First Congregational Church
August 10, 2014
9th Sunday after Pentecost and Communion
“It’s Not Really About Peter”
Rev. Dinah Haag, preaching
It’s true that I was thinking about this day three weeks ago, knowing that it would hold my first day back, having not just our own Linda Davis, but The Matt Hubbard, our scripture passage and communion. I couldn’t stop from ocassionally thinking about the idea of a sacrament, as in communion, and how we all experience sacraments differently. Most often, a sacrament is described as “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.” If you sit long enough with that thought, that definition makes sense, but it doesn’t quite seem enough - to me, because there is the moment in which you “are” - the human factor - that adds to that “sign” or “sacrament.”
Sitting in a boat, trolling along beautiful shoreline, feeling a fish tug your line - and being aware of it - seems like an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. Playing with grandchildren, having a ball and being aware of it, I think, could be a sacrament. Doing that thing you love to do, realizing the joy of it, may well be a sacrament. Even as we come forward to receive the bread and the cup, brushing up against each other, sharing the same “food,” watching but trying not to watch others, hearing the movement of each other over the music, all those pieces, and our realization of them, make the sacrament more complete. And the crazy part about all that is that in that moment of recognition, we realize how much larger the sacrament is than what we do.
Our scripture passage for this morning has an air of sacrament to it, too. Jesus and the disciples had just had communion with 10-15,000 of his closest friends, maybe a good many not realizing that precious, exquisite moment of sacrament.
Matthew 14:22-33 The Message
22-23 As soon as the meal was finished, he insisted that the disciples get in the boat and go on ahead to the other side while he dismissed the people. With the crowd dispersed, he climbed the mountain so he could be by himself and pray. He stayed there alone, late into the night.
24-26 Meanwhile, the boat was far out to sea when the wind came up against them and they were battered by the waves. At about four o’clock in the morning, Jesus came toward them walking on the water. They were scared out of their wits. “A ghost!” they said, crying out in terror.
27 But Jesus was quick to comfort them. “Courage, it’s me. Don’t be afraid.”
28 Peter, suddenly bold, said, “Master, if it’s really you, call me to come to you on the water.”
29-30 He said, “Come ahead.”
Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus. But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink. He cried, “Master, save me!”
31 Jesus didn’t hesitate. He reached down and grabbed his hand. Then he said, “Faint-heart, what got into you?”
32-33 The two of them climbed into the boat, and the wind died down. The disciples in the boat, having watched the whole thing, worshiped Jesus, saying, “This is it! You are God’s Son for sure!”
Thank you, Bob. For centuries, I’m sure it has been easy to use this passage as one to “encourage,” even brow-beat people with “have more faith; have more faith; don’t be like Peter.” But I wonder if we “miss” a big part of God by focusing too much on Peter and not enough on Jesus and that actual moment when Jesus grabbed his hand. We have a certain part in our relationship with God, yes. But how often do we find ourselves in times of trouble, and we fail to “see” God reaching out to us - not hesitating - even in the unlikeliest of times and manners. It’s so easy to look at the predicament and forget to look to the Provider.
It’s also interesting what Jesus doesn’t do. He doesn’t call the disciples away from the storm, but went into it and climbed into the boat with them. Human beings, being human, aren’t always there for each other at 4 o’ dark a.m.; but God is - that ever-present help - the One who can do what we cannot - even in the most absurd and unlikely places - even if it isn’t the way we would have God do it.
And being so human, we generally get caught up in the moment, which is not wrong, but we miss miracle: the sacrament in the moment. Sometimes we’re so busy holding up the stringers, getting the paddle out, hoping that the fishing line doesn’t break, we just don’t see the sacrament of the moment.
But we have that opportunity in the next moments. In this place where we are safe from unseen rocks, where we don’t have the distractions of impending danger or busyness, we can pay attention to the miracle of our present-ness and our participation in this sacrament of Christ that people have done for centuries - all around the globe. So let us prepare our hearts, minds and souls.
Let us pray. Great God of time and infinity, we thank you for the ordinariness, miracles and sacraments of life. Help the time we have spent together nourish us to become the people you have seen us to be. Help us become aware of those moments of holiness in life that happen when we focus on you, rather than on our failures and disappointments. For all the blessings you bestow on us, all your people say, Amen.
Just the messenger. And the collector and arranger of that which has been received. References available upon request.