Rev. Debra Jene Collum
Western Days Worship 2014
August 10, 2014
There are two ways to get into a canoe. You can carefully work your way from the shoreline to the seat of the canoe, climbing over the bow, the seats, the thwarts, and anything stored in the center, hanging on to the gunwales. Carefully crouching so as not to tip the canoe. Keeping your feet dry.
Or the other way is to float the canoe a little ways off shore while holding onto the gunwales and carefully hoisting one leg and then another over the gunwales into position letting the water drain a bit from your shoes as you get into the canoe.
Using this method guarantees that your feet will get wet.
In our safe and carefully orchestrated world you would normally think that keeping your feet dry is the wisest option, wouldn’t you? But in getting into a canoe it is actually better to get your feet wet. To take the risk and get into the water. It might be cold, it will definitely be wet, and maybe even a little muddy, but trust me; it is the safer way of getting into a canoe.
And I believe that getting our feet wet is the safer way of living our lives as disciples of Jesus the Christ.
And by safer, I don’t mean free of danger or discomfort. I mean safer as in: when all is said and done, you will feel as if you lived the life you were meant to live. You will know that you have been saved, have been sanctified by the grace of God through the power of the holy spirit.
We often disparage Peter for his lack of faith. Peter if you had only kept your eyes on Jesus. If you had only proved to us that it could be done. But let us not be too hard on Peter.
Peter WAS was willing to step out of the boat. He was willing to get his feet wet. He was willing to give it a go. And I bet he has never regretted that for one minute. I bet Peter would often look down at those feet that had gotten wet and said, “Let’s do it again, ok? Let’s keep on getting wet.”
That remarkable storyteller Madeleine L'Engle said that if Jesus was fully human as we believe him to have been, and if he could walk on water, then so should we be able to walk on water. That we cannot, she said, probably means that we have just forgotten how.
Or maybe it isn’t that we have forgotten. Maybe it is that we need to recognize those times when we do walk on water if even for a few steps.
Maybe we need to think of those times when we have taken the risk to step out of the boat, when we have gotten our feet wet.
So that we can believe that we are able and capable of the impossible. That, really and truly we haven’t forgotten.
Think with me just now: what has been a recent experience when you did something really, really hard. Something you didn’t think you were able to do. Something that you might term: Like walking on water.
What happened? Why were you able to do it?
Did someone reach out his or her hand to guide you along and onto the water?
Did someone give you an encouraging smile or word to help you move forward in the direction you knew you needed to go?
Did you feel God’s presence within you and around you giving you the courage you needed to take that tentative but firm step out of the boat onto the unknown?
By saying to Peter “Come.” Jesus gave Peter the confidence to get out of the boat and take those first steps.
Jesus didn’t say, oh Peter, you can’t do that. This is a little trick that I learned in Heaven; people like you haven’t learned this trick yet.
Nor did he say, “Peter, when you are more spiritually mature, then I will teach you how to walk on water. For now just stay in the boat. Keep your feet dry.”
Jesus said “Come” “Come ahead, Peter.”
I imagine it was said in a matter of fact tone: Come Peter, step right this way. Jesus expected Peter to walk on water.
I believe that we have all heard this invitation to get our own feet wet. Come, child of mine, God says to us, step out of the boat.
My road into ministry was very much like that. I could almost audibly hear God’s word coming to me matter-of-factly saying, “Come. Others tell you it is impossible, but I say to you; come. Get your feet wet, leave the rest to me.”
And like Peter’s journey there were times when I thought for sure I was going to drown. But God didn’t leave me out there in the middle of the lake alone. Like Peter, hands reached out to me. People became Jesus to me. Saving me from the perils of the seas. Friends who said, “you can do it” “I am walking this journey right along side you.”
Colleagues who said, ‘you are gifted for this, you can do it.’
Scriptures that offered words of encouragement and affirmation.
With all of these God moments there was no way I could NOT get my feet wet.
The hand that God extends to those of us who take the risk to leave the boat and get our feet wet is the hand of Jesus who comes to us incarnated in so many ways. Encouraging each of us to come, step out of the boat, get those feet wet. Journey with me into the realm of the impossibly possible.
Now, like most of us, Peter looked down and got scared, seeing the storming waters Peter cried out: I’m going down. Save me. I, a person who grew up on the Sea of Galilee, who knows these waters like the back of my hand. I, Peter, who can swim as well as any fish; I am going to drown. Save me.
So here is where we would expect Jesus to say: Yep, I knew you couldn’t do it. Walking on water is too hard for someone like you, a mere human. Give it up and go back to your safe existence, to what you know how to do, don’t go trying any of these beyond this world’s tricks. Keep your feet safe and dry.
But what Jesus really said was: Oh you of little faith, why did you doubt.
Jesus is telling Peter and us that he almost had it. This walking on water wasn’t impossible, Peter a little more faith that is all it would have taken. At least you were willing to get your feet wet.
God expects us to go beyond our comfort zone, our own preconceived notions of our capabilities and even what we think are the confines of the normal every day physical existence.
I would even venture to say
that if you haven’t been excited about stepping out of the boat and onto the water,
that if you can’t remember the last time you stepped out of the boat and onto the water,
that if you have noticed how dry your feet have been in your life lately,
Then I would venture to say that you missing the kind of Life Jesus envisions for you. You are missing the Life God has gifted you for.
I kinda like the way Peter lived his life Living on the edge expecting to be able to jump out of a boat and walk on water, not because we are so special, or capable or good, but because we have been invited to step out by Jesus the Christ. That is true living.
For I believe God says to us on a regular basis:
“Come out of the boat. I expect you to remember how to walk on water. or at the very least, get your feet wet.” Come on and risk it so you can be safe. So you can be saved.