1523.08082008. "Faint-heart, what got into you?" (Matt 14:31) Exodus 14:19-31 19 Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel's army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, 20 coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel. Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other side; so neither went near the other all night long. 21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the LORD drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, 22 and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. 23 The Egyptians pursued them, and all Pharaoh's horses and chariots and horsemen followed them into the sea. 24 During the last watch of the night the LORD looked down from the pillar of fire and cloud at the Egyptian army and threw it into confusion. 25 He made the wheels of their chariots come off so that they had difficulty driving. And the Egyptians said, "Let's get away from the Israelites! The LORD is fighting for them against Egypt." 26 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may flow back over the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen." 27 Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward it, and the LORD swept them into the sea. 28 The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen — the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived. 29 But the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. 30 That day the LORD saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. 31 And when the Israelites saw the great power the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant. Ps 106:4-13 4 Remember me, O LORD, when you show favor to your people, come to my aid when you save them, 5 that I may enjoy the prosperity of your chosen ones, that I may share in the joy of your nation and join your inheritance in giving praise. 6 We have sinned, even as our fathers did; we have done wrong and acted wickedly. 7 When our fathers were in Egypt, they gave no thought to your miracles; they did not remember your many kindnesses, and they rebelled by the sea, the Red Sea. 8 Yet he saved them for his name's sake, to make his mighty power known. 9 He rebuked the Red Sea, and it dried up; he led them through the depths as through a desert. 10 He saved them from the hand of the foe; from the hand of the enemy he redeemed them. 11 The waters covered their adversaries; not one of them survived. 12 Then they believed his promises and sang his praise. 13 But they soon forgot what he had done and did not wait for his counsel. Rom 9:1-5 9:1 I speak the truth in Christ — I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit— 2 I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, 4 the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. 5 Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen. Matt 14:22-33 22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. 25 During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. "It's a ghost," they said, and cried out in fear. 27 But Jesus immediately said to them: "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid." 28 "Lord, if it's you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water." 29 "Come," he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!" 31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?" 32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God." 1523.08082008. "Faint-heart, what got into you?" (Matt 14:31) I want us to hold in tension two simple phrases that come out of Matthews Gospel today.. From the Disciples - Matt 14:26 - They were terrified. Response from Jesus - Matt 14:27 - Don't be afraid. I preached on these two phrases just two weeks ago at our evening service where we looked at this incident on the Sea of Galilee as it was used by John as one of the signs that John used to point to the fact that Jesus is the Son of God. Today we look at the same miracle but from a different perspective. Another angle of the beautiful diamond of the text. To Explore Fear and Faith. Dealing with fear and anxiety lies at the very heart of the Christians faith journey. In researching for this sermon I came across a remarkable article written by a certain Nassim Taleb in the New York Times dealing with the way in which we humans battle to deal with our fears and anxieties. He postulates that our biggest downfall is that we are not hotwired to be rational beings. He said “The reflex that causes even newborns to startle at a sudden motion suggests that fear is deeply rooted in the human species. Children who fear monsters in the night are only adults in training, learning the chill that accompanies night terrors.” We would all agree that fears have the sad potential of becoming hidden slave drivers to many of us who have a kind of an inner dialogue going that is full of fear. And, of course, you might rightly think that we live in a very frightening world! We can all relate to Peter and in this incident on the sea we would have to confess that like him we also loose sight of Jesus, the author and preserver of our faith and constantly find ourselves focusing on our particular fears. So to our text – In the disciples' response and