Sermon for the 10th Sunday after Pentecost

1 Kings 19:9-18
Psalm 85:8-13
Romans 10:5-15
Matthew 14:22-33

You guys know who the Rock is, right?  I don’t mean an actual rock, but the international superstar Dwayne Johnson who is also most famously known by his WWE wrestler moniker “the Rock.”  This is what we knew him as when he was still in wrestling:

















And since then he has risen to movie fame and known for his roles in the Fast and Furious franchise and lending his voice for that Moana movie.  This is what we know him as now:















He was even rated as the highest paid actor in the world in 2016, which isn’t surprising according to his popularity but is surprising if you ever watched his movies (and Rock, if you are reading this, I’m just kidding, I love your movies!).

And just in case you still don’t know who he is, this is him in the 90’s and him as a baby:















Anyway, he apparently is in Vancouver right now filming yet another movie, and he took to Instagram to share the love he has for our fair city.  Of course, this made headlines (mostly in Vancouver) as the Rock is super popular like I said, and someone of his calibre swooning over our city is a great way to drive housing prices even higher *thumb up*

But really, the internet went nuts over this video that the Rock posted (well, actually it was just one of my facebook friends that posted it, but she is a really big fan), and I guess for good reason.  He’s popular because he is charming, hard-working, and slightly less buff than I am.  This is the video (be warned as he cusses ever so slightly):


Inspiring, huh?  Before I saw his video I didn’t even know he played for the CFL, even if only for a couple months or whatever it was.  But that was a sound piece of advice, no?  If you missed it, he said something along the lines of if whatever dream it was of yours that shattered, it could be the best thing that never happened to you.  He had a dream of playing in the NFL, but that shattered when he was kicked off a CFL team.  But from there he kept working hard and ended up being the highly paid international superstar.  So while it would have been completely heartbreaking at the time he was cut from the football team, in hindsight he can see how it was a blessing in disguise and something he could even be thankful for, or at least somehow thank this city for.

So like I said, it is great advice, applicable to pretty much everyone because we’ve all had disappointments in our lives.  Whether it be in our personal lives, our professional lives, or even our spiritual lives.  We’ve had unmet expectations that causes disappointments.

Looking at today’s gospel reading, we see another disappointment by another rock, namely Peter (whose name actually means “rock”).  We know this story, it is a familiar one.  The disciples are tired from all the teaching, healing, and feeding that Jesus did, and are told to go across the lake.  Suddenly this flash storm (which is like a flash mob, but instead of dancers, it is rain and wind and stuff) comes, and it is so bad that the disciples begin to fear for their lives.  And to make matters worse, a ghost appears walking on the water towards them.

Maybe they thought it was death coming to collect them.  Maybe they thought it was the ghost of disciple past and their lives were about to flash before their eyes.  Or maybe it was Jesus, doing another one of those miracle things and walking on water now.  In fact, this being says that it is exactly who it is.  But, there is only one way to be sure, and Peter knows it.

“Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water” he says in the most impetuous of ways.  I mean, even if it weren’t Jesus, don’t you think whoever it is would tell Peter to step out of the boat just for giggles?  That would be like in the top 10 greatest pranks of history, like a “haha, made you think I was Jesus” while watching Peter sink into the water.

But luckily for Peter, it actually was Jesus and for a brief moment, Peter walks on water.  Can you imagine that?  Walking on water!  Peter must have felt like he was on top of the world!  All the fatigue and stress from the past little while must have just melted into euphoria as he took step after step towards Jesus over the raging waters… until he didn’t anymore.

Suddenly he snapped back to reality.  And there goes gravity and there goes Peter as he choked and is so sad and he gave up. Sounds like a disappointment to me.  It is like he had this one shot, one opportunity to seize everything he ever wanted, but instead of capturing it, he just let it slip.  He failed.  Dream shattered.  Goal missed.  Hope dissolved.  Yup, that sounds like disappointment.

It sounds like this rock, which is Peter, could use some of that advice that the other Rock, which is the actual the Rock.  In a time like this, the Rock would say you gotta get up, you gotta have faith, and just keep plugging away, because that one thing that you wanted to happen might be the best thing that never happened.

