Saturday, August 27, 2005

15th Sunday after Pentecost, August 28, 2005, Matt.

Pentecost 15, August 28, 2005St. John’s, Burt ~ Our Savior, Swea City (Matthew 16:21-26, ESV)

Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Do you remember the Gospel lesson from last week? (Matthew 16:13-20) I’ll remind you just in case you’ve forgotten. In it Jesus asked a very important question of His disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” The disciples answered with a dizzying array of answers, from John the Baptizer resurrected to a prophet returned. You see, people knew Jesus was something special. They just didn’t quite know what label to give Him; they just didn’t know what box to put Him in. They had seen Him to many wonderful things; they knew He was at least as special as John the Baptizer or the old prophet Elijah. But their answers fell short of the truth. Then Jesus turned to the Disciples. “What about you? Who do you say that I am?” And Peter speaking for the twelve answers correctly, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” It is an answer full of conviction, full of power. Peter couldn’t have answered any better than he did. Jesus is all that; the Christ who comes to save His people from their sins; the Son of God; Second Person of the Trinity; God and man united together to make God’s promises come true. That is all in what Peter answered. He couldn’t have said it better and Jesus commends Peter and tells him that he is blessed, because God has revealed this fact to him. “It’s not an answer you’d come up with on your own, but God gave it to you through the Holy Spirit.”

And that brings us to today’s Gospel lesson where The Lord seems to take back all the complements He gave to Peter by calling him “Satan.” But before we talk about that I’d like to dwell on that question that Jesus asked the Disciples for just a moment. Who do you say that I am?” You know the Church of Jesus has taken that question very seriously. The martyrs of the church shed their blood in answer to that question. Volumes and volumes have been written over centuries and centuries just to answer to that question. That’s because the answer to that questions is critical to who we are and exactly what we are doing in this place. Every part of our worship service breaths the answer… speaking nothing less than the answer Peter spoke to Jesus face. We believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the Living God. We could spend the next few hours unpacking the words that Peter spoke and showing how they are reflected in the words we speak here. But for the sake of time I’ll direct you to something we just did. Open up your Hymnal Supplement to page 9 / to page 166 and look what’s there. The Nicene Creed. That is the answer to Jesus question. It was written by our brothers and sisters in Christ many years ago to give that answer. It was written specifically in response to what others were saying about who Jesus is. And it still speaks in the same way today. False teachers say that Jesus isn’t God; the Creed answers that He is. Others say that He isn’t equal to the Father; the Creed answers He is. Modern minds say that no one can be born of a virgin; the Creed confesses that Jesus was. Point for point the Creed faithfully confesses Jesus by telling us who He is and what He has done for us. When we speak it we answer Jesus question, “Who do you say that I am?”

It has become very popular in the churches today to set aside the Creeds in an attempt to be more relevant. But without declaring Jesus for who He is clearly and completely we have nothing to give the world. Without declaring Jesus for who He is we aren’t relevant to people’s real needs. We are trying to tell God what kind of a God He should be instead of letting Him be the God who offers forgiveness of sins through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, His Son. Here in this church we confess the creeds because Jesus asks us the question, “Who do you say that I am?” and we want to confess faithfully just as Peter did.

Now it is true that Peter answered clearly about Jesus. And Jesus commends him for it. But only a few lines later you see Jesus calling Peter “Satan.” It’s quite a contrast. I wonder just how Peter could go from getting it so right to getting it so wrong. How does he go from the high of “Blessed are you…” to the low of “Get behind me Satan…?”

Well the thing is that Peter is a normal human being. He’s just like you and me and that comes out very clearly in this text. Just as you and I do, He confesses Christ rightly according to what God has revealed to him through the Holy Spirit. And then he showed that he had no real idea about what that really meant. What he does is turn around and confess from his own heart about what he thinks it means that Jesus is the Christ, and that’s where he gets it all wrong. He was ok with Jesus being “The Christ” in the after glow of Jesus feeding 5000 people with a few small loaves of bread. It was when Jesus told him what being the Christ really meant that Peter didn’t like what he was hearing. When Jesus said that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. Peter couldn’t take that. He said, “No way is that going to happen to you… at least not while I’m alive!”; “Jesus, it’s alright that you are the Christ and all, but you are mistaken about what that all means. You don’t have to die. You don’t have to suffer. You just keep on doing all the great stuff you’ve been doing; Feeding thousands out of nothing, healing the sick, casting out demons, and such. All of that is much too valuable to end. Just forget about that suffering and dying business. We don’t need that from you anyway.”

