The 8th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 14A (August 7, 2011)

Lessons 1 Kings 19:9-18 Psalm 85:8-13 (8) Romans 10:5-15 St. Matthew 14:22-33

Semicontinuous Series Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28 Psalm 105:1-6, 16-22, 45b (1, 45)

Prayer of the Day O God our defender, storms rage around and within us and cause us to be afraid. Rescue your people from despair, deliver your sons and daughters from fear, and preserve us in the faith of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Lesson

14:22 Immediately [Jesus] made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. 25 And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”

28 Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

St. Matthew 14:22-33. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Trust

I was recently remembering with a friend that my family and I decided to visit Glacier National Park a number of years ago, where I worked for two summers during my college years. I was an employee at Many Glacier Hotel: a beautiful Swiss-styled hotel, located in the Swiftcurrent Valley, just a few miles from the continental divide. It is a spectacular place, and I enjoy any opportunity I get to visit there.

We were on a driving and camping trip, so we decided to spend the night at the Swiftcurrent campground, a mile or so from Many Glacier Hotel. As we pulled into the campground, we saw a huge (8 foot by 4 foot) sign that included an ominous image of a lurching bear, with the following text:

Warning: Grizzly bears have killed campers in this camp.Follow all posted rules regarding food and personal items.

It got our attention, and we were glad that we had planned to sleep in the camper on our pickup truck, not in a tent. We took good care of our food and personal items that night, and stayed close to the truck throughout the evening.

The next day, however, we became a bit more adventuresome. We bought tickets for the “Double Eagle” and took a boat ride across Swiftcurrent and Josephine lakes. We then hiked through the dense woods a few miles to Grinnell Lake, where we had a nice view of Grinnell Glacier. It was a beautiful and enjoyable day. And we weren’t especially concerned about being out in the middle of Grizzly territory.

What was the difference? We were accompanied on our hike that day by some twenty other (fairly loud) hikers and a National Park Service Forest Ranger. She cautioned us about what to do if we should run across a Grizzly bear. But she spoke of other times when her groups had encountered bears, and given the fact that she was still alive, it seemed prudent to believe that we would be safe with her. In a word, we were able to trust her experience and expertise. And because of that trust, we were able to enjoy a hike that our family would never have attempted on our own. Even her occasional yell of, “Hey Bear!” didn’t unnerve us enough to spoil the hike.

This Sunday’s Gospel lesson is about trust.  Peter’s experience on the water teaches us that if we learn to live trusting our Lord, it is a different kind of life than if we live consumed by fear. Part of the task of every Christian congregation is to help its members and guests to trust God at a deeper level. As we keep our focus on what God has promised us, we are able to live in trust. As we live in trust, we find that we are better able to keep our focus on our faith and our calling as believers. When our life is grounded in this reality, we live in a far richer and far more blessed way.

One of my favorite prayers from our Lutheran hymnal is this one:

Lord God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

May our trust in God grow. And as it does so, may we live with courage and hope, and experience all the blessings that come to those who believe.

Amen.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Why did Peter ask Jesus to call him out onto the water?
  2. What was it that caused Peter to begin sinking?
  3. What does Jesus’ response say about his love for Peter?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. When has my trust in someone (or something) given me an experience that I couldn’t have had on my own?
  2. When has my trust in God been a helpful component of my faith life?
  3. What keeps me from more fully trusting God?
  4. What are some disciplines that can help me increase my trust in God?