Sermon at St. Anthony Orthodox Church, Bozeman (Fr. David Morrison)

It doesn’t happen very often, but last week’s Gospel and this week’s Gospel flow seamlessly together—today we pick up where we left off last week…

The multitudes had found Jesus in a deserted place along the Sea of Galilee Christ saw them, was moved with compassion for them, and He fed them ALL in a miraculous way—over 5000 people

That great event wraps up, and today we read—

“Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side.”

Note that He MADE them do this… —it’s a big body of water, 8 miles wide—the disciples had a ways to go, and they were going by themselves —heading across the sea, as Jesus sent the multitude away, and went up on a mountain by Himself to pray —-notice that He keeps doing that—we saw it in last week’s reading, too —the God-Man, Jesus, is very active with people, with life, but always, regularly He makes time to pray

“Now when evening came, Jesus was alone there. But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves”—it was dark, the disciples are in the boat in the middle of this big body of water, and it’s stormy and really windy…

Did you know that the boat is a symbol of the Church—-the ark, the boat—you’ve got the 12 apostles in there, who would soon enough be sent out to the ends of the earth to preach the Gospel… But at THIS moment, for them, the boat is under assault, and they are scared—battered by the waves, and the wind —let’s not miss this—-one of the reasons this whole experience is allowed by Christ to happen…

The disciples’ experience in that boat, in the stormy darkness— was a picture of how it was going to be for the Church later on, after Christ’s Ascension, when THEY were the leaders, and the devil was trying to take the Church out with persecutions and struggles —they felt like it was going to SINK, but it doesn’t, because…

Who comes to them, in the midst of this stormy night? v. 25—“Now in the 4th watch of the night—anybody know what time that is? between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m.” —it’s dark…it’s, spooky looking—and it’s still wild and windy at this point —Jesus went to them, walking on the sea

Walking on the sea—cutting through all the big waves!
 The disciples anxiety level rises from glory to glory—as they see something heading towards them, and they cry out with fear

But immediately Jesus speaks to them, and His first phrase is so…surprising —-BE OF GOOD CHEER! which is not at ALL how you would BE in this situation IF Jesus wasn’t there, but—- Be of Good Cheer! It is I! — You know what He actually said there—-I AM. I AM. —who is the only one who says “I AM”? GOD. To Moses, at the burning bush. Be of good cheer! I am! It is I! do not be afraid!

Can you imagine this experience? Can you imagine a better school of learning for the future leaders of the Church? How do we learn best? By experience.

If Warden is going to learn how to fix cars, and all he gets is lectures, however inspiring they may be, is that enough? Doesn’t he need to get under the hood, roll under the body of the car… feel the heat of some of those parts—-experience when something cracks or sprays out, and have his mentor show up to help?

Concepts become Convictions in the sea of experience—2x

Truly, as Christian people, it’s the sea of struggles, trials, temptations, that are NEEDED for us to stretch, to grow, to show us the abilities—the gifts—we have that we hadn’t realized,

as well as to show us our weaknesses, all the stuff that comes out in struggles, that still needs to be healed, storms in life remind us that we CAN’T make it to the other side without God —but that’s OK, and we need to realize it because we were meant to BE with Him
—and He is here

Even saying crazy things like, BE OF GOOD CHEER. In the middle of this storm you are are in, I AM— I’m HERE. Don’t be afraid.

And we can be like Peter—“If it’s you, Lord, command me to come to you on the water.”
I want to be with You.
Wow, if we could just get that phrase locked in to our hearts and minds— I want to be with You—-in whatever, through whatever, however…God, command me to come to You.

Because, where I am without you is no good, and I need to exercise these muscles that tend to laziness, to fear, to wasted time and lame excuses… because really, the heart of the matter is, I want to be with You.

And Jesus says come—-and Peter walks on water… if you want to walk on water, you’ve got to get out of the boat.

And even when Peter loses it, takes his eyes off Jesus and becomes overwhelmed with the storm and the crazy thing he’s doing—-Jesus takes hold of him and lifts him up—- it’s not that Peter grabbed Jesus, but Jesus grabbed Peter “And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him.” —THIS is our God!

Don’t you just want to sing Amazing Grace right now? don’t you just want to say HALLELUJAH?
That is “slap your grandma” good—-it’s an expression.

Well, we can at least join in the end of the story. “And when Jesus and Peter got into the boat, the wind ceased. Then those who were in the boat came and worshipped Him, saying, ‘Truly You are the Son of God.’”