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but when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” (Mt 14.30 RSV)

This past Thursday the Dow Jones Industrial Average…the stock market…took a tumble of record proportions…tumbled to the point that many are now saying we are once again in a recession.  The next day, Friday, the S & P, one the three major credit rating agencies, downgraded our governments credit rating for the first time in 70 years.

Our country has just come off the heels of a fierce and terrible dispute over a thing called the debt ceiling.  The entire world watched on in anxiety as our government tried to come up with some sort of compromise that would allow the federal government to cancel debts and continue to operate.

The entire thing, it seems, stems from a problem of the government owing as much, if not more, than we take in revenue in a given year.  And there are vastly different ideas of how to solve this problem.

Cut government spending…increase taxes…create new industries and new jobs…some say we need to blow the whole thing apart and start over.  It is heated…it is ugly…and it is dysfunctional.

Our land is certainly not the only country going through this type of crisis.  The government of Greece has imploded….Spain and Italy seem to be on the verge…and the entire European alliance is trembling and nervous.

In our own land it appears promises made by our government to our citizens might not be kept…we are told that at some point Social Security… the money the government has set aside to help us in our old age will run out and the we will not receive the benefits we were promised…the benefits that we all pay to have secured.

There is little doubt that the economy of the world is nervous and our expectations of government might not stand as we wish they would.

They events of the past week…and especially the debate…the debacle…the circus… over the debt ceiling and what is really at stake colored my reading and prayerful discernment of this weeks lessons.

Try as I might, I could not keep those thoughts from entering into my mind as I read and prayed with the scriptures for today.

And while it might be a long shot…I think the Gospel issues a challenge and wake-up call for us all in light of the global economy.

On its face the Gospel Lesson for today is a story of Peter’s impulsive love and faith- which is weakened by his doubt.  Today’s lesson is a foreshadowing of Peter’s denial of Jesus during His passion and death…it is also a foreshadowing of Jesus’ love and forgiveness of him.

So, today gives us some insight into the man known as St. Peter…we learn about his character…but what about us…what does today’s Gospel tell us?

If you look at this parable as an allegory…or as a story that is a symbol of a spiritual truth or reality…then it has plenty to tell us.

“but the boat by this time was many furlongs distant from the land, beaten by the waves; for the wind was against them.” (Mt 14.24)

The water is chaos…it represents isolation, sorrow, uncertainty… death… in it’s truest since…the water is Hell.

The winds symbolize the hostile forces in this world… our fears… temptations… our woes and worries… the evil forces in the world that seek our destruction.

And the boat…well the boat, at least in the Gospel of Matthew…the boat is always the Church.  The thing that keeps us safe from the waters and allows us to withstand the wind…as the old hymn goes- our shelter from the storm.

So then, if we look at this morning’s Gospel as an allegory…we will be tested as it were.

For if we look closely at the actions of Peter, we will find that something caused him to sink…something besides his love of food, or the rocks he might have had in his pocket.

Jesus said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus; but when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” (Matthew 14.29-30)

Peter had faith and a love for Jesus…of that there is no doubt.  Peter even preformed the miraculous…he got out of the boat and walked on water and came towards Jesus.

But it was when he noticed the wind that he begin to sink into the chaos… it was when Peter noticed the hostile forces… it was when Peter was confronted with temptations and trials that he began to sink.

So then…Peter’s faith…when tested was insufficient and he began to sink.  Or, the worries of the world weighed Peter down and even though he believed in and loved Jesus…he still lacked the trust that Jesus could save Him.

Peter also left the safety of the boat and stepped out on his own…and it is painfully clear that own his own his could not make it…the hostile winds overcame him.

Beloved in the Lord Jesus Christ…I cannot tell you what the coming weeks and months and years will bring.  I cannot tell you everything is going to be O.K.  If I had to guess I would guess that the hostile winds will only become more fierce…and the waves more chaotic.

There is no time like the present to contemplate this parable and what it means to your own life.

Do you have more faith and trust in the stock market than you do in the saving power of God?

Deep down does your sense of salvation come from the things you possess on this earth?

Does the manner in which you live your life mirror your answers…or do you live only unto yourself and your interests?

There are and will continue to be hostile winds blowing against you…and it is all to easy to pay attention to them and lose sight of your Lord.

There are hostile winds blowing against you…winds that seek to distract you and sink you into the mire…how do you defend yourself against them?

A big part of this story is about the boat…the Church.  The passage we read this morning ends like this:

Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “O man of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (Mt. 14.31-33)

Peter was sinking on his own… faced with hostile winds he could not withstand, he sank.  We see Jesus rescue Peter…and I think it is very interesting what he does with him.

Jesus does not allow Peter to continue to walk on the water…he does not put him safely ashore… rather Jesus puts him back in the boat…returns him to the safety of the Church.  Returns him to the safety of the Church where it cannot be missed that those in the boat worshipped Him.

It is also of note that once Peter is safely back in the boat the winds cease.   Many a wise Church father has said that there is no salvation outside of the Church…or that it is impossible to be saved outside a life lived connected to the church.

I think that is true.  We cannot withstand the hostile winds on our own.  Left on our own, we will be distracted and overcome with our own fears and worries and we will sink into isolation… sink into a world of our own making… will sink into chaos and out of sight of the love of God in Christ.

 

So, where is the Church in your life?

Is it the most important thing?

Do you value it above all else?

Does your life really and truly mirror that…

Does the way you spend your time and money testify to the importance of the Church in your life?

It is here in this place and within this community that there is salvation…

It is here you will find Jesus…

It is here you will find shelter from the storms…

It is here you will find brothers and sisters to give you courage and love and support…

 

It is here you will find a community that can help you stay focused on Jesus…

It is here you will find a community that has eternal life.

 

So as the hostile winds continue to blow…and they will blow… as the waves press… and they will press… let us take the time to consider our life and where our trust and treasures lie…

Let us give thanks for Jesus Christ and his gift of the Church…the ship that saves of from chaos and death…the ship that keeps the winds from distracting us from our love of Christ…

And my brothers and sisters… let us live lives that show forth our thanks for these things.

 

4 thoughts on “Sermon on the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost 2011”

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