“A Steady Captain” by Pastor Steve Sommerer

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost August 9, 2020

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            Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

            The sermon text is from Matthew chapter 14: 

            During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.  When the disciples saw Him walking on the lake they were terrified.  “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage!  It is I.  Don’t be afraid.”  “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”  “Come,” He said.  Then Peter got down out of the boat and walked on the water and came toward Jesus.  But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately, Jesus reached out His hand and caught him.  “You of little faith,” He said, “why did you doubt?”  So far the text.

In the verses before our text this morning, Jesus fed a huge crowd of over 5000 by miraculously turning five loaves of bread and two fish into a bountiful buffet.  After Jesus served the multitude, he made the disciples get into the boat, sent the crowd away, and went up on a mountainside by Himself to pray.  That’s a good reminder that God commands you to pray also. Don’t deprive yourself when the King of Heaven invites you to call upon Him.  Pray, and learn the truth that the One who prayed perfectly while here on earth, loves to hear and answer your needs. 

When He finished praying, about 4 in the morning with the disciples 3 or 4 miles out on the stormy Sea, Jesus saw and walked to them through the waters.  As they fought for their lives against the raging winds, the disciples looked up to see what they thought was a ghost coming toward them, and they cried out in fear.  Through the darkness Jesus called out, “Take courage!  It is I.  Don’t be afraid.”

Few miracles of Christ so vividly illustrate for us the truth of Jesus’ Incarnation – that He is true God and true Man, walking toward them through the stormy sea.  It puts me in mind of another miracle God does for you and me His disciples, and that’s the miracle of the Lord’s Supper.  The connection between the two, as I see it, is, too many uninstructed or Biblically-ignorant Christians react to the Lord’s Supper the way the Disciples reacted to Jesus’ on the water: It’s a ghost!  Not really, “It’s a ghost!” But they adopt the view that Jesus’ presence in the Supper is spiritual – not bodily.  In their view, the bread is bread and the wine, wine, and nothing more.  For them, what matters is what you are thinking in your head.  But it’s just the opposite.  What matters is always what God is doing – not what you’ve got going on!  

I’d suggest a better, more faithful approach for Christians; indeed, the approach the true Church has taken now for 2000 years is to remember Jesus is God and man, and because that’s so, He can do with His real human body exactly what He says.  My body can’t walk on water, but Jesus’ real human body could, because it was joined to a Divine nature in one person.   

So, what goes into your lips when you come to the Lord’s Supper? Evangelical Christians answer: It’s a ghost, a spiritual presence.  Jesus’ body isn’t there.  The better path is to let Jesus tell you what’s there and then confess it against all the lies of the devil.  What goes into your lips at the Altar of Christ?  Jesus said, “This is My Body.  My blood for your sins.”  If you can’t understand why that should be an important gift that your Brother who shared your flesh gives Himself to you, just take Him at His Word.  This is no empty bread… it’s the true presence of the Living Christ.  Jesus promised, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in youWhoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise Him up at the last day.  For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.”  A word from Jesus opened the disciples’ eyes in our text.  When it comes to the Lord’s Supper, listen to Jesus’ Word. 

Another thought about the disciples’ fight for their lives in the storm…  The Greek text literally says that Jesus forced the disciples into the boat for their all-night, near-death journey.  Why would He do that?  He certainly knows the weather better than WQAD.  It was perilous.  It was frightening.  Yet, it served Jesus’ purpose, teaching the 12 that Jesus was the true Son of God and had them in His hands. 

You may have asked the same about your own life.  God, why are life’s seas so stormy?  Even Christians face the headwinds of depression, broken families, lost loved ones, failing health, and lingering loneliness.  Christian Parents anguish over children who walk away from Christ and damn themselves.  All of us look back with pain and regret over bad decisions – words we wish we could take back or hurtful actions.  You may feel like this nasty Christ-less culture is like a stiff wind hard for us parents to navigate.  Young people, you may be grieving starting classes online, or worry whether you’ll find friends and safety in your schools.   

The good news is Christ helped the disciples as they struggled against the storm, and He loves you just the same.  Our God and Father sent His Son by the power of the Holy Spirit to step out of the fog of life and reach His loving hand into your world of darkness. You are loved and forgiven, cherished by the God who joined Himself to your journey, and not one thing you face today, or this school year, is bigger than your God’s love for you… that’s the Word Jesus speaks into your stormy life.  He is your peace, calming the waves with resurrection victory.  Christ the Lord reached out to you stretching out His arms on Calvary’s cross.  Trusting in Christ, God’s promise in Isaiah 43 is true: “Fear not, for I have redeemed youI have called you by name, you are Mine.When you pass through life’s waters, I will be with you.  When you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you… for I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”  

There’s a lot about life that’s distressing, a lot of waves from friends to family to school to work that seem overwhelming.  But God met your greatest need, giving you eternal shelter from the storm, purchasing you to be His daughters and sons through Jesus’ holy, precious blood and innocent, sufferings and death.  Trusting in Jesus, God carries you through His Baptismal waters into the life-raft of His full and free forgiveness.  Your salvation is safe and sure for eternity when Christ is with you and carries you through faith to your eternal destination.  

With only a word Jesus called Peter out of the boat to come, walking on the waters. I always thought that was a remarkable moment of faith on Peter’s part, but too short a moment it turned out. Taking His eyes off the Savior, Peter plunged to certain death, until the Savior’s mighty arm lifted Peter from the abyss. 

In your lives, God doesn’t call you to stay in the boat.  Your Savior calls you out into a stormy world.  God calls you to step out in faith to serve Him in all the places He puts you – to focus on Christ and walk the walk as a child of God.

You bear witness to the hope within you every place that you work or go to school, every family member or friend, wherever God puts you becomes an opportunity for the Good News of Jesus to be shown forth in your life.  How desperately your Church needs you to step out in faith.  As Sunday School re-starts, we need teachers, and we need students.  God can use you to invite a co-worker to church or welcome a visitor.  It might be stepping out of the boat, out of your comfort zone to share Christ with your neighbor or share the importance of Jesus with your family or friends.  It is surely also your giving to support those in need and the work of God’s Kingdom here at Mt. Calvary.   

            Your faith is a gift from God, a work of the Holy Spirit. It’s personal in that He created faith in your heart by the power of the Holy Spirit, but it’s not private, not meant to be a secret.  Faith is living and active.  If you are alive today, as it appears you are, you are alive to be loved by Him and to give freely as you have freely received.           

            Our text says, “When Peter saw the waves, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”  Focusing on the waves instead of Christ is a perennial danger.  Drawn from focusing on Christ, you will surely sink into the dark depths of doubt and despair.  Like Peter, we pray: “Lord, save us!” 

            As it was that day on the Sea of Galilee, when you cry out to God, the hand of your Savior stretches out in love, He did later stretch out His hands at Calvary to lift you from the sea of sin and death.  This is the course God has charted for you from Hebrews 12, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  This glorious God who reigns at the right hand of the Father stretches out His love to give you Himself, and not a ghost of Himself but all of Him who shared your flesh and blood in every way except without sin. 

            These are certainly stormy days in our world, fears and challenges real and over-hyped, may cause you to look to an expert class who claim the answers if you’ll only follow their path.  There’s a better way.  Rest in the strong arms of the One who strode atop the waters.  He set the very foundations of the world.  Nothing you face today will be bigger than He. Amen. 

            And now may the peace of God which surpasses human understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.