Sunday, August 13, 2017

Walking On Water: The Martyr of Charlottesville

Brad Sullivan
Proper 14, Year A
August 13, 2017
Emmanuel, Houston
Matthew 14:22-33

Walking On Water:  The Martyr of Charlottesville

Jesus was the Word of God which spoke all of creation into existence.  On some level, even subconsciously, I’d guess Jesus began to have some inkling of who he was.  I wonder if in his encounter with his disciples on the boat, Jesus just forgot for a minute that humans can’t walk on water.  He was tired; it had been a long day.   He’d gone away to be by himself to pray for a while after learning that his cousin, John the Baptist had been beheaded, and instead of getting a break, Jesus ended up teaching and multiplying food some somewhere around 10,000 people (including the women and children).  Finally, after all that, he sends his disciples across the sea in their boat while he gets to spend some time alone in prayer.

So, worn out, dog tired, Jesus spent time alone in prayer, and I think he might have been so caught up in his time with his Father, that he just totally forgot that people aren’t really that adept at walking on things that aren’t solid.  So, like Superman forgetting to put his glasses back on before going to the office, Jesus just starts walking on the sea out to his disciples.  Why not?  Why shouldn’t he walk on the sea?  He made the sea, after all.

So, he’s walking out onto the water, lost in thought, barely aware of his surroundings.  Eventually a storm comes, and he’s thinking, “eh, not too bad, I’ve made worse,” and then the disciples see him.  They’re terrified, and he realizes what’s going on.  He covers as best he can, saying, “Ok, guys, I know this looks weird, but it’s not what you’re thinking.  I’m not a ghost.  It’s just I; It’s just Jesus.”  That calms them a little, and then Peter’s like, “Hey cool, Jesus, can I come out and play?”  Perfect, Jesus thinks.   “You bet, Pete!  Come on!”

Then we all know what happens.  Peter walks on the water for a while, until he notices the wind and waves, and like Wiley Coyote walking off a cliff and staying aloft until he looks down, Peter starts to sink.  So, Jesus picks him up, gets them both into the boat and decides he’s had enough of his little wind storm, dials that down a bit, and tries to pass the whole thing off, real nonchalant,  “so what’s been going on, fellas?”

They start to get the idea pretty quickly that Jesus is more than a prophet, but the Lord of all creation, the one who actually made all of creation.  I’m guessing they got pretty excited at that point, excited and amazed at the wonder of it all.    

I get really excited when I think of the Word of God who spoke creation into existence becoming human and walking on this earth.  I love that God was human and walked on this very earth.  Whenever I start to take the world for granted, that very idea of God walking on this earth makes the whole creation hallowed again.

Then we get people treating creation like garbage.  We get people like the angry mob in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend deciding that only some parts of creation are hallowed, only some types of people are hallowed.  All people are made in God’s image.  All  of creation is hallowed, and yet, despite the beauty and sacredness of people and all creation, people will all too often de-sanctify creation by driving a car into a group of people, killing someone for thinking that racism isn’t a particularly good idea.

Imagine those folks holding a rally within these walls, declaring most of humanity damned.  Imagine people coming in here with shields and sticks and guns, ready and willing to physically harm anyone who disagreed with them.  Imagine that folks who disagreed with them did come in here and were beaten and killed.  That is exactly what happened in Charlottesville, because in God’s eyes, all of creation is hallowed.  Every place is a place of worship.  Everywhere Jesus looks and says, “This place is great; I remember making this place.  I remember speaking this place into existence, and I love this place.”  The same goes for every person on earth, yes, even the angry mob of people who assume that God hates most of the people he created.

Hatred and violence.  Shame and anger.  Assuming one type of person is better than another type of person.  Jesus was pretty darn clear that we are all the same in God’s eyes.  Jesus was pretty darn clear that he loves all people and he loves all of this beautiful Earth which he created.  He was also pretty darn clear that as much as he loves all people, there is no place in his kingdom for the kinds of thoughts and actions demonstrated by the angry white supremacist mob in Charlottesville.

