Today’s message weaves two lectionary selections, Romans 10:5-15 and Matthew 14:22-33. The theme is the power of faith, both to overcome fearful distractions and to represent God to the world.
The scene in Matthew has Jesus miraculously walking on the Sea of Galilee to join his disciples, who were waiting in their fishing boat. Hardly believing their eyes, the disciples were fearful because they thought that Jesus was a ghost. Then Jesus reassuringly announced himself, after which Peter astonishingly walked on the water toward Jesus. Unfortunately for Peter, he became fearful of the wind and waves and began to sink. Jesus reached out and rescued Peter, saying, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”(Matthew 14:31b).
The water-walking seems utterly fantastic, so much so that it is ingrained into cultural consciousness. Have you ever heard of the phrase “walking on water?” Yes, this is the biblical story where that term originated. When a person is said to be walking on water it usually means that they are holy. Now backup to Peter, whose lack of faith contributed to his sinking. Peter’s immediate problem was becoming fearful of the wind and waves. One of the lessons here is that danger is real, but fear is optional. You can choose to not be fearful, and even if you do, God can be there to help rescue you from whatever is teasing you to slip under life’s waves.
Now turn to Romans, where Paul wrote, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). Thankfully Peter learned this lesson in the midst of his sinking. Have you ever felt that life was so overwhelming that you risked succumbing to weighty burdens? Take heart! You can keep your spirit focused on God and resist the fearful distractions weighing down your spirit. Yes, you can draw close to God’s saving grace, which restores you from imminent destruction.
Paul encouraged his readers to not be ashamed to proclaim the joy of their faith. When a faith confession comes from a sincere heart then that’s a powerful combination, one that restores an awesome connection to God that no amount of trouble can destroy. This is how Paul brought up the idea of immanence, meaning the power and presence of God that is there within each of us waiting to be revealed. What is within you, me, and everyone else is an inherent spiritual nature, the very essence of God. Unleash the Almighty’s awesomeness through receiving and sharing God’s love.
Paul then turns to a liberating statement about access to salvation: “For, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved’ “(Romans 10:13). The claim here is that God does not distinguish between Jewish and non-Jewish people. This may not sound radical to many modern people but in Paul’s day it was revolutionary given the a prevalent view that only those of the Jewish faith were God’s favored. Such elitism gave way to the faith freedom inaugurated by Jesus’ teaching, which transcended the Old Testament law and opened the path for everyone to receive God’s redemption.
Paul highlights the virtues of messengers who proclaim God’s truth. This is another invitation for individual believers to spread the wonderful gospel message of transforming, redemptive love. You can respond to God’s call by announcing to the world—through your actions and attitudes—that you are a revitalized person of faith. You are invited to shout the joys of your salvation by being ready, willing and able to reveal your vibrant spirituality. As a follower of God you are liberated. The greatest joy possible joy is yours as you proclaim God’s love.