I just can’t help but see myself thinking and speaking just like Peter. Isn’t that were Peter sounds just like you too? When he tells God what kind of a God He should be doesn’t he sound just like you and me? We love to tell the Christmas story about God the cuddly innocent baby, “God came for you at Christmas!” It’s much harder to speak about a bloody Christ crucified for the sins of the world. We avoid telling people about their sin, out of some mistaken notion that we are not to judge. God commands us to confront sin with His law, and comfort sinners with the Good News that Christ died on the cross to forgive their sin. We also want to tell God what He should do for us in the rest of our lives, too. God, you should heal me so I can get back to my regular life, I won’t forget it if you do. God, you should make a big miracle in my life (like the Lottery). If you did that my faith in you would be stronger. God, you make gas prices go down and I’ll give more to the church. God, I’ll let you take care of the hard stuff in my life, you take away my pain, you deal with my enemies, you answer all grand wishes and desires, and I’ll take care of everything else. I’ll deal with my life from day to day on my own. I’ll handle my money. I’ll keep company with the people I want to hang out with and I’ll get around to mentioning you only when it’s comfortable for me to do it. God, You give me the “good stuff” and keep it comin’. That pain and suffering, you just let that go right on past me, I don’t need it. And if that’s what you want to bring in to my life, I don’t need you, either.”

And the real problem with this attitude, and let’s be frank and honest about it, we all have this attitude at one time or another, is that we set ourselves over God. We think we know what’s good for us. We think we know what kind of a God we need. Well, Jesus doesn’t let that mistake notion stand. He is the God who suffers and dies for our sins. He is the God who knows what’s best for your life, and he gives it even if it makes you and I uncomfortable.

I think this attitude comes out very clearly and very dangerously when we give the impression that Christians have life easy, as if to say, “All you have to do is be a Christian and life will be easy, life will be good. If you are faithful to God he will make you rich!” Well, I think Peter would have something to say about that. After all, after being a faithful disciple of Jesus and proclaiming the Good News about Jesus at every chance he got, he was crucified upside down, for entertainment. God didn’t spare him pain and suffering. God didn’t make him rich. He died for the sake of his confession… the confession that we make here every Sunday. “You, Jesus, are the Christ the Son of the Living God!”

Thanks be to God, Jesus isn’t the kind of God we want, He’s the kind of God we need. That’s also something we confess in answer to Jesus’ question. When we would have rather lived life running headlong for hell He reached out and saved us from it. When we would have rather lived in the cesspool of our own sins He dragged us out and washed us clean. When we would have rather followed our own sinful desires and wishes, He killed our sinful nature on the cross. And when we would have rather been dead to God, living for ourselves and our appetite, He raised us up to a new life again in Him. Our God, Jesus Christ, is the God who knows what we need. He isn’t about giving us just what we want. He isn’t about taking care of just the stuff we can’t handle. Without God we can’t handle anything. He is about being the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

I know. You can go to any number of churches around the county and hear that if you are faithful to Jesus, He promises to give you a healthy and happy life. If you just love Jesus, He’ll make your life easy breezy. I will make you no such promises. God makes you no such promises. There is no better proof of that than the thousands and thousands of people who faced death rather than give up a faithful confession of Jesus. This is what I will tell you. Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. He comes to you in His Word and Sacraments to bring you forgiveness of sin. Through the promise of forgiveness of sins given to you in Baptism, through the promise of forgiveness of sins that He gives you in His Body and Blood, He gives you eternal life. He is not willing that you should lose your eternal life with Him for the sake of gaining the whole world.

Now, just so you don’t think I’m saying that your life is going to be all suffering and trouble… There will be joy in your life too. Really we handle the joy the same way we handle the sorrow. By confessing who God is through Jesus Christ. As Peter confessed, as our brothers and sisters in Christ have confessed over the many years, so you and I confess in good times and in bad, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

14th Sunday after Pentecost, Exodus 6:2-8, Aug 21, 2005

Pentecost 14 Exodus 6:2-8, ESV
“Hello, it’s me!”