especially in the incident involving Peter, Matthew tells a story about human fear. Fear characterizes the atmosphere of the whole story. The disciples are separated from Jesus, and their boat is threatened by a storm. Knowing the sea's treachery, we fear for them. Despite Jesus' acts of healing, his earlier calming of a storm and the feeding of the 5,000 in the preceding scene, the disciples still assume that the figure who walks toward them is a ghost. They react with terror, (an appropriate and typical response in the biblical narrative for those in the presence of God or God's agents.) Eventually Jesus calms their fears by addressing them personally with the words “Don’t be afraid!” and Peter buys into to that and steps out of the boat to walk across the water to Jesus. We read, then, that JUST AS THE night is about to give way to daybreak, Peter fails in his attempt to walk on water. That seems appropriate somehow. At least, that is the time when fear steals in at my house and finds me most vulnerable. Some small sound, which I would certainly not notice during daylight hours, takes on huge proportions – and I am afraid. Of course, fear does not confine itself to that hour of the night, of course. In fact, if we are honest, it controls much of what we do. Fear about financial security prompts career choices or constricts our reactions to the needs of others. Fear for our relationships moves some of us to cling and others to flee. Fear that our labor will amount to nothing produces an obsession that robs our vocation or calling of its pleasure. Fear comes in all sorts of packages. Crime is a clear and present danger and a catalyst to grow our fear and anxiety. Our collective fears are rising – what do we do about the situation? A few months ago the young lady living next door to us was attacked and almost raped. Boy, that got us going. Within a day we had started using our alarms and had a stun gun and locked even our windows all the time. We should always be vigilant for sure but it usually takes some fear catalyst to get us to that point and then (due to our irrational minds) as things fade into the background so does our vigilance. That is by the by! But facing our ever present fears and turning to faith is sometimes almost as frightening as the thought of stepping out of the boat and into the storming seas. I’m not sure Jesus really expected Peter to walk on water and I certainly don’t expect to walk on water any time soon. I struggle to have that kind of faith and to honestly face my fears. But I’m willing to believe that there is life outside the boat, constantly rowing into the wind. I trust in faith that Jesus will point the way to the shore. With Jesus near me, the rising seas of my fears will not have me That is the moral of our story. God with us - Emmanuel Jesus had a lesson to teach us and Matthew's story of Jesus walking on the water is, first and foremost, a story about Jesus. In some of the miracle stories, demonstrations of Jesus' power raise questions about his identity. Here we find not questions about Jesus' identity but first a mistaken identification ("It is a ghost!"), then a tentative identification ("If it is you...") and finally a statement of faith ("Truly you are the Son of God"). Knowing truly who Jesus is to us individually has got a lot to do with how we face our fears in faith. That’s the trick. Matthew singles out Peter, who boldly urges Jesus to allow him also to walk on the water. At Jesus' call, Peter walks toward Jesus until he remembers the storm and begins to sink because he is afraid. At Peter's cry for help, Jesus reaches out to save him, asking, "Faint-heart, what got into you?" Mssg Well, Clearly fear and not faith!! What this part of the story conveys about Jesus is fairly straightforward. Not only does Jesus have the power to control the turbulent waters and even to walk on them, but he can bestow that power on others and rescue those in distress. Matthew's designation of Jesus as Emmanuel, "God is with us," This speaks about the doctrine of salvation through faith in Christ. So – what does FAITH mean anyway – and how much of it do we need to get through life? Well, to begin with – it doesn’t mean convincing yourself that we are convinced of something called faith – that would be works done by the brain. Faith has got more to do with the heart than it has to do with the brain. Some of the things we face in these days are scary – that is what our brain tells us after reviewing our situations and being rattled by the media, our irrational minds that are hotwired against logic, and our background experiences – BUT – if we have a heart that knows and trusts and honours Jesus then we have a antidote to the catalyst don’t we? In other words, faith is about realtionship. A faithful person eventually gets to the point at which s/he can say to God, "I don't know where you're going, but I know that wherever it is, I'd rather be drowning with you than be crowned by somebody else." That kind of trust in Jesus, in my experience, comes from experience with the person of Jesus. The kind of trust I have in Jesus has come as I've experienced Jesus' generosity and mercy, so