Sermon for Sunday August 13th, 2017, the Ninth Sunday after Trinity
The Lessons: Ps. 85:8-13; 1 Kings 19:9-18; Romans 10:5-15; Matthew 14:22-33
Text: Matthew 14:22-33
Topic: Hear the Lord and trust Him in the midst of the storms of life
A monastery in Europe is perched high on a cliff several hundred feet in the air. Though it is a treacherous journey to reach it, many tourists are drawn to its beauty and mystery.
The only way to reach the monastery is to step into a basket which is then pulled to the top by several monks pulling and tugging with all their might.
Obviously, the ride in that basket up the steep cliff is terrifying. One tourist got exceedingly nervous about halfway up, as he noticed that the rope by which he was suspended was weak and beginning to unravel.
With a trembling voice, he asked the monk who was riding with him in the basket how often they changed the rope. The monk thought for a moment and answered brusquely, “Whenever it breaks.”
– p. 181, The Big Book of Church Jokes published by Barbour Publishing, Inc. Used by permission.
AFRAID ON A STORM-TOSSED LAKE
With similar fear, the disciples faced a storm on the Sea of Galilee at night. Such storms were known to spring up suddenly, and to cease suddenly. Though the Sea of Galilee was four to five miles wide, it might have taken the disciples considerable time, as they would have rowed against the wind through a very choppy sea. Between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m., the fourth watch of the night, Jesus came to them, walking on the lake. Because of the time of night, the stormy conditions, and their inability to recognize Jesus at a distance in those conditions, their fear was all the more intense, because they thought they were seeing a ghost from the realm of the dead. As Jesus approaches, he allays their fears with the words, “Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid” (Matthew 14:27).
Straight after hearing this, St. Peter asks the Lord to command him to come to him on the water. Jesus commands him, and he starts to walk on the water, but then the sight and feel of the strong wind cause him to be afraid and to begin to sink. When he calls to the Lord to save him, the Lord immediately reaches out his hand and pulls him up out of the water. They both get onto the ship, and at once the wind ceases, resulting in the amazement of the disciples at Jesus, and they worship him, confessing him to be truly the Son of God.
The miracle of the storm’s cessation just when Jesus reached the ship must have been awe-inspiring for the disciples who had been rowing strenuously for hours in the storm. The sense of relief they had when everything calmed down, and the wind died away, must have been considerable, just as St. Peter’s relief was when the Lord saved him from drowning.
FAITH AND PRAYER MUST REPLACE FEAR AND DOUBT
“O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” (Matthew 14:31) are not words meant only for St. Peter at that time, but they speak to all who have ever doubted the love or the power of God at any time for any reason. We may not ever find ourselves in a ship on a storm-tossed sea, or in a basket being pulled up a steep cliff to a high monastery. Yet there come times in life, when circumstances are so adverse, that we feel our lives, or the lives of those we love, are in danger. This story shows the response of one man exposed to danger in his daily work:
Three preachers sat discussing the best positions for prayer while a telephone repairperson worked nearby. “Kneeling is definitely best,” claimed one.
“No,” another contended. “I concentrate better while standing with my hands outstretched to heaven.”
“You’re both wrong,” the third insisted. “The most effective prayer position is lying humbly, face down on the floor.”
The repairperson could contain himself no longer. “Hey, fellas,” he interrupted. “The best prayin’ I ever did was hangin’ upside down from a telephone pole.”
– p. 33, The Big Book of Church Jokes published by Barbour Publishing, Inc. Used by permission.
The course of their daily life exposes some people to dangerous situations, in which, though they must exercise due caution, they would do well to pray to God for their safety and to put their trust in the Lord.
The Lord Jesus Christ prayed through the night and came walking on the water to his disciples.
If walking on water depended on our prayer and our faith, or even just on our faith, would we be sufficiently strong in faith to walk on water? If doubt caused St. Peter to begin to sink, isn’t that the problem with many of us, too?
ELIJAH’S JOURNEY OF FORTY DAYS TO MT. HOREB
Afraid of Queen Jezebel’s threats against his life, the prophet Elijah fled to Mt. Horeb, where the Lord asked him twice why he had come there. Elijah was so overwhelmed, it seems, by fear and depression that he made a forty day journey to seek God’s presence, word and will for his life. Not even the wind, earthquake, or fire caused him fear, since God was not in them, but the quiet voice of God brings him to reverence and renews his faith. God gives him clear instructions for the rest of his ministry and life, assuring him that he has left seven thousand in Israel who are still loyal to Him. Elijah’s faith in the Lord God was re-vitalized as He listened to him and obeyed his instruction.
PSALM 85:8 – THE IMPORTANCE OF HEARING THE LORD’S WORD AND RECEIVING PEACE
The opening verse of our Psalter reading for today, Ps. 85:8, holds significant advice for all God’s saints:
“I will hearken what the Lord God will say; * for he shall speak peace unto his people, and to his saints, that they turn not again unto foolishness.”
Thomas à Kempis (1380-1471) wrote the following words inspired by this verse:
Blessed is the soul which heareth the Lord speaking within her, and receiveth from his mouth the word of consolation.
Blessed are the ears that gladly receive the pulses of the divine whisper, and give no heed to the many whisperings of this world.
Blessed indeed are those ears which hearken not to the voice that is sounding without, but unto the truth teaching inwardly.
– Paul M. Bechtel (ed.): Thomas à Kempis: The Imitation of Christ, Bk. III, Ch. 1. Moody Classics. Chicago, Illinois: Moody Publishers, 1980, 2007.