A Sermon for Series A Proper 14 2017 “Faith in the Word Incarnate”

 

Old Testament Lesson  Job 38:4-18

Second Lesson  Romans 10:5-17

Gospel Lesson  Matthew 14:22-33 

Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.  The text for our meditation this day is the Gospel lesson just read.  [Matt. 14:22-33]

What was Peter thinking?  The disciples thought they saw a ghost.  They trembled with fear.  Immediately Jesus spoke to them saying, “Take heart, it is I.  Do not be afraid.” But Peter, answering him said, “Lord, if it is you, command me to go to you upon the water.”  And he said, “Come.”   What?  Was Peter testing the ghost to see how he would react?  If he was so sure the ghost was no ghost at all, but was Jesus, why would he say such a thing?

Surely he wasn’t testing Jesus?  Do you suppose he was testing himself? It wouldn’t have been much of a test.  He was a fisherman and an accomplished swimmer; he wouldn’t have panicked at the thought of having to swim back to the boat.  But he got more than he was bargaining for; someone, or something was grabbing hold of his foot and pulling him under.  At the call of his Master he’d left the boat, and now, standing at his Lord and Savior’s side, he was being dragged under, pulled out of sight!  What kind of thoughts were going through his head?  What could Peter possibly have been thinking?

Peter was a follower of Jesus.  He knew him, or at least he thought he knew him.  He trusted in Jesus as the Messiah, the Savior sent by God himself.  When he saw his Lord and Savior and Jesus called to him, Peter’s trust, Peter’s faith, made him do something miraculous.  Peter’s faith always made him do the miraculous.  And now, he even walked on water.  He stepped out of the boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee, in a huge storm, and rushed over to his Savior’s side … walking on top of the water; but all that changed as the wind and the waves knocked holes in his faith and he began to sink.  Only the firm grip of the Savior prevented him from drowning in sin and disbelief.

Peter trusted in what he knew; in what was seen, but not in what was unseen.  He trusted in the Lord and Savior who he could see, but not in the words that he couldn’t see.  The Words of Jesus … creating words … were with Peter as he got out of the boat, producing faith in Peter’s heart; and by faith Peter was able to do miraculous things, even walk on water.  But, who was that faith in; a Savior sent from God, or a Savior who was God?

Peter trusted in what he’d been taught.  He trusted that God would send a Messiah, a Savior, to rescue his people from hunger and sickness and oppression; and Jesus was definitely all of that.  But Jesus was much more than that.  Jesus had come to do what only God could do, to save his people from their sins; and he could do all that because he wasn’t just a messenger sent from God, he was God himself, God in the flesh!  God the Creator whose Word is always a creating word.  The Creator whose Word fills his people with saving faith.

By that faith, Peter was doing miraculous things, but he doubted that he could.  He doubted that God could make him do the miraculous; and in his doubting, the ability to do the miraculous left him, because his faith in Jesus’ words left him.  Oh, he still had faith in Jesus, as his Messiah.  He even called out to him in that very moment of fear and danger, “Lord, save me”.  He needed to be saved.  He needed to have his faith rekindled, because his trust in the unseen, in the Word, wasn’t there.

We’re a lot like Peter.  We’re followers of Jesus.  We do have faith in the Words of Jesus, and with that faith, God enables us to do miraculous things; but sometimes the storms of life make us lose hope in the words of Jesus and the storm grabs hold of us and begins to drag us under in sin.  Our faith, in Jesus and his Words of promise, is a gift from God that Satan constantly tries to take away from us.  We may be believers, but we still need to keep our eyes on Jesus, hearing his Word that keeps our faith strong.  Satan would love nothing better than to make us distrust the words of Jesus, to pull us under, to drive us into the depths of sin.

He uses the persecution of the world, our own deep rooted desire to independently make our own way, and his own deceitful lies to make us question the truth that God reveals to us in his Word, making us doubt that we’re truly forgiven, making us question the need to trust in God at all; shredding every bit of that miraculous faith, every bit of trust we every had in our Lord and Savior.  And when the trust is gone, he replaces it with fear; fear that destroys the miraculous, fear that makes us give up on God, thinking our troubles are too great even for him to solve; fear that makes us close our eyes to God and slip away from him.

But even though we may let go of his grasp, Christ Jesus never leaves our side.  He’s always there reaching out to us, forgiving us, despite our sin.  He’s always there ready to grab hold of us, lifting us out of the murky waters of sin that we find ourselves sinking into without any hope of recovery; grabbing hold of us just as he grabbed hold of Peter, and with his healing touch, restoring our faith, just as he restored Peter’s.

The Lord did much more than merely lift Peter out of the water.  He wasn’t just physically restoring him, he was spiritually restoring him.  You see, the only thing that enabled Peter to walk on water in the first place was his faith in Jesus; and when doubt crept in he began to sink.  It was our Savior’s touch that restored Peter’s faith; so much so that he was able to walk, on his own, back to the boat.  Our text doesn’t say Jesus carried Peter back to the boat does it?  No, the Lord restored Peter’s faith; and in renewed faith, he was able to walk on water again.

Just as Peter’s faith was renewed by the Savior’s touch, so our faith is renewed by Him.  Even today we’ll touch our Savior’s faith-renewing body and blood, strengthening us and renewing us; making us able to walk again with Him; walking without fear, across the murky depths of this sin filled world, making us able to know the joy of truly trusting in his words.

And this merciful gift, the trust we have in his words, this faith we have in his words, was made possible by our Savior’s willing, but painful, suffering and death on the cross, suffering in our place and giving us what we could never merit ourselves.  Of ourselves, we deserve God’s present and eternal punishment; and for that we certainly ought to fear.  But, for the sake of His Son, Jesus Christ, our Father forgives us, renews us, and leads us; so that we may delight in his will and walk in his ways to the glory of his holy name.

He sent his Holy Spirit to us, giving us saving faith; giving us the faith we need to trust in him for a lifetime.  This is the faith he gives as we hear his Word, the faith he builds as we hear his Word, the faith that’s ours by God’s grace and mercy alone.

And as we hear his Word, we hear the miraculous good news that he’s with us forever; in his Word that lasts forever, in his Sacraments that last forever; with forgiveness that’s ours forever; forgiveness that’s ours as we daily remember our Baptism, where water and the Word made us his own, forgiveness that’s ours in the Sacrament of the Altar where his body and blood are given to us, making us one with him.

That’s what worship is all about; hearing the comforting message that God gives to us today; hearing that Jesus comes to us even though we’re sinking in our sin.  He comes to us and rescues us, from sin, death, and the power of the devil; redeeming us not with silver and gold, but with His own precious body and blood.  And why?  That we might not perish eternally, but be His own and live under Him in his kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.

This is why we’re in this sanctuary today, because God has given us the gift of faith, and we trust in him.  This is where we go to find true and lasting peace when the storms of life threaten to make us sink into the murky waters of sin.  This is the boat to which we return for true comfort and safety, led by our Savior’s guiding hand.

That’s what worshiping God is all about; through his Word and sacraments, feeling our Savior reach out and touch us, as we hear Jesus say: “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid”   Amen.

In Christ’s service,

Pastor Huelle