Move On Over. He’s Getting In.

design (19)

Matthew 14:22-33

August 13, 2017

Link to audio of sermon:


I was in Charlottesville on Friday.

A group of clergy in Charlottesville invited clergy across the nation to join in an alternative event than the rally planned by White Supremacy groups on Saturday.

I knew I couldn’t be there on Saturday, but I drove down for the mass prayer service on Friday. Night.


Knowing how the traffic is, I got there early.

I arrived around 4pm and my dog and I walked around the beautiful campus of the University of Virginia. It was a cloudy day, but students were outside and some looked like they were moving into their dorm rooms for the fall.

I had no idea what would happen on that same campus, among those same buildings a few hours later.

About an hour before the service was to start, I went into the church which was on the edge of the campus. It was a good thing I went in when I did because the sanctuary was packed. People were lined up on all sides of the worship space – there wasn’t even any more standing room.


It was a powerful service.

A Muslim woman read a verse from the Q’uran which she translated as, “I created you different so that you need one another.”

I’d never heard that verse from the Q’uran before: I created you different so that you need one another.


A couple of rabbis led us in a song: Chesed Olam Yibeneh – “we build a world of love together.”


There were readings from the Psalms.


And then Rev Traci Blackmon, a pastor from the United Church of Christ preached. And did she preach! She used the text of David and Goliath as she gave courage and hope to those who had gathered to protest the evil of White Supremacy.


By this time in the service, I felt powerful; I felt confident; I felt strong.


But just before the closing benediction, one of the organizers of the event came to the microphone. He said, “We need to tell you that across the street there is a group of klan members who are holding torches and shouting slogans.”


We sang a couple of more songs.


Then the organizer spoke again: “The group with torches is on the left side of the building. If you are parked there, stay inside. Others may go out in small groups the back door and down the alley to your cars.”


I didn’t feel confident and powerful and strong any longer. I was frightened.


But I also had the strong sense that I was exactly where I was meant to be.

Sometimes I think Jesus sends us into the storms;

Sometimes God places us in frightening circumstances;

Sometimes the faithful thing to do is not to avoid the storm,

But enter into it.


Listen again to the gospel story…

And listen to where the disciples become afraid…


As the story begins, the disciples have just seen Jesus do the miraculous –

Feed 5000 people with 5 loaves and 3 fish.

They are feeling confident; they are feeling strong and powerful with a leader

Who could do such things.


It gets to be evening,

And Jesus tells his disciples to get into a boat…

Our text says he ‘makes’ them get into the boat – he compels them, he forces them.


Meanwhile he dismisses the crowd and goes up a mountain to pray by himself.


Throughout the Bible, God is revealed on mountains…

Think of Mt Horeb from our first reading;

The sermon on the mount;


The Mt of Olives


Throughout the night, the disciples in the boat are being battered by the waves.

But the text doesn’t say that they are afraid of the storm…not yet.


Early in the morning – during the 4th watch – about 3-6am,

They look toward shore and they see Jesus walking towards them on the water.


Now they’re terrified!

They cry out – It is a ghost!


Jesus responds, “Take Heart. It is I. Do not be afraid.”


And then there is the part of Peter and Jesus.

Peter says, “If it is you, command me to come toward you.”

Jesus says, “Come.”


Peter climbs out of the boat but then he notices the waves

And he falters, crying out, “Lord save me!”


Jesus reaches out and catches him.

Together they get back in the boat.

And Jesus says to Peter, “You of little faith…why did you doubt?”


Now many people preach this text as I have before as Jesus chiding Peter for looking down at the waves –that he should have kept going, keeping his eyes on Jesus.


But on closer look, that’s not necessarily what Jesus chides him for.

Jesus is the one who sent them on the boat.

He had a purpose for them on the other side of the sea (when they arrive there are crowds of sick people Jesus heals).


Perhaps what Jesus is chiding Peter for, is getting out of the boat in the first place.

Instead Jesus is saying – stay in the boat, keep going – but move over and let me in. I’m going with you.


When we’re frightened there are some very human responses we have.


One response is to fight –

We’ve heard some of that rhetoric this week with our interactions with North Korea.


Another response to fear is to flee –

Some of you probably saw the video of the hikers at Sequoia National Forest this week.

They were hiking along the trail when they looked up to see a mountain lion watching them.

They have this conversation with each other which is exactly the kind of conversation I’d have: “Now what are you supposed to do when you see a mountain lion? I don’t think you’re supposed to run. Are you supposed to make a lot of noise?”

They decide to look for their whistle – but can’t find it in their packs, so they slowly back away.

After the video was released a park ranger was asked what you are supposed to do if you meet a mountain lion on a trail – he said – ‘the key is not to look like you’re prey.’

Don’t run – don’t flee.


If we don’t fight or flee in the face of fear, another human reaction is to freeze – it’s the deer in the headlights phenomenon.


Now scientists say that those responses are okay in the face of true fear – for about 45 seconds. After 45 seconds, it’s best if our rational brain kicks in and we respond more appropriately.


Jesus says – there’s a different way.

Instead of fight/flight/freeze – move over, and let me in. Let me go with you.


In Charlottesville after we heard the announcements about the klan with torches, I knew I needed to get to my car. My dog was there, the doors and windows were open and she had water, but I needed to know she was okay.


Laura and Jerry, two residents of Charlottesville were sitting next to me. I told them that I needed to leave. They immediately said – we’re going with you.


When we’re afraid, Jesus says, move over, and let me in. I’m going with you.


We left through the back door, down the alley and to my car. Carly was safe and I drove Laura and Jerry to their car.


Now many of us have choices we could make to avoid fear.

I didn’t have to go to Charlottesville.

The disciples could have stayed on shore….but Jesus compelled them to go out into the sea.


Sometimes Jesus compels us to get away from the shore,

And get into the boat, among the waves and the storm.

When he does, he promises not to leave us alone – move over, I’m getting in.


An interesting thing happens to the disciples as a result of being out on the sea;

As a result of being afraid.


We’re told that when Jesus arrives, they worship him.

This is the first time in the gospel where they recognize him –

Not after the great miracle of the feeding of the 5000,

But here in the midst of their fear, as he comes toward them.

It took chaos and fear for them to truly see God.

They fall to their knees and say, “Truly, you are the Son of God.”


I know many of you are dealing with different fears at the moment:

  • Upcoming surgery;
  • Family or marital distress;
  • Fears about international crises with the US and N Korea;
  • Wondering how to respond to the evils of white supremacy.


Jesus pushes us out in our boats into the midst of these waters;

But he doesn’t send us out alone;

He says – Move over, I’m getting in too.


Thanks be to God.









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