Friday, August 8, 2008

Proper 14 - August 10, 2008

Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church

10653 N – 550 W
Decatur, IN 46733

A 21st Century Parish with a 1st Century Faith
Acts 2:42

Celebrating our 170th Year
Chartered February 25, 1838
Matthew 14:22-33
August 10, 2008
Proper 14

Jesus’ walking on the sea frightens the disciples. Jesus sends the disciples by boat to the other side of the lake while He went up a mountain to pray. When the boat was far from shore, a terrible storm developed, and the disciples were frightened. Three hours before dawn they had a greater reason to be scared. They saw a figure walking on the water thinking it to be a ghost.

Jesus assured them immediately. He said to them: "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid. Peter asked Jesus to let him come to Him by walking on the water.

The Savior’s words - "Take courage!" and "Don't be afraid" bracket the central reason for Jesus’ calming words. He says, "It is I." Although the Greek words for "It is I" ("I am") can have no more force than that, any Christian after the Resurrection and Ascension would also detect echoes of these words. These words are Jesus’ decisive self-disclosure of being none other then Almighty God Himself! (See Exodus 3:14; Isaiah 51:12; cf. John 8:58).

Walking on the waves in the early hours of the morning Jesus calls out to His fearful disciples saying “I am none other then God Himself” Peter, wanting convincing proof says in effect “Jesus, if You really are whom You claim to be, if You really are God Almighty – then command me to step out of this boat and I too will walk on this water!”

Jesus’ response to Peter is a decisive command. “Come! “ “Bring it on!” “I will prove Myself to you!”

Peter steps out in faith. He is walking on the water just like the Savior who has called Him. It is the Lord! He truly is the Lord! He can be trusted at His Word!

But when Peter saw the waves, he becomes overwhelmed. Fear gets the best of him. Peter lost faith and began to sink. In desperation he cries to Jesus for help. Jesus took him to the boat, the wind stopped, and the disciples - in awe - confess that Jesus is the Son of God. They heard His command, they witnessed the drama. They saw and experienced the effects of complete silence.

When we face the storms of life we need the same Christ to come to our rescue. This miracle teaches us to take Jesus at His word. When He tells us clearly, “I am none other then God Almighty and My ways are good for you” we can do nothing but trust and obey. When fear and doubt challenge our faith; we, like the anxious father, in fear for his child need to plead, “Lord I believe…help my unbelief!”

Let up pray to the Lord…

Almighty and everlasting God, You are always more ready to hear than we are to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve. Pour upon us the abundance of Your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merit of your Son, Jesus Christ.”

In our deepest need —

1. We cry for help — But when he saw the wind, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried out, saying, Lord, save me. Vs. 30. Peter expressed the ultimate need of every human — “Lord! Save me.” Each person has many needs, but basic to all is the need for deliverance from the threatening forces that are our own undoing. On the sea of life, every person faces drowning. He needs to be rescued. At Peter’s cry, Jesus “reached out His hand and caught him.” Jesus said His followers were to catch men before they perish in the perils of the world.

A. Peter felt threatened by surrounding conditions — “when he saw the wind.” What is it that frightens people these days? Growing up in the 1960’s many feared a surprise missile attack from the Communist Russians.

All people could hope for would be that our defense systems would destroy theirs entering our air space. Now many fear attacks from terrorist cell groups who may go undetected in our country for months, possibly years.

The National Red Cross recently put together an educational curriculum for children which, [and I quote,] “provides positive ways for children and their families to respond to past events and plan for future uncertain times.” Advertised as, “a supplement to Masters of Disaster™ the children's natural hazard safety curriculum.” “The format and components are similar, including ready-to-go lesson plans, activities and demonstrations that can be incorporated within core subject areas. Lessons are aligned with national health, social studies, and language arts standards.” [1]

There you have it - a ready made curriculum addressing the subject of fear. Rational or not, real or imagined, there is an entire cottage industry geared at addressing people’s fears.

Some fear an uncertain economic future, while others fear the rise in diseases such as cancer.

B. By definition fear is a sinking condition — “beginning to sink.” It is a feeling of agitation and anxiety caused by the presence of danger. It is a state or condition marked by this feeling: living in fear. It is a feeling of disquiet or apprehension: a fear of looking foolish. It is a reason for dread or apprehension: Being alone is my greatest fear.[2]

C. As with Peter fear reared its ugly head because of a lack of faith — “afraid.” It seems that a fear of the future basically boils down to a lack of trust in God. Even after we have seen marvelous and miraculous events in our life, we still lack faith in God’s providence. Take for example yet another instance in which Jesus was with His disciples on the sea - the case when Jesus and His disciples were on the Sea of Galilee and an unexpected storm arrives. Jesus of course is asleep and the disciples panic. Jesus assumes that fear is directly related to lack of faith. “He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?[3]

We stare into an unknown future and the uncertainties drive us to a point that we either do not think that God is in control of our lives or that we know that God is in control, we are just scared out of our mind as to what God will actually have in store for us.

To combat fear and to build and bolster faith we need to recall the sure and certain words of our Lord and Savior. Says St. Paul, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”[4] So says the Lord through the prophet Jeremiah, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”[5]

Transition: A lack of faith causes both fear and doubt to flourish. Where do we do for help? We turn to Christ for only He can save.

2. We are helped — But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” vv. 31-32.

A. He hears Peter’s cry — “Lord, save me.” This is the cry of faith. We pray this prayer Sunday after Sunday in the words of the Kyrie. “Lord, have mercy, Christ, have mercy, Lord, have mercy. In the words of the Agnes Dei we petition our Lord, “Oh Christ Thou Lamb of God who takest away the sin of the world have mercy upon us and grant us Thy peace.” The Centurion with a critically ill servant said to the Savior, Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed.

B. He offers His hand — “Reached out his hand.” In this instance He rescued Peter from drowning. Says the Psalmist, "You called in trouble and I rescued you; I answered you in the hiding place of thunder; I proved you at the waters of Meribah.[6] Stephen in his defense reminds us in Acts, chapter ten, “Joseph's brothers became jealous of him and sold Joseph as a slave in Egypt. However, God was with him and rescued him from all his troubles. He granted him favor and wisdom before Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who appointed him ruler of Egypt and of his whole household.[7]
Says again the prophet Jeremiah, I will certainly rescue you. You will not die in war. You will escape with your life because you trusted me, declares the LORD.[8]

C. He rescues and saved Peter — “caught him.” Christ’s enemies declared from the foot of the cross, “He trusts in God. Let God rescue him, if He wants to do so now. After all, he said, 'I am the Son of God,'"[9] The cruel cross of Calvary always looms before us. Does the death of a condemned man seem compelling enough to offer atonement? Could His life and sacrifice really save you? This is the means by which we find peace with God and absolution for our sin. It is the only means necessary for you to receive pardon and peace.
Conclusion: If you have raised children you have encountered this scene at least once that of the waiting father arms extended; encouraging, coxing his child to jump into the water. There the child sits, perched on the edge of the pool, frozen in time, petrified. Will he leap, or will fear get the best of him? So it goes with your Savior. He waits for you. He has the means necessary to come to your rescue. Into Your hands o merciful Savior we commend ourselves, trusting in You to protect and rescue us from all peril.

[3] Mark 4:39-40
[4] Romans 8:28
[5] Jeremiah 29:11-13
[6] Psalm 87:1
[7] Acts 10:9-10
[8] Jeremiah 39:18
[9] Matthew 27:43

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