Grace and peace to you from Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

It had been a long day at work and it was getting dark. But, I walked quickly to my car and headed for the hotel room. I was anxious to get there. The drive was only a few minutes and soon I was unlocking the door. Quickly, I entered the room and sat on the bed. I popped of my shoes and picked up the telephone receiver. “Hello,” I said to the Operator, “I’d like to place a credit card call.” That was life before I was a Pastor, life before the Seminary. My work took me to many cities all across the country, cities in California, Pennsylvania and Florida. I would be on the road two weeks out of every three. One think I looked forward to, was my daily phone call home. I couldn’t be home, but I could somehow still participate in the day’s activities, at least a little bit. I heard the phone ringing, “One… two… “, I counted. ”I hope she is home”, I said to myself. “Click”, went the phone when she answered. “Hello.” She said. “Hello, “ I replied, “it’s me...” That was all that was required and my wife knew who was calling. She knew it was “me”, her husband, currently residing in a hotel halfway across the country. She knew because I had made habit of calling. She knew because we had built a life together, and cared about what was going on with each other, even half way across the country. “Hello, it’s me” was enough to recognize the relationship that was there between us, even though many miles separated us.

Moses got a call like this one in our text today. He had been sent by God to bring the people out of Egypt. He had gone to Pharaoh and asked for the Israelites release. Pharaoh was not cooperating.

Instead of releasing the Israelites, he had given them more work to do. The Israelites complained to Moses, saying that it was his fault. They were saying that Moses had given Pharaoh a sword to kill them. Moses turned to God, “Why have you done this, Lord?” he said. God gave Moses a reply that was more like an introduction. It was a declaration of how to recognize God by what he had done in the past, and by what He was about to do. “Hello Moses, it’s me.” God replied. “It’s me, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It’s me, the God who promised them a land to call their own. It’s me, the God who made a covenant with them. It’s me, who is remembering that covenant right now.” God was telling Moses, that everything was under control; everything was proceeding according to God’s plan. It was a plan that would leave no doubt to who was God. It was a plan that would be remembered from generation to generation as an example of God’s loving rescue of his people.

Moses marveled at what God told him. Not only would he bring them out from under the control of the Egyptians, their slavery would be abolished, but it would be done in a way that showed God’s power. They would be rescued with an “outstretched arm” and by “mighty acts of judgment.” They would be rescued in a way that would identify God as the rescuer. Moses didn’t know the form they would take, but Pharaoh’s Egypt would be the target of these judgments. The judgments came, plague upon plague, bloody water, frogs, locust and lice. After each there was Pharaoh’s attempt to match, and Pharaoh’s unwillingness to do what God demanded. Each plague attacked one of Egypt’s gods. Each plague was a little bit harsher than the one before. The final plague stuck at Pharaoh himself, the most visible of Egypt’s gods. He was left a broken man, mourning the loss of his son. Through the plagues God made a release for the Children of Abraham, and they were allowed to leave. The outstretched hand of the God who said, “Hello, it’s me” had won them freedom from slavery.

It all happened just as Moses was told. But there was still more, God’s plan called for an even greater thing. He was going to have an adoption. The Israelites would now be God’s own people. I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. “And then you will know,” continued God, “you will know that it’s me.” The newly adopted Children of God would march out of Egypt, and they would be lead to the land promised to Abraham. The time to fulfill the long awaited promise was now at hand. Moses and God’s people knew who had delivered them. They knew that their savior was God.

Some years later, on the dusty roads of Galilee, walked a carpenter, followed by twelve ragtag disciples. He was causing quite a stir. This man was also saying he could be identified by his actions. He too, had been sent to rescue the people from their slavery. He said he could be recognized by what he did, what he was doing and what he was about to do. “Hello, it’s me, the one who makes the blind see and the deaf hear. It’s me, the one who heals the sick. It’s me, the one who give “living water” to thirsty people. It’s me, who is remembering God’s promises right now.” The disciples scratched their heads, confused and disoriented. But, Jesus assured them everything was under control; everything was proceeding according to God’s plan. It was a plan that would leave no doubt as to who God was. It was a plan that would be remembered from generation to generation as an example of God’s loving rescue of his people.

