That guy walked on water…

Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28 http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=179214653

Verse 20 here has really caught my attention… “Here comes the dreamer… Let us kill him and see what will become of his dreams then!” The church, as perhaps the most retrenched human institution there is, has its share of stories in which it killed the dreams of the dreamers. We are quite often far faster and better at saying no than we’ve ever been at saying yes. We start with all the reasons that something is not going to work long before we entertain any thoughts about what the new dream is all about to begin with. Not sure that this line has legs that will preach… but I think maybe it could. How do we deal with or respond to the dreamer? What if instead of killing dreams we think are crazy, we were to let them live or die on their own? After all, if “it will never work”, then why do we have to kill it? Wouldn’t it die all by itself? And what if a dream did work? What if a crazy dream took life and changed what we knew is possible? The fact is, crazy dreams that would never work are the only dreams that ever changed anything.

Romans 10:5-15 http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=179214712

Matthew 14:22-33 http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=179214766
This is one of those well worn stories… perhaps too well-worn. We have all heard plenty of cliched expressions about getting ‘out of the boat’. But if getting out of the boat were the point, if it were the desired response, wouldn’t Jesus have chastised the other disciples for having stayed sitting? Doesn’t happen. Jesus doesn’t commend Peter for having ‘given it a shot’, or anything of that nature. There is no “If you keep the faith, you could do it” statement. Let’s replay the scene. If I were a grammar person, I’d do some diagraming here, but I’m not so if you think its worth it, see to it yourself.

In the evening, after the feeding miracle, Jesus shoves the disciples on a boat, sending them off somewhere. He goes up on the mountain to pray, and they head off. Waves batter the ship, and the wind blows against them. All night they get no place. In the morning, out comes Jesus walking on the water. They think it is a ghost, but Jesus says it is me. Then Peter steps up… pay attention to his question… “Lord, _IF_ it is you, command me to come out on the water.” (Emphasis mine) Then we have the whole walking / sinking / rescue scene. And Jesus’ response? “You of little faith! Why did you doubt?” What is the sign of the doubting? Is it the failure of walking on the water? Or is it the fact that he wanted to step out there to begin with?

Another idea I have, that comes from Prof. Hoffman’s questions on workingpreacher.org, is the matter of what the ship itself represents. Yes, it is the symbol of the church. I’ve even heard of people suggesting that the traditional form of the building, with high arched ‘ribs’ that hold up the roof, is reminiscent of the construction of ships. That misses the point entirely of why the ship is a symbol of the church. Yes, the ship can be an image safety and security, and the church should indeed be a safe place. But to park a ship upside down? No, thanks. The church should be seen as a ‘ship’ because a ship is made to GO SOMEWHERE. It is made to carry people or goods from one spot to another.

My early thoughts on this lesson were about how my congregation has stepped out of the ship when we left our building and began a new ministry together. But that isn’t why the image of ship, or this story has power. The power isn’t in walking out on the water. After all, as Hoffman states, “We aren’t meant for walking on water”. What we are meant for is to be going somewhere in community together. Too often, the churches we attend, our ‘ships’, really are upside-down hulls, or ships in dry-dock. Going no where. A cruise ship in dry dock could, I suppose, be as comfortable as it is on the open ocean. A fun place to visit. But that isn’t the kind of ship we should be looking for. We should be a cargo ship, one carrying Christ to the next destination.

Another angle… Was Peter’s failure in desiring or asking for a sign? Look at Mathew 12 and 16… Jesus is pretty clear that faith doesn’t ask for a sign. I’ll have to do some more digging on this one, but I really am pretty sure that the traditional response, saying “Peter failed because he looked at the wind” isn’t going to work for me this week.

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About Pastor Tim

I'm pastor of First Lutheran Church in San Marcos, TX. I'm also a husband and dad of two amazing boys.
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