And that piece of advice would seem to make sense in this context.  I mean, Peter wanted to be like Jesus and walk on water, and he disappointingly wasn’t able to.  Jesus’ response to it seems to back up the Rock’s advice too, as he says that Peter has little faith.  So Peter needs more faith, needs to keep his head up, and keep his eyes focussed on Jesus, right?

Isn’t that why he sank?  Because his eyes went off the goal which is Jesus?  Didn’t he sink because he lost his faith that Jesus could allow him to do this?  Didn’t he sink because he didn’t have confidence in his Lord and he felt fear?

No, he sank because he tried to walk on water.  Guys, this would happen to any of us if we tried the same.  And believe me, I’ve tried.  And I’ve come to the conclusion that unless the water is frozen or very very shallow, you cannot walk on it.  You can float or surf or skim the water, but you cannot walk on it.  Peter tried to walk on it.  And he sank… like a rock (see what I did there?).  Regardless of courage, faith, or belief, any one of us would sink.  Him sinking wasn’t Peter’s fault.

But Peter doesn’t stay sinking, does he?  No, almost immediately he cries out, “Lord, save me!” and just as quickly Jesus reaches out and catches Peter and pulls him into safety.  Peter didn’t get a chance to repent.  Peter didn’t work on his faith yet.  Peter wasn’t even over his disappointment in not being able to walk on water before Jesus pulled him up.

See, the point of this is while the Rock gave some sound advice on how we could live with our disappointments and shattered dreams, the gospel gives us a promise of how we will live with our disappointments and shattered dreams.  While we may be used to living our lives based on good advice, the gospel opens us up to live based on God’s promises.

And here, the gospel promises us that Jesus will be there in our trying times.  The gospel promises us that we will be saved even when we think all hope is lost.  The gospel promises us that when our dreams are shattered, when the world is caving in around us, when the storms of life are just too great and we feel like we are drowning in the hurt and pain and sorrow all around us to the point that all we could do is cry out, “Lord save me”, that Jesus will be beside us, ready to pull us up out of whatever it is we are going through, and bring us to safety.

We can live however confident we want, but it is in Jesus that we find true strength.  We can aim for whatever dreams we want, but it is in the Spirit that we find true hope.  We can work on strengthening our faith as hard as we want, but it is ultimately God who saves us, redeems us, and reveals to us a love that knows no boundaries.

You know, I have been kind of tired of talking about my dad so much in the past while, but I have to admit that his death has been on my mind a lot and it seems to be one of the few things I can think about.  As some of you heard me say, it is weird for me, as a pastor, to go through this.  I mean, I have a lot of experience with death, and I have lost loved ones before like all my grandparents and some friends.  But it is weird for me to be going through this now.  It’s different when I’m walking with those who grieve and when I am grieving myself.

Someone asked once how a religious person like me handles the death of a loved one in the light of their faith.  My answer to that is exactly like everyone else.  Religious or not, I am sad.  I have cried.  And I miss those that we have lost.  This past week I went to the graveyard with my family and I found myself crying.  I probably would have been worse off if I didn’t have to divert my attention to chasing my kids down before they mess up someone else’s burial site.

The fact is I, as a “religious person,” sink just like anyone else, religious or not.  I feel the pain and hurt and sadness. I feel afraid and lost and alone too.  I feel tired and at the end of my rope and all I can do is cry out “Lord, save me” and hope for the best.

And you know what?  The Lord does save us.  God pulls us all up out of the depths of despair and brings us into wholeness.  Sure, it might not be as quick as Jesus did for Peter, but it might take weeks or months or years.  But by God’s grace, we will get there.  Whether you believe it or not, God will save us.  Whether you focus on Jesus or not, he will lift us up.  Whether you live by sound advice or not, God promises that God will reach out God’s hand to us, hold onto us in the midst of the storm, and bringing us up into salvation.

In this time after Pentecost, may we continue in our trust that God will keep God’s promise of love, grace, and forgiveness, that we may boldly proclaim the gospel throughout our lives.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

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