Sunday, August 7, 2011

Eighth Sunday After Pentecost (A) 2011

+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.

Text: Matthew 14:22-33
Theme: No Ordinary Prophet

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

Blindness is inherited. Sight is gifted. The eyes of faith do not open at birth. They are opened when the Spirit gives sight. Spiritual blindness is biblically synonymous with separation from God. It denotes allegiance with the forces of darkness. Let’s be clear, the unbelieving person doesn’t necessarily set out to make an adversary of God. (Though without faith God is an enemy by definition) No, the open-minded, respectable person simply desires that God be manageable. That’s how human nature sees it. If God cannot be managed on human terms then a relationship with Him becomes a huge risk and liability. The possibility, even the probability then exists that we’ll have to concede to His authority and not the other way around. This is not a question faith would be concerned with.

Such concerns are symptomatic not only of the unbelieving world, but also of the baptized who have drifted so far from the Shepherd so as to hardly recognize His voice. Even within the church God has been largely domesticated and the teachings of Scripture rendered mere formalities among a large number of nominal believers. That suits the lukewarm Christian just fine. It makes the God-stuff manageable and the commitment optional. At the same time it appears to let one remain as a benefactor of all the promises and blessings. After all, need we not only believe? Doesn’t the Bible say we are saved by faith? Yes, but believing is the hardest thing of all. And believing affects behavior. Be very wary of thinking genuine faith is only an intellectual assent. This is the devil’s trap.

God cannot be boxed in by our self-constructed parameters. Which of you, had you been among the disciples on that wind-driven sea would have sought to domesticate the Christ walking on its surface? Would you dare to advise Him? Question Him? Make excuses in front of Him? Would you be so bold as to negotiate your half-hearted allegiance? Would you even think to do so? How foolish are all attempts to keep God at arm’s length! When the living Christ is in the boat can He be safely ignored?

Dear friends, nothing can be hidden from the sight of God. Does God’s unlimited knowledge not drive us to repentance? Solomon says, “Death and Destruction lie open before the Lord- how much more the hearts of men.”1 God knows our sins. If knowing that He knows doesn’t elicit shame and remorse then our spiritual well-being is in jeopardy. We must then reflect on some serious questions. Do we consider our sins to be trivial? Or do we think God cares nothing of them? Or do we even believe He is serious about His judgments? The person secure in his or her sins has not yet been condemned by the law.

On the surface of it people seem to suffer God as long as He is manageable. But deep down the unrepentant sinner grows to despise His presence. The wicked heart plots to be free of Him altogether. But the believer longs for God’s consolation and deliverance. Have no doubt that He who walks on the waves will come to you when you are barely able to keep your head above water. Have no doubt that the Good Shepherd seeks out His lambs who are in need. When He acts there is no delay.

Immediately! That’s the speed with which Christ responded to save Peter. In fact, this whole narrative is marked by immediacy. After the feeding of the 5000 Jesus immediately told the disciples to get into the boat. When He came walking to them on the water He immediately reassured them when they thought He was a ghost. And John tells us that at the end of this event their boat immediately reached the shore2. It’s reminder of how Christ is unrestricted by any obstacles when He desires to expedite His aid. But how can we reconcile the seeming contradiction that God can work immediately for our well-being but often appears to prolong the sending of His aid? Through such measures God seeks to draw us closer to Himself.

This drawing closer is the life-long activity of maturing in the faith. But faith only matures as it is enlightened by and educated in the truth. After hearing his dad preach on "justification," "sanctification," and all the other "-ations," a minister's son was ready when his Sunday school teacher asked if anybody knew what "procrastination" meant. The boy said, "I'm not sure what it means, but I know our church believes in it!" Do we know what the Bible teaches and if we do, do we consider ourselves to be bound by it? Some of the most fundamental of beliefs are under serious threat. Do we believe God created the universe and understand that sin has dire consequences for the whole of creation? Do we know the Bible affirms the sanctity of human life, marriage between a man and a woman only and fidelity within that marriage? Is Christ and His grace alone clung to as the sole means of salvation from sin, death, and Satan? Do we cherish our baptismal identity in Christ and eagerly look forward to receiving His body and blood in the Lord’s Supper? When these foundational things are forfeited all other church activity becomes peripheral.

Dear friends, the event of Jesus walking on the water is a proof of His divinity. It wasn’t a nifty trick or optical illusion. It cannot be rationalized by natural means. The skeptic won’t be satisfied with any explanation. Jesus was not merely accessing supernatural powers. He embodied them. The prophet of God borrows authority from on high and uses it below. But the Son of God frees creation from its restraints merely by the utterance of a word. His contravening of the laws of nature didn’t require prayers or incantations to the Almighty. He did not have to wait for results. With the ease of common movement He was master over, wind, wave, and sea. More importantly He was Master over the all the powers of comprehension the disciples could muster.

How do they respond? Fear and then worship. And there is surely what is known as a ‘primal’ emotion involved here. They were in the presence of someone incomprehensible and overpowering. This Jesus was no mere human. He was more than a prophet. There in their small boat, on that little lake they sailed with the creator of the universe. When Peter began to walk on the water to Jesus he was in no danger. But then fear of the wind and waves overtook him. How often are the disciples chastised for their lack of faith!

Where does that leave us? Christ doesn’t ask you to walk on water. He asks you to stay focused on the One who can subdue the storms and turbulence of your life. The Scripture says, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross.”3 Christ has already endured the cross. Do we need any other sign of His unconditional love? His resurrection guarantees that death has no power of Him. And therefore death has no power over those who are His. Amen.

+ in nomine Jesu +

Eighth Sunday After Pentecost
7 August, 2011
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Proverbs 15:11
2 See John 6:21
3 Hebrews 12:2