Now, if we’re honest with ourselves, we all have hatred, anger, and violence within us too.  Everyone does.  The question is, what are we going to do with it, and what Jesus calls us to do, what he teaches us to do with our hatred, anger, and violence is not to act it out, not to act upon it, but rather to give it to him, to place it at the foot of the cross so that he can transform it into love.

That is often not done, however, and we have a world that is full of anger, hatred, and violence (as well as love).  So, what are we to do amidst such anger, hatred, and violence?  Well, let’s call the anger, hatred, and violence of the world storms and waves.  Then, let’s do what Peter did.  Amidst the storms and the waves, we look up and see Jesus coming to us, not where we expect, not in the quiet sanctuary, but right in the middle of the storms and waves, right in the middle of the hatred, anger, and violence.  Then, rather than waiting for Jesus to come to us in the safety of the boat, the sanctuary, we ask Jesus to summon us out into the storms and waves.  Rumor has it, he’ll say yes.  Then, like Peter did, we step out of the sanctuary and risk drowning in order to go and be with Jesus amidst the storms and waves.  We risk drowning, going out into the anger, hatred, and violence to be the light of Jesus within the storm.

Sometimes we’re not even entirely sure what we’re going to do there.  We want to bring the light of Jesus with us.  We want to live out the way, the truth, and the life of Jesus amidst the storms and waves, and it is darn scary.  We just may be killed if we go out amidst the storms and waves.  A 32 year old woman was killed in Charlottesville by a man who drove his car into a group of people who stepped out of the boat amidst the storm of anger, hatred, and violence to declare that anger, hatred, and violence have no place in this world.  This woman risked and gave her life to give witness to love rather than hatred.  That’s what we call a martyr, a witness.  I don’t even know if she was Christian, but I know she was amidst the storm, declaring the light of love for all, not just some.  She gave her life for that witness, and that is martyrdom.

Stepping out amidst the storms and waves of anger, hatred, and violence, we too will risk drowning.  We’ll risk our lives and well-being to live out and be the light of Jesus amidst the darkness of hatred, anger, and violence.  When Peter stared to sink, Jesus reached down and picked him up.  I’d like to say that his doing so is a guarantee that so long as we ask Jesus for help, we won’t be harmed, but that simply isn’t true.  Peter began sinking because he became overcome with fear of the storm and waves.  The call to Jesus keeps us from being overcome with fear, keeps us from succumbing to the anger, hatred, and violence ourselves.  The call to Jesus doesn’t guarantee that we won’t be harmed.  The call to Jesus keeps our hearts from falling into hatred, anger, and violence.  The call to Jesus keeps the darkness from overcoming the light of Jesus within us.

Truly to  be the light of Jesus amidst the darkness of anger, hatred, and violence, we truly do need to risk drowning, to risk not only our lives and well-being, but also to risk being overcome by the darkness.  In all likelihood, we will be overcome by the darkness at times, and in those times, we call out to Jesus to save us, to reach his hand out, pull us out of the storm and waves and put us back into the boat, the sanctuary.  Then, once we’ve recovered, we step out of the boat, amidst the storm and waves once again to risk our lives and well-being, to be the light of Jesus amidst the darkness of hatred, anger, and violence once again.

Risk is part of the deal to live as Jesus’ disciples.  We’ve got to risk drowning to walk out on the water with Jesus.  We also need to be able to see the beauty and sacredness of the people and creation all around us, even amidst the storm and waves.  We realize the waves are there, but don’t get too daunted by the waves.  Keep your eyes on Jesus.  Imagine the magic, the possibility, the wonder of seeing him walking to you on the water.  Imagine the magic, the possibility, the wonder of asking him if you can come out and play too, and Jesus saying ,”yes.”

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