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Our Calling to Walk on Water

August 9, 2011

In Matthew 14:28, Peter says to Jesus, “‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.'” Jesus answers in verse 29, saying, “‘Come.’”

Note that Jesus never rebukes Peter for wanting to walk on the water, only for doubting. I think that here we see Peter expressing his desire to know God’s power in his life – to walk on water, like his Master. Also, note that Peter is walking TO JESUS. He is yearning to come to him unhindered, in freedom from all that would hold him back and hold him down.

And so, it says: “Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came towards Jesus.” Think of this! We tend to think of this episode as an example of Peter’s failure, but note that he did actually begin to walk on water himself! Can you name the disciples who in Jesus’ lifetime walked on water? The only one is Peter. All the others stayed in the boat, in what, I suppose, they considered greater safety. But I would like to suggest today that our heritage as Christians is not to do this.

For Peter did indeed begin to walk on water towards Jesus. It’s true that this didn’t happen for very long: Verse 30 says: ” But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!'” Peter took his eyes off Jesus, and became distracted and then frightened by the winds and the waves. But even then, he knew whom to call when he began to sink. And Jesus’ response was immediate, upholding him: “Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?'” Jesus here is like a parent teaching a child to ride a bike, who has almost mastered it, and just made a good start before losing confidence and not continuing. I can hear that parent saying: “You were so close! Why did you stop?”

I believe that our heritage as Christians is to walk on water, and to do this, we must get out of the boat. We must give up an approach to life that tries to stay “safe” by staying at home, building bigger and bigger walls to “protect” us from the outside world. Adventure beckons! And the greatest adventure of all – the greatest miracle of all – is to begin to love like Our Lord. “If you lose your life,” Jesus said, “you will find it.”

This lifelong process of learning involves getting out and failing, falling flat on our faces and being picked up by the Lord. As we’re in “over our heads,” we learn to trust and rely on him. We seek and yearn to experience Jesus’ life, and we receive that life within us, and so we become more and more like him. We grow as his love grows within us. Our heritage is to be those who dare to dream, like Joseph, in the face of the wind and the waves; to be those who dare to try and fail, knowing that, as Paul writes in Romans, “No one who puts their faith in the Lord is ever put to shame.”

(from August 7 Sermon)

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