The disciples marveled. Jesus rescues them from slavery, from the slavery of sin. He dies it in a way that would show the mercy of God. Jesus said, “Hello, it’s me, the one who rescues you with outstretched arms. It’s me, who takes the judgments you deserve, upon myself. It’s me, who dies here on this cross for you.” Jesus rescues in a way that show that God is the rescuer. His death on that cross broke the bonds of sin on God’s people. His resurrection broke the power of sin forever. Sin kills, but Jesus makes a resurrection that is ours. Sin and death are vanquished, and the Children of God were allowed to live. The outstretched arms of the God who said, “It’s me” has won freedom from sin and death.

And there was more. God’s plan called for an adoption. “I am going to my Father to prepare a place for you. I will return to take you home. And then the whole earth will know,” continued Jesus, “that it’s me.” Go and make disciples of all nations…,” he said. And the newly adopted children of God marched out and filled the earth with the Good News that people could know God through Jesus Christ. The time for the fulfillment of the age-old promise was at hand. The disciples knew who had saved them. The disciples knew that Jesus was God.

God is introducing himself again here in this place today. If you listen you can hear him say it again. “In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Hello, it’s me. I have come to be with you.” His presence assures us that the rescue he won so many years ago is our rescue also. When sin makes us slaves, when we feel powerless to break its hold on us, when we confess, “that by nature we are sinful and unclean…” We come here to listen and hear Christ’s forgiveness pronounced through the lips of his servant, “I forgive you. In the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” And God says again “Hello, it’s me.” We approach his table, prepared in this place. “Hello, it’s me.” Our Lord says again, “Given for you for the forgiveness of your sins. This is my body. It’s me. This is my Blood. It’s me.” This is God again assuring us that everything is under control. Everything is proceeding according to God’s plan. He makes sure we have not doubt about who God is and what He does for us. In this plan there is no doubt about who God is. He frees us from sin in a way that shows us his loving kindness. It is a plan that we remember and tell our children and they tell their children. It is an example of God’s loving rescue of his people.

And there is more. We are God’s children through and adoption. He speaks to us in the same way he spoke the Israelites in Egypt. I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burden of [sin]. Our adoption is sealed with water and God’s Word. “Hello, my newly adopted child, I baptize you in my name, in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Hello, it’s me.” And right there God makes a promise to be with you. He promises that no matter what happens in your life, weather it seems good or bad, weather it is pain pleasure, it is all for your benefit… all to draw you closer to himself. And he even places you in a family of other adopted children. Just look around you see your adopted brothers and sisters. You can see the loving kindness of God sitting right next to you. These are God’s hands, feet, and voices for you. These are the ways God cares for and encourages you. You are how God cares for and encourages them. “Hello, it’s me.” God says through you.

God’s greeting is for us, but it isn’t just for us. God wants to be known by all people. There are many who are still groaning under the burden and slavery of their sin. He has done all that is necessary for them to be set free. Christ sends his “Hello, it’s me” through you. As you live and work God gives you the opportunities to speak about God’s salvation through Jesus. He wants you to speak God’s introduction through your words and actions. He doesn’t expect you to save them. He’s already done that. All you have to do is bring His greeting to them. “Hello, it’s me. I have rescued you with my outstretched arms.” Through God’s Word, through the story about what He has done to rescue them, they’ll know its God who can and will save them, too. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

13th Sunday after Pentecost, Matt 15:21-28, Aug 13, 2005

Pentecost 13, August 13, 2005

St. John’s, Burt ~ Our Savior, Swea City

Matthew 15:21-28, ESV

Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

“Great is your faith!” That’s what Jesus says about this Canaanite woman. It’s pretty amazing, considering that at first he doesn’t even listen to her. There she is crying out again and again, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” Have mercy on me… Have mercy on me… But [Jesus] didn’t answer her a word. Nothing at all. Not a peep… not a whisper… nothing at all. In fact, you might infer from the way that Matthew, the Gospel writer puts it, that Jesus flat out ignored her. But she’s persistent in her plea for help, so much so, that the disciples get tired of it. “Get rid of her. Tell her to go home. Remind her that she’s not worthy. Send her away, for she is crying out after us. If it doesn’t bother you, Jesus, we’re telling you now that she bugging the heck out of us.

