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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Will It Float?

Date: 08/07/2005
Feast: 19th s in o
Church: LHPC
Bible text: Matt. 14:22-33
Theme: Walking on Water
“Will It Float?”

Note: this is more a collection of notes assembled in classic Larry King article style than a full text. (Please don't think I want to emulate the writing style of Larry King.)

Children’s Sermon… reminded me of David Letterman’s running gag, recurring game, “Will It Float?” Band sings… showgirls… Dave & Paul guess… Not really funny in itself, but gets funnier with time. Humor in persistence.

In today’s gospel lesson… Apostle Peter plays, “Will It Float?”… Taken by itself, amazing story of a miracle… But think about it as a recurring theme (Bible, gospel, your life) = story of salvation & creation. Peter learns life in persistence.


Jesus tries (again!) to be alone. Last time he was joined by 5000 of his closest friends for dinner.

Remember where we left off last time… John the Baptist (cousin John) has been beheaded. Jesus tries to find a quiet place… paddles into lake… Chased down by 5000 men + wives + children + 12 disciples. Heals them… Feeds 5000+ with 5 loaves & 2 fish.

Sends disciples to “the other side”… dismisses crowds… goes to mountaintop to pray (alone) all night… meanwhile, disciples fighting against the dark storm all night.

Morning comes… Jesus walking on water toward them… Was this his mode of transportation (rain or shine)?... “It’s a ghost!”…
“Take heart. It is I. Do not be afraid.” (NRSV).
“Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.” (KJV).
“Courage! It's me! Don't be afraid.” (NJB)
"Don't worry! I am Jesus. Don't be afraid." (CEV)

Take heart. Be of good cheer. Courage! Don’t worry… Variety of translations leads me to believe Jesus speaks our language – whatever it may be – when we’re overwhelmed… Last week, Jesus healed the sick, fed the hungry. This week, Jesus rescues the terrified. Illness, hunger, fear – all are taken away by Jesus. But not yet…

“Lord, if it is REALLY you,” says Peter. Not yet certain. “COMMAND me to come to you on the water.” Proof comes by being given a command. Odd way to ask for proof… If Peter were Aladdin and Jesus were Genie, might have wished: Calm the sea, fly the boat to shore, poof me to safety. Peter doesn’t wish to escape danger; he wants to stomp it into submission.

Wonder how Peter walked? Tiptoe? March straight to Jesus? Splash & skip (Gene Kelly)?... But when he noticed the wind: Blown off-balance. Starts then to sink. “Lord! Save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “Little-faith, why did you doubt?”… Little-faith: a nickname. Peter’s a man of nicknames. Originally Simon. Jesus nicknamed him “Peter,” the rock. (Upon this rock – “Rocky”) He’s a smart guy – should have known: Rocks don’t float! (Child can tell you that.)

“Noticed the wind”… sank when blown off balance… “Wind” is more than a strong breeze. Remember (Genesis) when God gave Adam life? Blew breath (wind) into him. Remember when nothing but darkness (Gen 1:1): “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit (wind!) of God moved upon the face of the waters.”

Word for “wind” means more than a breeze, more than even a gale force… Wind = four winds of life… North, south, east & west converge… Not just “strong” wind; the swirl of life. Not only “his” life flashing before his eyes, but ALL life. Caught up in the storm of creation.

Have you ever been overwhelmed by life? Not just YOUR life, but overwhelmed by LIFE itself? Psalm 8: “O LORD, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! …When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?”

Ever stare up at a night sky and feel overwhelmed? Ever wonder what YOU are that God takes notice? Or, as Humphrey Bogart once said, ”In this crazy world, [it’s easy to see] the problems of three little people don't add up to a hill of beans.” But they do. To God.

Did Peter want to be rescued from drowning? Or did he want to be rescued from being rescued?... at his moment of convergence – Jesus, God, life, death, himself, winds of 4 corners of life – all right there together – Peter cries out, “Lord! Save me!” “Save” in the deeper sense… bring me salvation, bring me redemption, make me whole, heal me.

This looks like a salvation story, but really it’s a creation story… Remember the disciples got into the storm in the dark of night. As morning dawned, Jesus came walking across the waters.

Gen 1: “darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit (wind!) of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.”

Jesus pulls Peter out of the water as daylight dawns. And the darkness Peter calls Night, and the light Peter calls day. And it is good. The day is good. But for Peter the night is good, too. Because darkness leads to light. And light leads Peter to Jesus. And not even the powers of darkness can lead Peter away from Jesus.

On the other hand… this looks like a creation story, but it’s also a salvation story… Peter is baptized… Comes out of the water a different man. Same man, but a different man… Because now he has seen Jesus. He has obeyed Jesus’ command to “come” to him… If he hadn’t, never been saved. Peter’s still a rock, and rocks don’t float… If he jumped out of a boat tomorrow, he’d still sink… Rock that’s been picked up, and put in Jesus’ pocket. And kept.


So what about you? Will YOU float?... Will any of us float when the seas get rough and the winds blow? “When this world with devils filled threatens to undo us?” as Martin Luther sang… What keeps us afloat when we realize that in this great big world the problems of 150 people don’t add up to a hill of beans?

Will YOU float? No. No, you won’t… Sink like Peter… If Peter (Apostle) sank when the winds blew, how could we expect to do any better?... We aren’t saved by the special privilege of being Christians. We’re saved by obeying the commands of Jesus Christ… Jesus DOESN’T say, “I’ve taught you, cured you, fed you – now you sink or swim on your own.”… Jesus DOES say, “Come.” Plainly & simply… “Follow me.”… Like rocks that on their own don’t add up to much, Jesus picks us up, and puts us in his pocket, & keeps us.

Good news of Jesus summed up in one (unchanging) line, “It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Remember, he didn’t say that about the storm; he said that about himself… Don’t be afraid of his presence… don’t be afraid of his life-bringing life… don’t be afraid of his commandments… don’t be afraid of his creation… don’t be afraid of his salvation.

The dawn does come. And it’s good…. You may not float, but the breath of God still blows across the waters of chaos… Jesus still comes to you. Question for us is NOT, will you float? Question for us is, will we come when he calls? There’s life in his persistence; and there’s everlasting persistence in his life.