Proper 14: Out on the Water

This sermon quotes from Rowan Williams’ book, “Being Christian,” from the “Baptism,” chapter.

 


Lord, if it’s you, order me to come to you on the water

In order to have some time to himself, Jesus sent his apostles away.  While they were away the Apostles encountered a maritime nightmare.  The darkness of night was only interrupted by the streaks of lightning across the sky.  They encountered the shaking of the sea tossing them about.  It is in this chaos that Jesus comes to meet them.

They don’t recognize him at first…

They didn’t expect him to be in the chaos.

“Be not afraid,” Jesus said.

Peter replies, “If it is really you, Jesus, invite me into your action.”

Jesus replies, “come.”

Peter makes progress but then he plunges

Jesus saves him and asks him why he doubted?

In this interaction, the rest of the Apostles know this wave treading figure is their Lord: Jesus.

When we hear this story, our minds should bring up God’s first interaction with water.

In the opening chapters of Genesis, God’s spirit hovers over the primordial waters of chaos.

Throughout the seven days of creation, God is ordering chaos.

In Genesis and throughout the Gospels, Jesus is ordering Chaos.  He is making things whole, right, and orderly.

He is calming storms, bringing the dead back to life, and taking away illnesses.

This is what God is about and it where Jesus finds Peter in today’s Gospel reading.

Peter is so often thrown to the wolves in these Gospels.  He functions as a comedic foil for us to laugh at if not identify with.

Today’s passage is one of the most iconic Peter foul ups.

This is his $10,000 dollar America’s funniest home video blooper.

When we spend a moment examining this interaction though, we see not fodder for derision but a genuine example of discipleship.

We often hear the words of our Lord escape from our mouth, “ye of little faith.”

How often are we bold enough to let Peter’s words come forth, “if it is you Lord, order me to come to the water.”

What we miss on first glance is that Peter must know Jesus.

He knows Jesus by the invitation.

Peter’s time with Jesus has been one invitation after another.

“Come, follow me.”

A man with a comfortable living throws down his net and follows a stranger.

“Follow me.”

To witness the exorcism of demons.  To watch me heal those who have given up hope of seeing the rays of a sunrise.  And those who had given up the hope of hugging their daughter, again.

Come.

“Now onto the water.”

When confronted by a what appears to be a ghost claiming to be his Lord, Peter has one test.

“Invite me into your life.  Invite me into your life.  That is how I will know you are the one I have been following, lo these many years.”

Peter’s test on the threshold of chaotic waters then turns to us.

We here baptized have been through chaotic waters ourselves.

Just as Jesus invites Peter to experience the life of the divine on waters of sea, so Christ invites us to divine life in the waters of baptism.

In this story, we see the quintessential call to ministry of all the baptized.

Where do we find Jesus?

Where should we look for the baptized?

Rowan Williams says that

“You will find the baptized in the neighborhood of chaos.

It means you might expect to find Christian people near to those places where humanity is most at risk, where humanity is most disordered, disfigured and needy.”

That is where Jesus meets his people in the Gospel

Being thrown around by the sea

Paralyzed with fear.

Williams continues, “Christians will be found in the neighborhood of human confusion, defenselessly alongside those in need.

That’s where we find Jesus today in this story for sure.

“If being baptized is being led to where Jesus is, then being baptized is being led towards the chaos and the neediness of humanity who has forgotten its identity.”

This Friday night, primordial chaos swirled in Charlottesville, Virginia.  The torches of White nationalists filled the streets.  The demon named racism has been made manifest in form of thousands of Klan members and folks who self-identify as “alt-right.”

But theirs’ were not the only lights in Charlottesville.  The torches of hate were matched by the vigil light of St. Paul’s memorial Episcopal Church.

Inside the church was a prayer service praying for the end of racism.  Folks from across the country, Episcopal Bishops, priests, deacons and clergy from other denominations, looked at the chaos of Charlottesville and said, “lord, if it is you, command me on the water.”

As we stand here with font of baptism in our presence, I wonder if you recall what our Church’s response is to Christ’s invitation.

I will with God’s help

Celebrant Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and
fellowship, in the breaking of the bread, and in the
prayers?
People I will, with God’s help.
 
Celebrant Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever
you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?
People I will, with God’s help.
Celebrant Will you proclaim by word and example the Good
News of God in Christ?
People I will, with God’s help.
 
Celebrant Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving
your neighbor as yourself?
People I will, with God’s help.
 
Celebrant Will you strive for justice and peace among all
people, and respect the dignity of every human
being?
People I will, with God’s help.

When we live out our baptismal covenant, we simultaneously affirm our faith in Jesus and affirm our commitment to his ordering ministry.

There is chaos in this world.  There is evil.  The powers of death and destruction still walk the Earth.

But among their torches we can be a light.

Even though we might be scared in the midst of chaos

If we are vigilant

We will be able to hear Christ calling to us in the Chaos

And if we are brave we will ask what Peter asked:

Lord if it is you, command me onto the water.

Will you take a step out?

You will with God’s help

 

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