It’s pretty clear what the disciples though of her. She was and outsider. Not a member of Club Jesus. She was outside the loop. A dirty beggar looking for a free handout. One of those folks that just take what you give for free and abuse it. If she gets a handout today, I’ll bet you’d find her buying cigarettes or beer tomorrow. She doesn’t even know how to keep quiet in church. Her kids were probably ill behaved, too. Can’t you see the looks she must have been getting? You know the ones. They say, “Hey, can’t you keep quiet, I can’t hear what Jesus is saying… to me. I can’t concentrate on Jesus with all your bellyaching.” Well, the disciples were just being human. They are reacting just as you and I react all the time. We are very careful in helping, or as the woman was asking, “showing mercy.” We like to hold back until we see a sign that the help we offer will be received correctly. We like to hold back until we see a sign that it will be received by a person who is worthy of our help. We hold back our real welcome until “unacceptable” behavior changes. After all we don’t want to be taken advantage of. We don’t want to be enable rotten behavior. But most of all we don’t want to act in any way that would give anyone the impression that we don’t value money. After all there’s nothing worse than wasting money on people who don’t deserve help. There is no greater sin than being over generous.

Well, maybe the disciples were taking their queue from Jesus. After all, he didn’t say anything to her. He didn’t encourage her. He didn’t rebuke her and tell her to be quiet. Nothing. So, the disciples must have thought that he was agreeing with the way they felt. They must have thought that all Jesus needed was a little nudging to get rid of the annoyance, so that they could all get back to the important business at hand… so that everything could get back to normal… without rude interruption. Send her away…” they said to Jesus.

[Jesus] answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Those words might have set the disciples faces to grins. They might have even been thinking about turning to the woman and giving her the brush off. For once, something Jesus said seemed to agree with the way they were thinking. Instead of the phrase, “you of little faith…” Instead of feeling lost and confused, Jesus seemed to agree with what they thought. For once they were right, they thought. There was no place for this woman in their crowd. There was no place for this “non-jewish” woman among them. Her problems were hers to deal with. They had more important things to do. But the woman wasn’t about to cooperate. She took one last stab a Jesus’ attention. She pushed through the disciples to get to Jesus and fell at his feet, shouting, “Lord, help me!”

The next words Jesus speaks just don’t feel right. It’s not the kind of response to a hurting person that we expect from Jesus. We might scratch our heads in wonder, because the words seem callous… almost rude. It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs. How could the man who let people touch the tassels of his robe to be healed say such a thing to a needy person? How could the man who restored a man’s withered hand begrudge this woman what she sought? How could the one who said, Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28, ESV) Turn this woman away.

But the woman’s response is also just as unexpected. Her response is really at the heart of what’s going on here. Her response opens up her heart and shows us what’s inside. “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” At first look you might think that she’s disagreeing with what Jesus says. Especially the way it’s usually translated. “Yes, Lord, yet…” or “Yes, Lord, but…” But she’s what she’s saying is really more like “Of course not, Lord, the dogs get their own food from the scraps that fall from the table. The children are taken care of but so are the dogs. Each in a way that is appropriate. Think about the dog lover who drops food to the floor for the dog. The dogs aren’t neglected. They receive what’s left over from the table.

So what’s so great about what she says? What’s so profound? What’s so exceptional about the faith she expresses here? Well, this woman, this outsider, this gentile, is absolutely convinced that Jesus has something for her. She is sure that Jesus isn’t just for the disciples. She is sure that Jesus will help her. She shows it in her persistence. She shows it in her words. Her faith isn’t in her ability to speak to Jesus. It isn’t in the disciples. She has faith in Jesus. He is the one, the only one, who can save. Great faith is great not because of the one with faith but because of the object of that faith. She sees Jesus clearly as one who can and will help. She sees Jesus for who he really is… just as she spoke earlier, “O Lord, Son of David…” words that say she recognizes Jesus as the promised Savior of the Jews, but also as her promised Savior. The author of Hebrews says it like this, Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1, ESV)

“O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly. Jesus heals the daughter. But don’t think of what Jesus does as a reward for the woman’s “Great faith.” It is nothing less than she expects from Jesus. Jesus heals because he is gracious. Jesus heals because he has mercy. Jesus heals to show that faith in him is well placed. He speaks his words of praise to her for the sake of the others who were listening. The disciples would have sent her away, like we might have done, too. It was Peter who rightly spoke that he wouldn’t leave Jesus because he had the words of eternal life. Yet, he expected this woman to be forced away. Faith held her there, faith in God through Jesus Christ. She would not be sent away.

