Christianity 201

May 6, 2016

Rock on the Water

We’ve linked several times to Michael Newnham, aka Phoenix Preacher at Thinking Out Loud, but apparently never here at C201. Today seemed like a good day to fix that! He in turn seems to be introducing a guest writer who has done several posts as “Jean’s Gospel.”

This is a fresh take on a familiar story, and it attracted many comments. Click the title below to read at source.

Jean’s Gospel: Stay In the Boat!

Stay in the Boat!

“And Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me.’

Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’” (Matt 14:28-31)

It’s amusing that the disciple whose name means “rock” thought he could walk on water. What was Peter thinking? That would have been quite an achievement, if only…. Peter ate some crow that evening.

But, someone might protest: “Jesus said ‘come’. Surely Jesus would not give Peter a command unless He also gave Peter the ability to keep it.” Should we pin failure on Peter’s lack of faith? Or, did Jesus command the impossible from Peter? But commanding the impossible is unjust; isn’t it? Surely God is not unjust!

There’s one other factor to consider. Only the right material can stay above water. It must be lighter than the water to stay on top. Peter wasn’t the right stuff to walk on water. He wanted to be the right stuff, or maybe he thought he already was the right stuff, so Peter asked for the command – to show commitment to Jesus and maybe show the other disciples who was the greatest among them. Jesus went along with Peter, and in the process taught Peter and all of us a couple valuable lessons.

We are not the right stuff.

We are like a feather with a giant rock inseparably glued to it. The rock is our sin. Our human nature is thoroughly corrupted by sin. If we attempt to come to God, we only sink under the weight of the rock of our sin. The Bible is chock-full of commandments. God’s commandments show us his holy character and perfect will for us. If we could carry out God’s commandments, we could bring ourselves to God. But, we can’t cross the water that separates us from God. We sink because of our sin. We are not the right stuff.

But there’s good news in this lesson. God’s commandments also show us something else; they show us our sin and need of a savior. When we realize that we can’t cross the water and give up trying, then we cry out for the One who can. “Lord, save me.” Once we realize we are not the right stuff, Jesus calls us blessed: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 5:3) Jesus wants us to stay in the boat where it’s safe and leave the water-walking to Him. He will come to us. He will still the wind and calm the sea.

Jesus is the right stuff.

Jesus came to save sinners. He loves to save sinners. When we feel the weight of our sin pulling us down and under, Jesus reaches down into the water, takes hold of us, and pulls us up to Him. We can’t cross the water, but Jesus can…and does…for us. He is the right stuff. In this life, we hunger and thirst for righteousness, and Jesus calls us blessed. Why? Because Jesus is our righteousness. (1 Cor 1:30) So, we can stay safely in the boat.

The Blessed Exchange.

Jesus eternally saves sinners through a blessed exchange effected through the incarnation, cross and preaching. In this exchange, Jesus takes our sin so that it cannot accuse us and gives us forgiveness so that we have His righteousness to boast in, not our own. Also called the righteousness of faith (Rom 4:13), this righteousness is outside us. We do not possess our own righteousness before God. Jesus is our righteousness. Therefore, we must stay safely in the boat. “You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.” (Micah 7:19b)

How do we stay in the boat? We stay in the boat by remaining in Christ and His Word. Where is the boat? His Church is our boat. Jesus will pilot us across the water to dry land. Through storms and tempests, winds and rain, He will keep us safe. So, fellow travelers, let’s rejoice in our Captain and enjoy the boat ride together.

“Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10a

January 22, 2013

God Journeys With Us

This is from a chapter that falls late (chapter 22) into a recent book by Matt Litton, Holy Nomad: The Rugged Road To Joy (Abingdon Press). The chapter is titled Notes to Self: Building Altars Along The Trail.

Israel’s exodus from Egypt was a serious version of Mr. Short Term Memory. Despite God’s hand in the journey, it took His people less than a month to become restless and dissatisfied. They quickly regress into forgetfulness and worry. The story tells us,

“…the whole congregation of the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. And the sons of Israel said to them, ‘Would that we had died at the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full, for you have brought us into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”

They forget so quickly!

…What would you say if you were god? I would be a little incensed. What about the plagues on Egypt and pillars of fire at night? Destroying the greatest army in the world? And this is what I get? But God remains faithful providing them with water from rocks, food delivered from the sky, and victory over those who would threaten them.

Holy Nomad - Matt LittonThree of the gospels tell of the disciples crossing the Red Sea in a boat. A storm comes upon them suddenly when Jesus is sleeping and they all begin to panic and think that the boat will sink. Jesus awakes irritated with their lack of faith and simply commands the sea to calm down. The Story recounts the chaos of weather and sea was immediately put to rest. Isn’t it curious that these men who walk side by side with the Nomad witnessing his miracles and power would panic knowing that he was with them in the boat?

They forget so quickly.

…Part of being nomadic means we must be intentional about remembering God’s faithfulness. This has been part of the Nomadic practice since the beginning of time. It is first mentioned with Abraham in Genesis as he builds an altar to God after securing a great victory. In fact, Abraham constructs altars so often that you might trace his nomadic adventures by the landmarks he left in his wake. Noah builds an altar after the flood. God commands Joseph to build an altar at Bethel in Genesis 35 to remmbe3r all that God has done for him. From the passover to the Last Supper and down the line through the history of the Bible the Nomadic journey was sustained at times by the “altars” signifying God’s faithful attendance to the Nomad.

Think of this way — we are continuing to write our part in a much greater Story that began in Genesis. It is helpful for us to take a moment in our travels to remember the presence of God not only in our lives but in those who came before us. We remember together with our nomadic ancestors. If we truly believe in Resurrection, then we must realize that we are celebrating together as a family.

When we celebrate the birth of Christ at Christmas, we remember God’s great gift to us. We are reminded that this gift should move us forward to give to others.

At lent we remember Christ’s journey toward the Cross with reflection that allows us to assess the baggage we are carrying on our travels.

At Easter we are reminded of the great sacrifice of forgiveness. We must be open to accepting the grace we are afforded and pass it on generously to others.

We observe Pentecost to celebrate the Holy Spirit’s movement on the Early Church and the way the Spirit leads us in our journey today.

These traditions are more than the invention of gift card companies, retailers, or national holidays, although they seem to have been hijacked by all three. They are our days.