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Sermon for Proper 12/Ordinary 17 risk

June 30, 2015

risk‘Do not be afraid’ – words from today’s gospel

In the name….

At the end of World War 2, the Japanese government was faced with a massive problem. Thousands of Japanese soldiers in the mountains and the jungles of the South Pacific islands would not come out of hiding, surrender their arms, and return to a life of peace. They believed surrender would mean either torture or instant death. Finally, the Japanese Emperor made a speech explaining the situation and pleading with his men to come home. The speech was broadcast by radio, recorded, and repeatedly boomed toward the mountain caves and the jungles by loudspeaker.

After some years, it was assumed that all the living had been accounted for. However, it was not until March 1974 that the last soldier finally came out of hiding, 29 years after the war was over! This man wasted 29 years of his life in hiding! When they asked the man, now in his sixties, why he’d waited, he said it had taken him that long to get over his fears. Imagine being trapped for 29 years! Being trapped not by an invading army, not by enemy threats, but by your own fear! Twenty-nine years in hiding will rob you of a lot of life and many dreams. Healing of Memories – David Seamands

Today some of us are also being robbed of our lives and our dreams because of our fears. We’re locked in patterns and cycles of living because we have a certain comfort zone that we don’t want to leave. In our Gospel story, the disciples were terrified because of a storm. In Matthew’s version, Jesus asked Peter to walk on water with him but Peter’s comfort zone was the boat.

John Ortberg, a pastor at Willow Creek, wrote a book called: If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat! He invites us to consider the incredible potential that awaits us outside our comfort zone. Out on the risky water of faith, Jesus is waiting to meet us in ways that will change us forever, deepening our character and our trust in God. The amazing thing is that, like that Japanese soldier, many times we would rather face the pain of staying the same than risk the uncertainty of change. Yet God wants to get us out of a self-made prison.

Our instinct is to stay in the boat, whatever the boat is for us. Our boats are whatever represents safety and security to us apart from God himself; whatever tempts us to put our trust in, especially when life gets a little stormy; whatever pulls us away from the high adventure of extreme discipleship.

It’s whatever keeps you so comfortable that you don’t want to give it up to step out in faith. It may be your job or your financial portfolio, your home or your friends. People will work for years in a job that is slowly destroying their health and happiness rather than risk their homes and their security by returning to college or starting their own businesses. Thus it is that people who have had dreams of travelling around the world or of doing something else will stay where they are and allow their dreams to wither and die.

The church can be a security boat as well. How much are we prepared to change if we want to welcome new people?

Our boat is security. When Jesus asked the rich young ruler to get out of the boat “sell all that you have, give the money to the poor, and come and follow me” he decided not to. He had a very nice boat. It was too much for him to give it up. I wonder if he ever thought about that encounter with Jesus when he reached the end of his life. Some people would rather stay in the boat than meet Jesus out on the water. John Ortberg calls them Boat Potatoes.

Do you want to know what your boat is? Your fear will tell you. Ask yourself this: What is it that most produces fear in me – especially when I think of leaving it behind when I step out in faith?

 The more urgent it becomes for us to move, the more overwhelming that fear becomes. The psalmist knew about being overwhelmed: Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me. Psalm 69: 1-3

These waters are deep and frightening. God can seem a long way from us. God can seem to be hidden, and when, in Christ, God comes to us we find that we don’t recognise him or, like the disciples, that we are afraid of him. It is often only after the event that we see the influence of God touching, guiding, holding,that Paul was right when he wrote that God will see to it that all things will work together for good to those who love Him. Romans 8:28

 In John’s version, Jesus comes as one unrecognised and gets into the boat. Immediately, the disciples are taken to the place where they wanted to be. After my breakdown a few years back, I think God came to me in disguise: my trade union case worker who took me through the procedure for getting an ill health retirement package. I had to get out of the boat. There was a period of insecurity when I had to resign my job before I knew for sure that I would get the pension. After a rewarding career that had become a straitjacket, I have been taken to a new place, a new lease of life doing work that energises me.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the staircase.”

For missionary E. Stanley Jones: Faith is not merely your holding on to God-it is God holding on to you. God will not let you go! “

A minister was on a long-haul flight when the sign came on: ‘Fasten
your seat belts.’

Then a voice, “We shall not be serving drinks at this time as we are expecting turbulence.” The plane began to judder. Cracks of thunder could be heard even above the roar of the engines. Lightning lit up the skies, and within moments that great plane was like a cork tossed around on a celestial ocean. One moment the plane was lifted on terrific currents of air; the next, it dropped as if it were about to crash. The minister began to share the fear of those around him. Then he saw a little girl seated near him. Apparently the storm meant nothing to her. She was reading a book and everything within her small world was calm and orderly. Despite the buffeting of the terrible storm, and despite the palpable fear of everyone else in the plane, the little girl was completely composed and unafraid. The minister could hardly believe his eyes. An hour or so later the plane finally reached its destination and all the passengers hurried to disembark. But the minister lingered to speak to the little girl. He asked why she’d not been afraid back there, up in the sky. She replied, “Cause my Daddy’s the pilot, and he’s taking me home.” Author Unknown

Take a moment to ask yourself…. What is my deepest dream? How much passion do I experience in my daily life? What do I want my obituary to say? How much am I growing these days? How often do I step out in faith for God? If I had to name “one true thing” that I believed I was put on this earth to do, what would it be?

What is your boat? In what area of your life are you shrinking back from fully trusting? Leaving it may be the hardest thing you ever do. But if you want to walk on the water, you’ve got to get out of the boat.

When a crab grows, it breaks out of its hard shell and begins the process of forming a new one. Its life span is marked by passing through successive shells. The crab grows when it is in-between shells. It will continue to grow as long as it dares to break out of it shell. When it stops breaking through shells, the crab ceases to grow and eventually dies. THE LAST SHELL BECOMES THE CRAB’S COFFIN!

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