we view ourselves as a world. We keep telling ourselves there is never enough. We always seem to need just a bit more. We will compare ourselves to others around us and realize someone else has more than we do; so obviously we don’t have enough.

God looks at us and tells us that we have all the green things—the abundance, the generosity, the imagination, the compassion, the care, the love—and God says to us, “Yes there is enough. Right here. There is enough.”  Here we go. We can go feed them.

We have all the love we need to love the world.

We have all the generosity we need to be generous to the world.

We have all the compassion we need to walk with the world.

We have all forgiveness, grace, mercy we need to reveal God to the world.

We have enough. Right now. There is plenty to go around. We take that which Jesus has already given to us and we share it with the crowds. “And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full.” There is enough.

 
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Posted by on August 4, 2014 in Sermon

 

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