8.07.11 Sermon “In or Out of the Boat?”

Click here to hear the audio recording of this sermon.

Matthew 14:22-33 • August 7, 2011

Brothers and sisters in Christ grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus. Amen.

I was on my way back to Bismarck last Sunday evening after spending the weekend in parts of South Dakota and Minnesota for a couple ordinations. As I traveled through Valley City I began to witness a huge prairie thunderstorm developing and beginning to build on the western horizon. I almost made it home before the storm hit. Almost.

One minute I was driving along at highway speed in awe of the approaching thunderstorm and it’s amazing lighting show and the next minute I was completely stopped on the interstate with dozens of other cars, not knowing really where I was or whether I was actually on the road anymore and just a little bit afraid of what may be happening in the midst of pounding rain and some of the most intense wind I have ever experienced.

I can honestly say that I think that I experienced a storm similar to the one that I have always imaged the disciples may have experienced on the lake in our gospel reading today. I was a little afraid on Interstate 94 that evening. And had just a bit of anxiety about what may happen to me and my car in the midst of that storm. Even though I felt fear and anxiety during the storm, I knew that it would probably pass quickly and I’d be on my way again.

I think all of us experience times of storms like this that cause fear or anxiety in our life . Sometimes they are like a thunderstorm that we just need to try and sit tight and wait as it passes. At other times, they don’t seem to pass by quickly enough. My experience on the interstate was just an intense summer thunderstorm that I needed to be patient and wait for as it passed, but for my brothers and sisters in Christ in flooded neighborhoods, it was yet another storm, in a long line of recent storms. This time causing trees to fall and homes to be further damaged after what feels like a season of unending storms for them.

I don’t know – and I will never pretend to know what is going on in your life right now or this past week or in the days that lie ahead. But as one of your pastors and a fellow brother with you in the body of Christ, what I do know and what I do believe is this – regardless of where you are in your story today, regardless of what storms are raging in your life, you and I have a savior named Jesus who comes to us and says, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” And not only does Jesus say these words to us today, he takes us by the hand and lifts us out of the storm – whatever storm that is or however long that storm has existed in your life.

Peter often gets a bad rap in today’s gospel story. If only he had not wavered in his faith, he wouldn’t have starting sinking. If only he had kept his focus on Jesus, he wouldn’t have lost his way on the water. Instead of focusing our attention on Peter’s failure, let’s focus our attention today on what Jesus does do? It’s right there, in verse 31, “Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him.”

One of my favorite youth leaders of all time in the church is Mike Yaconelli. He was a great story teller. He was speaking at a worship event I attended several years ago. And he shared a story about an experience he had while attending a youth sporting event.

Mike said, “One of the most interesting things about kid’s sporting events is the parents’ reaction to their children. Recently, I attended my daughter’s track meet. On the fourth and final lap of the boys’ mile run everyone was clumped together except for the two front-runners who were leading the pack by a few yards. As the runners came toward the finish line, the crowd began to cheer wildly. Just then I happened to look about three quarters of a lap back, and there, hopelessly last, was a short portly kid who never should have walked a mile, let alone RUN one. His entire body was wobbling toward the finish line and his bright red face was twisted in the kind of pain that made me wonder if death was near. Suddenly, I was brushed by a frantic parent who was leaping down the bleachers to the rail surrounding the track. It was obviously the boy’s mother. She yelled at the top of her lungs. “JOHNNY, RUN FASTER!”
Mike continued his story by saying that he, “will never forget the look of hopelessness on Johnny’s face. Johnny had to be thinking, “Run faster? Run faster? What am I? What do you think is the problem here – I just FORGOT to run faster??? I’m running as fast as I can!””

I think all of us have felt like Johnny at one time or another? And I think most of us, if we are honest with ourselves, have felt fear or anxiety in the midst of a storm in our life, or as helpless and lost as I did while sitting on the interstate in the middle of a powerful prairie thunderstorm.

The Church Basement Ladies where just in Bismarck for the World Premier of their newest musical, A Mighty Fortress is Our Basement. In this fantastic production, there is a great scene between a young woman who is a little anxious about her upcoming confirmation day and one of the church ladies. The caring church lady offers a piece of wisdom to the young woman that is also wise counsel to you and me as we seek to follow the risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ each day. The church lady’s wisdom is this. She tells the young woman, “Act like you believe, until your faith finds you.”

As we experience water and waves and storms in life, we will never get it right all the time. We will never do everything that we think we need to do in order to truly be happy. We will never run fast enough. And no matter how hard we try, there will be times when we will take our eyes off of Jesus. When for whatever reason, we lose focus on Christ’s presence in our lives.

The good news of life in Christ, is not revealed in our own quest for what we think God may be, but in God’s quest for us. The good news of life in Christ is knowing that Jesus is there to grab hold of us when we start to sink, to catch us when we fall, to support us when the storms of life seem too overwhelming to bear, and to find us in the midst of every anxiety and fear that we try to carry alone.

In every time, Jesus will take your hand, stand you up, brush you off and send you out into the world again to give it another try. May God be with you this week and bless you and keep you in your journey. Amen.


About Bishop Craig Schweitzer

The Rev. Craig Schweitzer, of Bismarck, was elected as bishop of the Western North Dakota Synod on July 17, 2020, in the first-ever digital Synod Assembly. A historic event, Schweitzer is the first bishop in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) to be elected in an online assembly. Bishop Craig Schweitzer began serving the Western North Dakota Synod-ELCA on September 1, 2020. He has always seen himself as an easy-going person who seeks to daily discover anew how God is present in his life and the world in which he lives and serves. Prior to service in the Office of Bishop of the Western North Dakota Synod, Bishop Craig served at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Bismarck, ND as Music and Worship Minister (lay staff from 2002-2010), Associate Pastor (2010-2014), and Senior Pastor (2014-2020). Beyond his service in the church, he has an eclectic background that is a diverse collection of musical, educational, and business experiences ranging from live concert production and promotion to recording studios and live performance to music education. Throughout all of his professional and personal experiences, the Apostle Paul’s words to the church in Rome have been a guiding light that has kept him grounded in whatever work God was calling him into – “Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” (Romans 15:7) Bishop Craig is a graduate of the University of Mary in Bismarck with a Bachelor of Science degree in Music Education and a Master of Science in Strategic Leadership. He also holds a certificate degree in Theological Education for Emerging Ministries (TEEM) from Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, CA. He was ordained as a Minister of Word and Sacrament on September 16, 2010. Outside of his life as Bishop, Bishop Craig enjoys reading, all music, a little golf, a cold beverage with friends, and intentional times of quiet. And, of course, spending time with his wife Wendy and their adult twin daughters Ilia and Taegan. View all posts by Bishop Craig Schweitzer

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