In the name of the God who creates us, redeems us, and gives us life. Amen.
Jimmy and Thomas were fifth graders. They were good friends. Thomas had been in a
canoe on several occasions. Jimmy had never been in a canoe until they decided to go to the city
lake and each rent a canoe for an outing. As you might imagine, this was a great adventure.
Adventure would be the operative word. Maybe disaster would be the more appropriate word for
such an undertaking by two fifth graders.
They secured their canoes and began to launch away from the dock. The problem was
that they launched into each other repeatedly, and then backed into the dock repeatedly. After a
few minutes of considerable noise and splashing and carrying on, they were able to move away.
It took them about fifteen minutes to really get the hang of things.
The first thing they learned was it is a lot of fun to splash a friend in another canoe. The
next thing they learned was that you can actually move forward in one of those things. You begin
to slow down, and with considerable effort and much trial and error, you can actually turn one.
Then they spotted an island in the lake, and decided to race towards the island. Race
really isn't an accurate word here. They began to move towards it at a not too hasty pace. As
they neared the island they saw a family of mud ducks near the shore. They got the idea that
they would try to cut off one of the little ducklings from the rest of the family and catch it. Now
no one to this day knows exactly what the boys were going to if they had caught the duckling,
but that was their plan.
There was a frantic effort in trying to maneuver the two canoes. There was a lot of
noise, splashing and commotion. In the midst of all that, Jimmy took his hand off the top knob of
the paddle, and put both hands down along the shank, trying to get a better grip and control.
However there is a reason why one puts one's hand on the top of the paddle, and he
found that out very quickly. In the swirling waters the paddle shot out of his hands right into his
mouth, broke off a tooth, and his mouth began bleeding allover the place.
Thomas found some paper towels in the bottom of his canoe, quickly dipped them into
the lake water, and gave them to Jimmy, saying, "Here, bite on this." The compress was sure to
do one of two things: either kill him, or stop the bleeding. It did the latter. When Jimmy got
home that night his father had one sentence to say to him: "Don't ever go in a canoe alone." Or,
in the title of the sermon today, "Don't sail solo."
This is the last of six sermons on, "A Life That Really Matters." The first week I said that
for a life that really matters we need to turn to God. It is the first step. In the second week I
talked about the reason we turn to God is because with God, there is grace in every place.
The third week we talked about where a Christian resides in this life, at the corner of
Suffering and Glory. The fourth week, I talked about the gems in our jewel box, the things we
treasure, those things out of our past experience with God that have made our relationship with
God valuable to us. But Jesus also calls us to look to the future for the treasures that are to
Last week I talked about what's in your cupboard. What do we have to offer others? If
we are truly disciples of Jesus Christ, then we live our lives for other people. What is that we
have to give to those around us?
This week the sermon is entitled, "Don't Sail Solo." Don't try to make it alone. Know
that God is with you in this life.
br>In last week's passage from Matthew, the setting was that Jesus had heard about the
death of John the Baptizer. Because of that news, Jesus goes to a lonely place, but the people
figure out where he is going, and they rush ahead to greet him. They have brought their sick so
that he can minister to them. However, they forget to bring food, so ultimately Jesus needs to
It's as though today's message, which comes immediately after that one, is a second
effort on Jesus' part. Instead of trying to find a lonely place for himself, he sends everybody else
away and he lingers behind. The people have been fed, so they go off to their homes. Jesus
sends the disciples out on a boat and he stays behind.
We are told he goes to a mountain to pray. He goes on the mountain not to rearrange
the chairs or take out the trash, but to pray, to straighten up his soul, to renew his relationship
with God. But while he is doing that, the disciples are out on the Sea of Galilee. They are making
their way towards the western shore, towards home, but they have run into a storm.
When anybody in the first century would have heard Matthew's story, several things
would have come to mind about this story as soon as they heard the words, a storm at sea.
The sea in the ancient people's understanding was always a symbol of chaos, and a stormy sea
was a symbol that the demons, or the monster of life, were at work against whoever was out on
the sea. It was a picture of everything that goes against the will of God and God's orderliness for
us, and a picture of what we don't want in life.
Then they are told that Jesus comes walking on the waves. Any first century Jew would
know only God walks on the waves. In the Old Testament-in Jon, in Habakkuk, in the Psalms,
and in Isaiah-God is described as one who walks on the waters, who can rise above all the
difficulties of life. Only God can do that.
There are two alerts in the story: first there is the stormy sea, and secondly that Jesus is
walking on the water. Two statements that are made to say, in Jesus, God is with us. God is here
in the person of Jesus. That is what the story is preaching to us.
When Jesus comes to his disciples and says, "Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid," they
don't believe it. They think he is a ghost. They disbelieve. In fact Peter, who is their
spokesperson, tests Jesus. Peter says, "If it is you, then invite me to come and walk on the
We hear that very same phrase earlier in Matthew's gospel. When Jesus is tempted in
the wilderness, the devil says to Jesus, "If you are the Son of God..." In the original language it is
exactly the same, "If you are, if it is you ..." What Peter discovers is what we all know, when we
try to test someone else, the test comes back on us. Peter is being invited out on the waters, but
it is Peter who is being tested, not Jesus, and Peter sinks.
We know about that, don't we? We know about that in our individual lives, and we know
about that in the life of the Church. We try to make it on our own. We try to make our own
decisions. We try to determine our own future. We try to chart our own course. We try to get the
right people in the right committees. We try to make sure the right committees make the right
decisions. We try to orchestrate everything. Matthew says through this story, you can't do it,
because you are not alone.
If you try to do that, you're going to end up doing the same thing that happens to Peter,
you're going to sink. It's not a real pleasant picture for us in the Church. It reminds us that we've
been about the same kind of things for generations in the church.
In today's passage from Romans, Paul takes the next step. He says that we enter into
that trust relationship not by following a certain set of rules and regulations, the Ten
Commandments, or the six hundred thirty laws that were developed around the Ten
Commandments; but we enter into a relationship of trust with God through simple words we say.
The words are close to us. They are on our lips and in our hearts. He doesn't tell us what the
words are, but he says they are very close. The words are different for each of us. It's whatever
expresses our trust in God.
Certain African tribes greet each other by waving three fingers. The three fingers stand
for ''Jesus is lord". Isn't that the heart of the Christian gospel? It is the very simplest
profession of faith. What Paul is saying here is whatever works for you, profess your trust in God.
Trust that God is going to do in your life what God did in Christ's life. Say in your heart of hearts,
"Jesus is lord," "Jesus is mine," "I believe in Jesus." This is what helps us claim the trust
relationship with God, who is part of our lives.
When Jesus approaches the disciples on the stormy sea, they react in fear. They believe
the monsters are creating the storm, and this is a ghost, one of the monsters. We don't believe
that the demons of life, and all the problems of life, exist out at sea. Oh if we only did. Wouldn't
it be much easier that they weren't part of our lives? Yet there are some fears all around us,
Some of us become jealous; we are fearful for the loss of love. Some of us become
greedy; for we are fearful of insecurity. Some of us are fearful of failure. Some of us are fearful
of the truth. Some of us are fearful, that in silence maybe God would speak to us. We claim to be
followers of God, but we really are fearful that God might put in a claim upon us. Then what
would we do? We would have to make a decision.
When Jesus goes out on the waters in this story, Matthew is saying to us, God is a part
of our lives. We are not sailing solo. God is with us. We are not alone.
Dear friends, the call to Christian Discipleship today is for us to trust that God is in our
lives. May we renew our trust with God.
MAY THESE THOUGHTS GIVE YOU STRENGTH