much so that I'm pretty sure that if Jesus is involved, then following Jesus is where I'm going to experience the most of the goodness and mercy God has to offer. That process of building confidence, of getting to know Jesus is a major ingredient in what we refer to as the journey of faith. Faith starts with action, with taking a step, with taking a risk. The best intentions in the world don't do much without action, but taking that step, even with the worst of intentions, just might give you the experience of meeting God on the road, on (or in) the sea. There's no better evidence for that than the story of Jonah. Jonah just might go down as the whiniest prophet in history. He had no intention of saving anyone. He didn't even intend to follow God's direction, but when the seas got rough, he knew that it was time to step out of the boat. Just about everything that Jonah has said up to this point indicates no faith, no trust that God's will could mean anything good for him, but when his life is at stake, he calls out to the very god he's been running from. That suggests to me that despite all his protestations of how much God's will means only ill fortune to him, underneath all that is both a trust that God will take care of his fellow travellers (as Jonah 1:11-12 indicates) and that God will deliver him (as Jonah's poem indicates). By the end of the story, we understand that every step he took, even Jonah's whiny rebellion, came in some sense from a deep sense (and sometimes an unwelcome sense!) that God will extend mercy, that God's mercy will be the final word. That trust, that willingness to risk stepping outside the boat, is how I think of faith. And Peter has that. So why does Jesus address him as "you of little faith"? Not because of the faith he lacks, but because of the faith he has. Peter has a little faith. Jesus addresses his followers as people of "little faith" repeatedly in Matthew's gospel (e.g., Matthew 6:30, 8:26, 14:31, 16:8, and 17:20), but following the last of those, he says, "if you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you" (Matthew 17:20). So how much faith do you need to make a difference in your life, or even to change the world? Not much, by some ways of reckoning. You don't have to talk yourself into absolute confidence that anything in particular will happen. That's a good thing, since none of us -- not even, or perhaps ESPECIALLY not those who shout most loudly about knowing exactly what God's specific plans for everyone are -- really knows the future, or even the heart of another person. Faith isn't about knowing, though. Faith is willingness to risk. It's willingness to take that step out of the boat, whether you think you'll sink or skate. It proceeds from the kind of love that, despite all of the butterflies in one's stomach, makes a person willing to be the first to say "I love you" in a relationship -- not because of a certain expectation of a particular reply, but because of the possibilities that saying "I love you" opens. And that's why I take hope and not condemnation away from reading the stories of Jonah, and Peter, and the rest of God's reluctant prophets and Jesus' wavering disciples. They didn't have it all together, and they didn't fully understand or consistently appreciate what they eventually would proclaim. But the steps they took, however cluelessly or clumsily, made space in which they and others could encounter God's mercy, giving rise to generations of risk-taking and faith arising -- the kind of faith, shared across the Body of Christ, that could not only move mountains, but turn mountains and valleys to plains. So, Many readers will conclude that the story concerns the need for "real" faith. True believers should have no fears. Peter's fear overcomes him only because he takes his eyes off Jesus. What Peter needs, then, is a better brand of faith. But is faith without fear, without doubt, possible? On several occasions in Matthew's Gospel Jesus refers to people of "little faith." With one exception (6:30), these incidents involve the disciples. Jesus describes the disciples as being of "little faith" when they panic in the face of a storm. Later, when they misunderstand a saying of Jesus, he addresses them as "you of little faith." When they find themselves unable to cast out a demon, he again explains that it is because of their "little faith." To be of "little faith," then, is to be among the disciples, struggling, asking questions, misunderstanding, fearing and starting all over again. It is, however, to be within the circle of those who have a deep love and a growing understanding of God’s power and compassion and grace. Will Peter fear again? We know the answer to that question. When he swears "I do not know the man!" we do not have to be told that fear motivates him. Peter will fear again and again and again. As surely as he fears, however, he knows whose name to call and whose hand will catch him. Through our deepening relationship with Jesus we will discover that faith ultimately teaches us whose name to call and who waits to calm us, for faith knows who is powerful over the deep of our fears as over the deep of the waters.