Summary: It has been said that "you will never walk on water if you do not get out of the boat." And yet, too often we fail to think about the next step. This sermon is meant to encourage those afraid to step out in faith as well as those who are sinking!
Many centuries ago, a man named Peter stood on the edge of a boat in the Sea of Galilee. Like all people who find themselves on an edge - whether physical or metaphorical - a decision had to be made. Peter’s choice was to either to step out onto the water or remain in the boat. Not an easy decision.
Behind Peter are his friends. They aren’t dumb. They know Peter’s name in Aramaic means “rock.” Rocks don’t fare well on water. Furthermore, the disciples know that all throughout Scripture, people are delivered from peril by staying in the boat: Noah stayed in the ark and Moses stayed in the basket. In fact, the only one who got tossed out of the boat was Jonah, and we know how that went.
Before Peter is the Lord. Peter’s life was forever changed when Jesus first called Peter to follow him. That is what a disciple is, namely, one who follows. Since following Jesus, Peter has been on a wild adventure. Peter has seen miracles that he could hardly imagine. Now, he is being called to participate in a miracle that defies the laws of physics. What should he do? Should he step out onto the water or remain in the boat? What would you do?
Did you hear about the man who fell over a cliff but grabbed a tree root that saved his life? Hanging there, he cried to God to save him. God answered, “Let go and I will catch you.” The man thought for a moment and yelled, “Is there anyone else up there?”
The life of faith is very much like this. All of us constantly find ourselves on an edge. Behind us is the past. We might not always like our past, but we have lived through it. We know what to expect. We can control out past. At least that is what we tell ourselves. Before us is a future that we cannot control. The temptation is to stay in the boat. But God always calls us into a future that is beyond our control and is rarely safe. As the old hymn reminds us:
Jesus calls us, o'er the tumult
Of our life's wild, restless sea;
Day by day His sweet voice soundeth
Saying, "Christian, follow Me;"
Peter has a choice to make. No matter what he chooses, his life will be different. For instance, if Peter stays in the boat, nothing will happen. Helen Keller once said, “Life is a daring adventure, or it is nothing at all.” The life of faith is filled with action. Abraham & Sarah left their home to go to the Promised Land. David stood up to Goliath. Esther risked everything to save her people. You will never walk on water if you do not get out of the boat.
Is it risky to get out of the boat? Absolutely! What happens if Peter steps out and immediately sinks? Even more risky, what happens if Peter steps onto the water and does not sink. This is the scariest prospect of all. Peter will be without excuse. No longer will he be able to hide as an agnostic. No longer can he feign ignorance.
What is Peter to do? Peter takes a leap. The rock floats!
There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,
There are thousands to prophesy failure;
There are thousands to point out to you, one by one,
The dangers that wait to assail you.
But just buckle in with a bit of a grin,
Just take off your coat and go to it;
Just start to sing as you tackle the thing
That “cannot be done,” and you’ll do it.
- Edgar A. Guest
Peter walks on water. End of story, right? Wrong! This is where it gets good. Peter makes it halfway to Jesus and then sinks. There is a lesson in this. Too often we think the hardest step is the first step. But that’s not always true. Every step can be difficult.
The hardest thing I ever did was drive my first born child home from the hospital. I would have loved to keep her there. We had nurses. We had food delivered to our room. Taking Abigail out into the world was terrifying. I drove on surface streets. I drove 25 miles per hour, with hazard lights on. I pulled over twice because every driver on the road was a maniac. That was the hardest day of my life, or so I thought.
Now that my daughter is nine, I see that the hardest work lies ahead of me. High School! College! Sending her off to a monastery so that she will never date! The steps do not get easier with life. Each step has its own challenge.
Vocations are never easy; they are always MORE than you think. They are more work, more pain, and more struggle. But there is also more fun, more joy, and more adventure. My life is more because I have three daughters. Your life will be more as you step onto the sea.