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?

My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1-2, ESV)

Jesus demonstrates his exceptional mercy in action. He demonstrated it through the healing of the woman’s daughter… but he demonstrated it even more clearly at the cross. It was because his cries for mercy there went unanswered that God hears our cries for mercy now. God, the Father, turned his back on his only begotten son on the cross. It is the rejection that we should experience. It is the punishment that should be ours for disregarding the law of God. It is the punishment we earn for our unwillingness to give help where help is needed simply because we think it won’t be appreciated, or properly received. We should be sent away, outsiders from God, no better than that woman from Canaan. But, we too, know what she knew. Jesus is for us. Because of Jesus death and resurrection, we are gathered to God. It isn’t because we are worthy, quite the contrary we are wholly unworthy. It’s because we have faith in Jesus to be for us exactly what he promises to be, and to do for us exactly what he promise to do.

Martin Luther once said, “Faith clings to the Word in the heart and does not doubt the Word.” What he means is this:

I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers. On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ. This is most certainly true. (Luther’s Small Catechism, The Creed)

That’s the great faith that Jesus is talking about. The faith that the Canaanite woman had, believing that Jesus was for her. That’s what we believe too. Jesus for me, Jesus for you. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

12th Sunday After Pentecost, Matt 14:22-33, Aug 7, 2005


Pentecost 12, Aug 7, 2005

St. John’s, Burt ~ Our Savior, Swea City

Matt 14:22-33

Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Now I don’t know about you, but you wouldn’t find me walking on the water in the middle of a deep lake. I like to fish, I like boats, but I’ve always been uncomfortable out there on the water. You see, I don’t swim. Oh, I took swimming lessons when I was young, but they didn’t seem to take. Swimming seems, well, just a little unnatural. I kind of feel like those who talk about skydiving, “Why would you what to step out of a perfectly good airplane.” “Why would you want to step out of a perfectly good boat?” That’s what Peter does. He steps out of a perfectly good boat and expects to walk on top of the water. As I like to say, “not this little grey duck.”

But that is exactly what Peter does. Not that it’s more amazing than what Jesus has done. Peter takes a few steps and sinks like I would. Jesus has treaded out to the middle of the lake against the wind and the waves. The Sea of Galilee is 7-12 miles wide and the text tells us that the boat was ‘many stadia from shore’ probably a mile or more. Jesus walks out there as if it’s a walk in the park. And if you still think that’s not much, just look at the disciple’s reaction, “when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, "It is a ghost!" I’d also like you to take note of the fact that they weren’t afraid before they saw the “ghost” on the water. There’s not great big storm threatening to drown them. “They were beaten by waves because the wind was against them.” The going is tough, they weren’t making good time in the crossing, it was the middle of the night (3 am), and they were dead tired. The last thing they expected to see was a person walking on the water. When they saw that they were overcome by fear. Well, and who wouldn’t be? They didn’t know who it was. They weren’t thinking about Jesus, they were thinking about getting across the lake. Out there on the waves, in the dark of night, the disciple’s faith wavered. That’s what happens when we lose sight of who Jesus is.

Peter, nicknamed the Rock, sank like a stone. At his first steps everything was ok. He was kicking out on the water, eyes on Jesus, doing what Jesus was doing, by invitation. But the wind driven waves were more than he could ignore. Maybe one lapped up a little farther than he was comfortable with. In the end it was fear that gripped him, out on the waves his faith wavered, and down he went. He shouts the shortest prayer known to man. “Lord, save me!” Jesus reached out his hand and saved him. When the man was a goner, Jesus rescued him from death. When it was all over, when Jesus carried Peter back to the boat and the wind made is miraculous stop, the disciples knew something they didn’t know before, something they’d forgotten. They knew Jesus for who he was. They fell down and worshipped him, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

What kind of waves case your faith to waver? What waves make it tough to keep going? It’s easy to forget about Jesus and who he is when things get hard, isn’t it? We just look to getting through the trouble, putting it all behind us. We focus on the shore instead of looking for Jesus in the midst of our troubles. When the waves push against us our faith might waver.

