Kahu's Mana‘o

Keawalaʻi Congregational Church
United Church of Christ (USA)

Eighth Sunday After Pentecost
Sunday, August 7, 2011

“Put your hand in the hand”
by Robert Nelson

On Wednesday, this past week, as the markets sank
. . . Jim Cramer told his faithful invester audience on T.V.: "Hey, markets tumble. I'm sorry but I can't hold your hand."

So . . . Baby Boomers . . . the year is 1971 . . . and the group is called "Ocean" . . . and they sing:

   "Put your hand in the hand of the man who stilled the water . . . ."
         {How’s it go?} 
(Songwriter, Gene MacLellan; "Ocean", www.lyricsmode.com/o/ocean)

It comes from today's Gospel, you know.

   Like some of us in our time . . . those who followed Jesus in
   Matthew's day felt like the world they'd was coming unglued
   . . . and they were afraid about the future . . . and felt
   helpless to have any impact on it.

   They wondered in all of it . . . where was God.

This is one of those wonderful stories that's, really, an action/parable:  Jesus is the commandment giver.

   He says to his followers: "Get into the boat, and go out to
   where you can be productive and haul in fish!"

   And they try to follow what he's told them to do . . . but the
   winds change and they're overcome by fear . . . so afraid
   that, as he’s going out to meet them on those unstable
   waters, they mistake him for a ghost

And Peter . . . what was he doing climbing over the bow?

   Was he impetuous like a puppy dog running to meet his

   . . . or was he jumping ship, abandoning his friends there in
   the boat?

   . . . or was he truly wanting to put his faith in Jesus?

We see him get out of the boat to go to Jesus . . . but fear takes over . . . and as he begins to go down.

   He calls out "Lord, save me!" . . . and, in coming to confess
   the One who's really in command . . . he's caught by the hand
   of Jesus.

   "Put your hand in the hand of the man from Galilee."
   + + +                        + + +                         + + +                         + + +

I suspect there's a rational part of each of us that doesn't quite know what to do with this story . . . a part of us that's maybe even turned off by it . . . we can't explain it scientifically . . . and it's way outside anything we've ever experienced.

   So one of the ways we try to deal with it . . . and keep it at
   arms length . . . is that old story of Charlie and Harv . . . two
   good-ol'-boys, out fishing in their boat.

   Charlie amazes Harv . . . by walking over the water back to
   shore to get his tackle box . . . because he knows where the
   rocks are.

I'm telling the old "walking on water" story partly to save myself a lot of grief later . . . 'cause if I didn't, I'd probably hear 6 or 7 versions of it after church.

   But knowing where the rocks are isn't what Matthew's story is
   about . . . he has something that's way more important to say
   to us.

   And anyway, this story isn't meant to convert anybody . . .
   it's only addressed to us, the community of believers . . . not
   those who've never accepted the Christian faith . . . and 
   certainly not those who've rejected it.

It's for you and me . . . individual Christians as well as the whole community of the faith.

   It's to help us remember the power and the potential of this
   man whom we proclaim as Lord: He not only gives
   commandments . . . He holds back the wind and the waves,
   like Moses parting the Red Sea.

Matthew wants us to picture Jesus there in that storm, standing on top of those dark waters of chaos . . . waters that recall "the darkness" that "covered the face of the deep" over which "God's spirit hovered" in Creation.

   . . . and he wants us to remember that this Jesus is the One
   who has "the whole wide world in his hands."

And he also wants the church . . . and you and me personally
. . . to see Peter as the church, as us . . .

   . . . Whether it’s the Peter who foolishly and impulsively
   leaps into that chaos and darkness thinking he can "walk on
   water" all by himself . . .

   . . . or the Peter who jumps ship, abandoning his friends . . .

   . . . or the Peter who honestly wants to believe in something,
   in someone . . .
   . . . but the Peter who, once committed to making a change
   in his life . . . begins to bravely take a few steps . . . but  
   gets scared and begins to sink.

   Matthew wants us to see Peter as ourselves . . . to identify
   with him . . . to feel with him . . . and to say "Yeah, deep
   down, this is me. And this is us as a church."

And then, of course, the boat . . . in relation to the sea of chaos all around it, it's a fairly small and vulnerable little vessel . . . maybe even a little leaky and taking on water (some of that darkness and chaos).

   But Matthew wants you and I to recognize the boat as the
   church . . . filled with Jesus' disciples . . . and you and me
   . . . on a journey together being buffetted by stormy seas.

Even though this story is set in Jesus' lifetime . . . Matthew is writing this for his church that . . . 50 years after . . . didn't know Jesus in the flesh . . . like the church ever since . . . and like you and me.

   We, and they, have only known Jesus as the Risen One . . .
   and as the One who ascended into Heaven but is no longer
   with us . . . except through the Spirit.

So, this story is for you and me . . . individually and collectively . . . who are in a leaky boat . . . with no Jesus on-board . . . out on storm-tossed seas . . .

   . . . it's a scary world . . . and feeling threatened, sometimes
   . . . like those first disciples . . . we fail to see the good for
   the bad . . . we get paranoid and assume that what we’re
   seeing is a ghost or some other scary thing . . . instead of
   seeing in that person or event Jesus.

But when we finally allow ourselves to recognize Him . . . we begin to feel strong enough to step out in new ways, like Peter

   . . . and our initiatives, like his, almost succeed . . . before
   we begin to sink.

   And Jesus reaches out a hand to us from the storm.

   He says to us "Take heart! It is I; have no fear." . . . and the
   storms beneath our feet . . . as well as within . . . cease as He
   gets into the boat with us.

Do you know the term "Theater-Mom"?

   I know it really well . . . 'cause my Mom . . . bless her dear
   soul! . . . was one:  she maneuvered me into one audition
   after another trying to get me . . . from age 4 . . . on stage.

So, I can easily picture this Theater-Mom who took her little boy to a concert that was being given by the great Polish pianist Ignacy Paderewski

   She wanted to inspire him in his piano lessons.

   But while she was talking with some friends right before the
   concert, her son wandered off, exploring the concert hall.

   So, when the house lights dimmed, Mom returned to her seat
   to find that the boy was missing.

Suddenly, the curtain rose . . . and the stage lights came on
. . . lighting up the huge, black concert grand . . . and her little boy sitting at it.

   And as the boy began to play "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star"
   . . . Paderewski came out on stage . . . went to the piano . . .
   and whispered to the boy "Don't quit. Keep on playing."

   And, leaning over, the great master began to fill in the bass
   part with his left hand.

   And then, reaching around the boy, he began to add an
   obbligato with his right hand.

   And together, the old master and the young novice trans-
   formed that Theater-Mom's terror into a wonderful and
   creative moment.

And that's the way it is with God.

   What we can accomplish on our own, in the long term, may be
   just a "Twinkle" . . . even our best may not make great

   But with our hand in the hand of the Master, we look at
   others (and our world) differently . . . we may even hear
   Jesus playing right along with us.

So, listen carefully . . . hear the voice in your ear: "Don't quit. Take heart! It is I. Keep on playing and don’t be afraid" . . . feel the arms around you . . . and hear and see what happens.
(Sermon assist: "Put Your Hand in the Hand of the Man from Galilee," Sermon by Robert A Riester II, Biblical Preaching Journal, Summer 2002)

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