Monday, August 8, 2011

Stay In The Boat!

There is a little half truth parents sometimes tell their children.
“You can be anything you want to be if you only work hard enough.”
It is a nice thought.
We say it because we want our children to be self confident and we want them to work hard.
But it is not entirely true.
I mean I would love to be the starting power forward for the Boston Celtics.
It is not going to happen.
I could practice every minute of every day for years and still not be a basketball player in the NBA.
I am not tall enough.
OK, then my second dream is to be Rock star in a Rock-n-Roll band.
Not going to happen.
If you know me you know I have no musical talent whatsoever.
And contrary to popular belief you actually do have to have some musical talent to play in a Rock band.
I could spend every minute of every day and practice the guitar for the next 10 years and still not be a good musician.
Instead, I am what I believe God made me to be a pastor.
Perhaps instead of telling our kids that they can be whatever they want we should be telling them that they should be what God made them to be.

This morning’s Gospel is often part of the problem.
We have all heard the sermon about Peter getting out of the boat and falling to walk on water.
And if only he had kept his eyes on Jesus he could have done it.
If only Peter had more faith he would have been able to walk on water.
So if we have faith we should be willing to take risks and walk on water.
If only we have faith we can do whatever we want.

It is certainly one interpretation of the text.
The problem is that it not entirely true.
Faith does not give us superhuman abilities.
I have always preferred the interpretation that Peter’s problem is that he gets out of the boat at all.
Peter’s proper place is in the boat!
In the story you will notice that Jesus comes walking on the water towards the disciples who are on a boat.
They see something on the water and become afraid.
“They were terrified saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried in fear.”
Jesus tells them not to be afraid.
And then Peter challenges Jesus.
“If it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”
Eventually he falls into the water and Jesus puts him back in the boat and says to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
It is not that Peter doubted he could walk on the water, but he doubted that it was Jesus walking on the water.
He needed proof.
He asked to come out of the boat.
Peter should have known it was Jesus as soon as he said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”
There is another way to interpret this text and that is that Peter should have stayed in the boat because he should have believed in Jesus words not to be afraid.
Peter’s proper place was in the boat not walking on the water.
After all he is not Jesus.

Today Nathan Marshall will be baptized.
He will be drowned in these waters and raised to new life with Christ.
And the message I want to give to his parents, family, friends, and the congregation is that we should be helping him for the rest of his life to recognize Jesus.
So that when he is feeling alone, afraid, off course, lost, terrified, he will need to know the one who calms the winds.
It is Jesus who he will need to worship as the one who helps us through this world and our lives.

Nathan Marshall cannot be anything he wants to be.
That is not God’s promise to him today.
What God has promised is that he has given Nathan gifts to become something very specific.
And in Nathan’s Journey to figure out what God made him to be then God will be there the whole time.

I think that we get disappointed with our lives because they sometimes don’t seem so glamorous.
There are lots mundane things we have to do.
And sometimes they seem boring.
Then we see rich and famous people with these exciting lives and we wish that was us.
And we feel let down because we couldn’t become anything we wanted to be.
Instead we are at home on a Friday night doing laundry, and putting kids to bed.
I think one of the spiritual problems we face is that just doing the little things doesn’t seem to matter as much.
Being a good father, husband, machine maker isn’t enough anymore.
Everybody wants to save the world.
And in the end it is not our job to save the world that is God’s job.
We have to figure out what it is God has called us to do.
What we were meant to do.
I wish we would do more soul searching about what God wants us to do.

I wish Peter would have thought a little more about his testing of Jesus.
Peter’s place is in the boat with the other disciples.
It is not to be Jesus.
Yeah it is not as exciting or exotic.
Jesus gets to walk on water, we just get to row.

On Friday I was at Soulfest with the youth group at Gunstock Mountain.
For those who don’t know Soulfest is a large Christian music festival.
The main stage is set up right by one of the ski slopes, so you sit on the mountain in a folding chair and watch the concert.
I was sitting on this mountain watching one of my favorite bands, Jars of Clay, perform and it started to rain.
At first it was just a drizzle.
The lead singer in the band said to the crowd, “Sing this song of praise to God and we will move this rain right out of here.”
The words were still coming out of his mouth and you know what it did.
It started to pour down rain.
It would be nice to think with our prayers, or our faith that we can stop the rain.
The truth is that is not our job.
We are not the creator of the universe.

It is not our job to walk on water.
It is our job to be drowned in water.
To let Jesus Christ be our new life.
That is what is happening to Nathan today.
He is receiving a great gift.
It is not the gift of becoming a super hero.
Baptism gives us no super human strength, the ability to fly, to become invisible, or even to walk on water.
It gives us assurance.
“Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”

And Nathan like all of us will have some times in his life when he will be terrified, uncertain.
Like the day he graduates from high school and the speaker will say that they can do anything, but Nathan is not sure what he wants to do.
Or after college when the speaker will again give a speech about remaking the world, and Nathan can’t find a job doing the thing he really wants to do.
Or the time he breaks up with a woman even though he wants her to be the one.
Or when he is older and laying in a hospital bed about to die.
There will be those times when he questions himself and the world.

I hope in those times he knows to get back in the boat.
For Matthew a boat was the symbol of the church.
It is here when we gather that we come to this place for comfort, for acceptance, for love.
It is here we come to hear Jesus tell us, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”
Don’t misunderstand me we have to go back out into the world.
The next part of Matthew’s Gospel is about Jesus and the disciples going into strange and scary gentile country.
But today the message is about how we find here together in this boat a message that helps us every day.

Get back in the boat.
You are not meant to walk on water, calm storms, stop the rain, or be whatever you want.
You are meant to be a beloved child of God, who is here to love your family, and work for your neighbor.
So when things are too much, when life seems boring or terrifying remember that Jesus is walking towards you with peace, ready to calm the winds.
Most important remember to stay in the boat!

1 comment:

  1. I thought I was the only heretic Pastor that taught this!
    John Blackman