Rev. Andrew Cunnington
13th August 2017
Walking On Water (not much good to me!)

“Lord if it is you” cries the disciple “Bid me come to you walking on the water”

And he starts to walk on the water, he starts to come to Jesus, but when he sees the wind, he is afraid and begins to sink”

This Gospel reading is no good to me I’m afraid.

Jesus gets it all right as usual and Peter gets it all wrong and we are left with the growing gap between Jesus and his disciples, the human and the divine, and if you like, Him and me – and I suspect Him and you too.

How many times have you resolved to try to be a better person, a deeper Christian, a more faithful follower and you’ve cried out (sort of thing) “Lord if it is you, bid me come to you walking on the water”

But as you embrace the miracle and make it your own, you remember who you are and the good intention comes crashing down… “I see the wind… I begin to sink”

When we talk of making our lives one with Christ, can it be that he calls us to get wrapped up in his miracle strewn existence and make progress in our faith by walking on the water as He did.

“Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you” I want it to be true, but do I have the courage, do I have the faith, to step out from this boat with all the company of earth and heaven watching me.

The best book I have read this year is called “The Underground Railroad” by Colson Whitehead and if you can find your way into the Redhill Sainsbury’s it’s going for £3.99, when I last looked.

It is a novel set in the cotton fields of America’s deep south around the year 1820.

It’s not for the fainthearted as we enter the world of dreadful slavery in those places. We feel the victimisation and the sufferings of the black negro workforce and the cruel control of their white masters.

Some of the slaves try to escape but they never get far. They are brought back by the bully boys and subjected to horrendous punishments in front of the entire camp…

But we end up tracing the fortunes of two slaves Cora and Caesar as they try to make a run for it.

For they have heard about the possibility of walking on water. That if you could get 50 miles away from the camp and meet the man called Fletcher, there is a railroad, an underground railroad, which runs for hundreds of miles deep under America. An amazing network of deep, dark tunnels where rusty old steam trains pull tumbledown box cars and if you can get those fifty miles without sinking, the train will take you to freedom, to a part of America where the abolitionists are gaining the upper hand, and you can begin a new life…

It’s a gripping novel I can tell you, but I thought to myself what a far fetched scenario. An underground railroad? Ancient steam trains deep under the earth? Little stations down almost in the earth’s core. Come on…

Cora and Caesar make their escape, and we go with them, and we discover freedom for them is not going to be as easy as a one way train ride. The world of those days is cruel and vengeful and good ness is never going to be allowed to triumph quite as easily as jumping on board the train.

“Lord if it is you, bid me come to you walking on the water”. Some say the tide was out on the Sea of Galilee that day”, some say there were rocks and stones just below the surface of the water and so there was no miracle at all.

Why do we get stuck in our discipleship? Why do we find it hard to progress in the service of Our Lord.

Is it because we have set the terms and conditions for his entry into our lives, and we have made them restrictive. No room for the miracle to touch us! No water to walk on. No underground train to catch, just the low expectations of C21 living, that does its best to flounder through without God, and the nightmare scenario of North Korea and Donald Trump.

And if there was water to step on to and walk to Jesus – I would not walk on it.

And if there was a train to catch 50 miles away that would lead me to freedom – I would not run to catch it.

But the uncomfortable truth of this Gospel reading is simply put – if you have the faith to put your life in the path of a miracle, I will perform it.

But we don’t do we. Not easily.

When was the last time you put away your prayer book and just sat quietly and asked

Lord if it is you, bid me come to you walking on the water.

Some of us are not as fond of St Paul as we should be.

Some of his pronouncements seem so bound up in a very different culture and in a particular view of how the law should be interpreted within the Christian tradition, that his words appear out of touch with the dilemmas of our lives.

But not today – not here in our epistle to the Romans.

Find the way you are meant to follow – he seems to be saying- not by sticking to the letter of a written code, where rules tell you what is possible and what isn’t , but trust to the way your heart is beating, trust to the whole idea of the Holy Spirit breathing between each heartbeat, and the reality of him raising you from death to life, from drowning in water to walking upon it, from slavery in the camp, to freedom beyond the railroad.

It doesn’t matter who you are, Paul is saying. Jew? Gentile? The same Lord is Lord of all and he richly blesses those who call upon Him.

Lord if it is you , bid me come to you walking on the water. And Jesus said to Peter “Come”, and so he says to us too, Come and fix your eyes on me and not upon the wind howling all around.

There was a lovely old bishop who used to be my spiritual guide and one day, well before Redhill, I was complaining to him about the demands of being a Vicar, and of not being good enough to manage everything thrown at me.

“it sounds to me as if your parishoners expect you to be able to walk on water” he said when I had finished ranting

“Yes I think you’re right, they do” I said.

“Well” he said “You’d better get on and do it then”

I didn’t want that reply, I didn’t want to put myself in the way of miracles. I wanted to collude with low expectation of myself and others not high ones.

But Jesus says “Come” and he says it to us all.

Anyway when I had finished “The Underground Railroad” I googled it in Wikipedia… and do you know they existed – they really did – a network of tunnels in the deep south in the 1820’s – the use of rusty old trains and ancient boxcars to bring slaves to freedom – the hidden but miraculous work of those fighting for the abolition of slavery. The miracle is real.

Some of you have been to the Sea of Galilee, some have been when the water is rough – if a boat was sailing on that water – no one could walk out to it at low tide – the miracle is real.

These readings and this Summer Sunday sermon – have the challenge – if that is all so – why do we lead out lives as if walking on the water is out of the question…

ROMANS 10:5-15
MATTHEW 14: 22-33