8/11/02, P12A

“Jesus Reaches for Us”
Matthew 14: 22-33

e would agree that humans were not designed to walk on water. This assumption is the reason our story of Jesus walking on the water is such a major point of disbelief. Out of all the miracles of Jesus, walking on the water is the most ridiculed. In the military a promising Lieutenant, whom everyone expects to be swiftly advanced beyond others, is called, "A Water-Walker." Likewise, whenever a person seems to have too much confidence we might overhear the sarcasm, "He thinks he can walk on water."

Sometimes walking on water becomes a joke: Like the story about the new pastor who was invited out to fish with two of his church members. After rowing into the middle of the pond they realized that they had left the bait on the dock, whereupon the young fellow said, "I'll go get it!" He hopped out of the boat and walked on water to the dock and brought the bait bucket back with a smile. One of the grumpy old men turned to the other and complained, "That young preacher boy don't know nothing; he can't even swim!"

This was a first time water walk for Jesus too. However, there was no other way for him to get from shore out to his beloved Apostles who were about to drown in an angry storm. It was a practical matter; much like his prior need to feed thousands with only five barley loaves and two small fish. In our day, Jesus would be able to call for a helicopter rescue to pick his Apostles out of the storm. Jesus could even have called ten-thousand angels to fly him out to the boat; but his simplest option was to walk out into the storm to rescue his friends.

Let's look at how we might believe that Jesus did indeed walk on water. First, we must recognize that our education has conditioned us to not believe anything that can't be proven by science. Unless we were home schooled by believing parents, or perhaps attended a Christian school that presented both the secular and the sacred, we may operate with the assumption that unless we can show evidence that a thing happened we will not believe it; or, at the least, we will doubt it.

In today's world, there are more reasons to believe than ever. A team of scientists has recently proposed that the speed of light (186,300 mps) may not be a constant. It is a revolutionary concept that could unseat most of the "laws" of modern physics, including Einstein's "theory" of relativity. If this cornerstone of physics is modified then we do not know what impossible things might become possible. For example, varying light speed could explain why two distant galaxies can be so similar in age and construction. Star Trek fans have taken an interest because as the rules have stood for the last 100 years, even at the speed of light it would take hundreds of thousands of years to trek across the known universe, and the recently improved Hubble Telescope is discovering fantastic new worlds that one astronomer described as, "unbelievable!" Perhaps someday soon science will prove that what we have long called miracles, are provable. Who knows?

In a real sense, we all believe in miracles for we believe in God, or we said that we did when we affirmed the vows of church membership. Another way to look at it is to say that if we are able to believe just the first few words of the Bible, then we have made the plunge into faith. If we can read with open hearts, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1:1) we then can assume that the Almighty is omnipotent and could, if He wanted to, walk on water or multiply the loaves and fishes.

The Apostles didn't believe it either, and they had just participated in feeding thousands with next to nothing. They thought he was a ghost. After hearing his voice, only Peter believed. His faith was strong and he started walking on the water toward Jesus. In all honesty, all of us have had times when our faith has been shaken by adversity. But then Jesus did for us what He did for the Big Fisherman, "Jesus reached out his hand!" This is the point of the story! It is a great source of comfort when we need a hand up. And, once we have felt what we know to be the helping hand of the Divine, we are given an inward, soulful, assurance that miracles do happen.

While it is true that only we know our personal experiences, and that we must guard against trying to prove things by saying, "This miracle happened to me; or, the Spirit touched me and I was healed!" It can always be said that we are a victim of illusion. However, it has long been true that the collected accounts of many individuals, separated by geography and generations, have been accepted as evidence to undergird, and give reason for faith. The person who has learned to be an atheist bears the burden of proof that the billions of persons of faith have all been wrong for thousands of years.

I have recently come to know some of the folks who operate St. Joseph's Hospital's Mercy Care Services. Staffed by 126 professional health care providers they extend their hands of mercy to thousands of the most needy in Atlanta. Is this, and the many thousands of caring ministries, and the millions of churches that circle our globe, collective testimonies to the faith at work within us?

C.S. Lewis, one of the intellectual giants of our time and arguably the most influential Christian writer and apologist, reminds us in his thoughtful book, Miracles, that the central miracle asserted by Christians is the Incarnation. The good news that the Divine has come down to earth to help us helpless humans forms the core of our system of faith. The joy is that God's involvement gives us reasons to accept miracles, but to also rejoice in the spiritual evidence that can lift us up out of our cynicism that has mired us in a lack of imagination. Faith affirms the magnitude and mystery of life and makes us want to believe more and more. Our testiness, littleness, miserly ways can be transformed by the Christ who walks out into our storms and calls us to trust in Him--- to get out of the false safety of the little boat and take hold of His extended hand.

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor

8/11/02, P12A