When money runs short we panic and look for an easy way out. More money must be the answer. The waves make our faith waver and we are afraid because we don’t see Jesus at work there, pushing us to depend on him in all things, wanting us to trust him, to look for him, even in our finances. Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5-6, ESV)

And whose faith is strong enough to hold even when facing death? And yet Jesus comes to us especially then. Cancer kills. God doesn’t always take it away. The introit today speaks to us about being afraid when we waver. I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. (Psalm 34:4, ESV) At times like these we don’t have to go it alone, Jesus comes to us and deals with our fear.

It’s easy to forget that Jesus has his own purposes in mind for our church. Especially as all around us age old churches close, and we are afraid that it means our turn is coming. It is tough going, so much seems to be against us, we want to dig in and just make it to the shore, and just keep the doors open one more year. The fear comes from forgetting about who Jesus is and why we are here. It’s easy to forget about Jesus… we are tempted to try anything try anything to ward off the fear, change what’s most important about who we are, set aside what we believe to be more appealing… But we are here as a church because of Him. We aren’t here so that we have special social events to attend. We aren’t here just to maintain this building, and keep it open until we die. We aren’t even here to provide income to a pastor. We are here to focus on Jesus. We are here to bring Him and His Word to bear in this community. We will be successful in that only through faith in Jesus. If we turn out attention from Jesus, if we fail to see Jesus at the heart of all we do, we’ll be just like the disciples were, afraid and bound to fail.

Jesus doesn’t leave us to go it alone, just like he didn’t leave the disciples to go it alone. He comes to us and reminds us who he is and what he has done for us. Out there on the sea He walked on water. Jesus comes to us in water. Just think of the hundreds of times He’s made promises to our children right here at this font. And remember he made those same promises to you. In the Small Catechism Martin Luther placed prayers for morning and evening. At the start of each he reminds us of our baptism and says, In the morning/evening when you get up/go to bed, make the sign of the holy cross and say: In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. A literal translation says God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, watch over me. When we are reminded of our baptism it’s like Jesus saying to us, Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid. He has come to us and claimed us as His own by placing His name on us.

Jesus comes to us in wonderful words of encouragement, too. His Word brings Him to us even in our fear. It’s echoed in the hymns we sing:

Evening and morning, sunset and dawning,

Wealth, peace and gladness,

Comfort in sadness;

These are your works and bring glory to you. (LW 419)

And He even comes to us in His body and blood, given and shed for the forgiveness of your sins. All of this he does to remind us who he is, and what he has done.

You remember how Jesus reached out his hand to save Peter. Jesus saved us when we were goners. When our sins weigh us down and we feel like we are far from God trying to go it alone sinking like a stone, Jesus reaches out his hand to save us. We cry out that simple prayer that means, “Jesus, forgive me for my doubts and fears.” Lord, have mercy! Forgive me and save me. He does. And not because our faith is so strong, but because he is who he is. This Jesus who saves us through his innocent suffering and death and his holy and precious blood shed for us on the cross. He gave himself to free us from sin and and death and fear.

We can count on him because… well he’s the one who walks on water. The disciples reacted by saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” We say it like this: very God of very God

who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven

and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary and was made man;

and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate.

He suffered and was buried.

And the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures

and ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father.

And He will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead,

whose kingdom will have no end. (Nicene Creed)

I could say to you, “keep your eyes on Jesus and he’ll calm the storms of your life.” But the truth is Jesus isn’t going to calm all the storms. He invites you to look for him to come to you when then the waves cause you to waver. He invites you to see him for who he is, especially when you are sinking. He wants you to know him as God, who will never leave you or forsake you, even when the going gets tough. He wants you to place your faith in Him and what He has done and continues to do for you. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.