On the Sea
Water: A mountain lake, a mirror for the pastel colors of a sunset sky. Water: Gently and gladly flowing between our stepping stones.
So common is water we hardly think about it as we cook and clean, wash and bathe, shower and shave.
And we drink it. Without it we are but dust. We drink it and, ah, God is good. God is good to us.
And air: A warmth coming in the spring to dissolve winter’s crust. Air: A breeze brushing and cooling our faces.
So common is air we hardly think of it. We heat it and cool it. It is fuel for the tens of thousands of sparks we ignite each day when we drive our cars.
And we breathe it—in and out, in and out—each day of our lives. We breath it and, sigh, God is good. God is good to us.
But should this air we breathe howl itself up and blow the roof off, what then? And should this water we drink swirl and swell around us threatening to flood our lungs, what then? When things aren’t so good, aren’t so good for us, what then?
The storms of life, when things aren’t so good. You know, I’ve been around the block a few times. I’ve got the grey hair to prove it. I’ve been a pastor for better than twenty five years. I’ve been caring for and caring about people for more than a quarter of a century.
And I’ve been around long enough and have seen enough to know, to know that what Jesus said is true. He said, Jesus said, that God causes the sun to shine and the rain to fall on the good and the evil, the righteous and the unrighteous, alike. It’s true. I know. I’ve seen it. The storms of life come to us all, no matter who we are or what we’ve done.
It is also true that we have choices to make. And if we let wisdom be our guide, if we choose wisely, make wise choices, then things tend to go well, things, by and large, go well for us. Just the same, if we make unwise choices, if we choose badly, then, more times than not, we will pay a price, will suffer the consequences of our poor choices and actions.
But, while we do, we really do have choices, our choices and our actions do not determine everything that happens, that happens to us. We are not little gods. We cannot entirely determine our own fate. We, our choices and actions, are not the cause of everything. We are not God.
And I’ve been around long enough to know—and you know it, too—to know that what Jesus said is true. He said that God causes the sun to shine and the rain to fall on the good and the evil, the righteous and the unrighteous, alike.
You and I, we know. We know that the storms of life come to us, come upon us, all, no matter who we are and what we’ve done, sooner or later. What then, when things don’t go well for us, what then?
The storms of life, and we read that they were far from land when a storm blew up around them. Jesus’ disciples were in their little boat when the wind came up and blew hard against them. The sea began to swell and swirl around them, tossing their little boat this way and that.
As if the storm weren’t enough, the disciples saw a form, a figure, a human form and figure walking toward them, walking toward their boat. They were terrified. It says that the disciples were scared out of their wits. It’s a ghost! they yelled. It’s a ghost!
But they were wrong. What they saw walking toward them on those waves was not a ghost.
It is God, says Job. Says Job in the Book of Job: It is God who shakes the earth out of its place, and its pillars tremble. It is God, says Job, who alone stretched out the heavens and trampled—trampled underfoot—who trampled the waves of the sea. Walking on the waves of the sea.
It is you, O God, says the psalmist. It is you. The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind, your lightenings lit up the world; the earth trembled and shook. Your way, your way was through the sea, your path, your path through the mighty waters.
Again, the psalmist raises his voice in praise to God saying, The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord over mighty waters. The voice of the Lord is powerful, the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.
And, It is I, were the words that pounded over the waters toward that boat. It is I, heard over the whirling gale. Thundering louder than the thunder, a voice: Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.
The storms of life, when they come, what then? Listen. Listen for that voice. It is I. Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid. Listen and know that that storm has a God. The storm has a God and so do you. Your God is that storm’s God, too.
We read that Peter called out to him, Lord, if it is you… If it is you, and in a moment the Lord will say to him, You of little faith, why did you doubt? But now: Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.
Well, you shouldn’t put the Lord your God to the test. You really shouldn’t. Come, was the command. And Peter got out of the boat and started walking on the water toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind…
Well, Peter had no business out there like that. He was like the coyote in those Road Runner cartoons. That coyote seems always to run just a little bit too far and off a cliff. Standing out there in midair, the thought occurs to him and he reaches down to feel for the ground with his hand. Feeling none, a look of resignation comes over his face and, zip, down he goes. Poof.
When Peter noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, Lord, save me! He had no business out there like that.
The storms of life, when they come, what then? Remember. Remember that you cannot walk on water. You cannot walk on water any more than Peter could. Remember that walking on water is God’s job, not yours. You can’t do everything. Not everything is up to you, just as you are not the cause of everything that happens. Remember this and that all you need is enough faith to stay in the boat, just enough faith to stay here in the boat with the rest of us. Stay here with us, here at the church. We can’t do everything, either, but we can help you. We can. We can help you at least some.
A frightened Peter cried out, Lord, save me! Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, You of little faith, why did you doubt? When they got into the boat, when Peter and Jesus, when Jesus got into the boat… He got into the boat with them.
The storms of life, when they come, what then? Remember that Jesus comes to us, comes to us walking on that storm, and gets into the boat with us. Jesus, who died, but was raised from death, comes to us and gets in this boat with us. He is with us. God is with us. With us here.
When they got into the boat, the wind ceased.
The wind ceased, a morning breeze brushed their faces. The sea? Smooth as glass, a mirror reflecting the colors of the sky at sunrise.
And Jesus is with us. God is with us. Amen.