Romans 10:5-15 & Matthew 14: 22-33
The Rev. Denise Vaughn
“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.” We don’t always think of feet being beautiful, although some do have beautiful feet. Paul’s point, in this citation taken from the prophet Isaiah, is that we can all have beautiful feet because beautiful feet are those who proclaim the good news of Jesus as Lord and believe in their hearts that God raised Jesus from the dead; they are the ones who participate and share in resurrection life. Their feet are beautiful because they become messengers of good news. The word good news itself has the same roots as “angel.” We could all use a little good news and we could all benefit from more angels around us. Yet, it seems to be so difficult for us to become messengers of good news? Why is that?
It’s unfortunate that talking about our faith or “evangelism” has come to be kind of a dirty word. It is somehow not seemly to go around talking about one’s faith to others, especially those who might not share that faith. It’s uncomfortable, not the kind of thing we find ourselves wanting to do with others. It has become one of those ideas that has somehow lost its way for many of us today in the church. Yet, we would all agree that the mainline church in this country has been in decline. We can point fingers and make accusations over who and what are responsible for this situation, but in reality this does little to help us understand what it means to be the church, to share the good news, in our context today.
Paul, in the Epistle, offers us clarity and a vision for our mission and comes to a profound conclusion that is important for us: if we confess with our lips and believe in our hearts that Jesus is Lord, we will be saved, and our confession and our belief because they begin and end with Jesus, form a foundation from which a life of faith and discipleship flows. Paul implies, to even say, “Jesus is Lord” requires a deep and inner trust, beyond just our intellectual understanding. When we believe in our hearts that God raised Jesus from the dead, we participate and share in the resurrected life. Paul reminds us that Christ, through the work of the Holy Spirit, is already present and working in the world. It’s just up to us to believe that this is true and live as though we believe. Paul is urging a life of authenticity, inwardly and outwardly, based on our faith. Our words and our actions speak volumes.
This is important because, for example today many people have left the Church because they do not see authenticity of faith. They say Christians say one thing and do another. Our words and our actions do not “save” anyone that is up to God. Yet, we are called to go out into the world and proclaim Jesus in our words and actions. Therefore, evangelism is not a dirty word it is simply about introducing others to Jesus. It’s not always easy to live our lives with love, honesty, and humility these are things we have to work on every day. Yet, when we practice this kind of faith, when we live out the word, we let others know to whom we belong even if we don’t use scriptural proofs or doctrine. We can have those beautiful feet by being the messengers of the good news of faith.
This kind of faith is most evident in the Gospel lesson today. We often fault Peter for lack of faith, he always seemed to be struggling with his faith yet, he is the one who stepped out of the comfort and security of the boat, leaving the other disciples behind and headed into troubled waters attempting the impossible. He is the one who later lead the early church as Bishop proclaiming the love, mercy and justice of God. Faith it seems is about getting out of the boat with Jesus. This story that Matthew tells is considered a parable about the faith of the church. A parable that describes the church as a little boat filled with frightened, doubting disciples on a storm-tossed sea.
The church it seems is more and more like a fragile boat struggling to stay afloat in a world filled with dangers and disappointments. Events in the world and in our private lives threaten our faith and cause the faithful to wonder, where is God in all of this? The church is a fragile boat being tossed around by the fierce wind and waves. But it is into this picture that Jesus came, Jesus entered the dangerous waters proving he is Lord. This picture of the disciples on troubled seas and Jesus walking on water to save them, has given comfort, encouragement and challenge to Christians over the centuries. Jesus went to his loved ones and saved them from the waves.
This picture that Matthew paints for us in this text is filled with vivid imagery. There is the image of Jesus taking time to pray after the feeding of the multitudes, and there is a clear parallel in the scriptures between the prayer life of Jesus and the mighty things he does. There is the image of Jesus sending out the disciples on a mission just as he sends us out today, and when we go, there are troubled waters to navigate, but Jesus does not abandon us. He comes to us, just as he came to the disciples when they needed him. Even in times of doubt, Jesus is there for us.
There is the image of the power of God over the forces of nature and evil and we see how fear can keep us from recognizing Jesus when he comes in unexpected ways. And when he does come hopefully we will recognize that he can calm our troubled waters as well and respond as the disciples did after witnessing the awesome power of God “Truly you are the Son of God.” All of these images help us to understand the love of God, and the saving grace of Jesus Christ. They help us to see our call to mission. Peter knew that the call to be a disciple is unique to his relationship with Jesus. So when Jesus issued the command, “Come,” Peter stepped out of the boat in faith and faithfulness, but when the first big wave came along he began to doubt and sink. That is when Jesus lifts him up and returns him to the boat.
What is so clear is that if we are to be faithful to the call of Christ like Peter, we are called to step out in faith, even in troubled waters. Stepping out does not guarantee we will not encounter troubled waters or be filled with fear, but we can be assured that God does come to us to lift us up and back into the boat. We have the assurance of Christ’s love and companionship when we need it most, by the working of God’s spirit in our lives. Theologian Wm. Willimon in one of his sermons put it best “If Peter had not ventured forth, had not obeyed the call to walk on water, then Peter would never had this great opportunity for recognition of Jesus and rescue by Jesus. The story implies if we want to be close to Jesus we have to return to the foundation of our faith and be willing to venture forth out on the sea, to prove his promises through trusting his promises, through risk and venture.” Those who believe are to be those angels bringing the good news of faith. “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.”