Pentecost 10 – sermon preached online by the Moderator, Rt Rev Dr Martin Fair – 9th August 2020

Romans 10.5-15; Matthew 14.22-33

“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. AMEN.

It had to be Peter, didn’t it?

Of all the disciples, it was going to be Peter who would ask of Jesus, ‘Tell me to come that I too might walk on the water.’

Peter was among those first disciples called from their nets on the shores of Galilee. ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus had said to them ‘and I will teach you to fish for people.’ And there’s nothing that happened in the subsequent years of Jesus’ ministry that Peter wasn’t front and central to. It was Peter who in response to Jesus’ question: ’Who do you say I am?’ declared, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.’ And right at the end, it was Peter who was commissioned to ‘feed my lambs.’

And yet bold and faithful as he was, Peter was as flawed as any human being – might I say as thoroughly flawed as any of us. It was Peter who blundered and boasted, Peter who denied and doubted.

But maybe because of all of that, Peter had learnt to call out, from the deepest place, ‘Lord, save me.’ Yes, from drowning on that particular occasion we’ve just read of – but in every sense in which ‘being saved’ matters.

This week I bought a new book, it’s called ‘Broken.’ The writer is Jacqui Reid. I first got to know Jacqui when she came to the project that my congregation runs to support men and women who find themselves trapped in the hell of serious drug addiction. Jacqui struggled on for years through drink and drugs, through and any number of broken relationships and broken hearts, before reaching rock bottom and crying out, ‘Lord, save me’ to a God she didn’t know – nor did she know if that God even existed.

Here’s how Jacqui describes what her life had become:

‘It was Christmas 2008 and I was alone in my flat. That year I received no Christmas cards and had no invites to Christmas dinner. My family had disowned me and who could blame them? Truth was, I was an addict. I had been stuck in addiction for fifteen years. It started with alcohol which led to amphetamines and prescription pills. Now aged thirty-three, I was at my worst; dependent on heroin, methadone, painkillers and street valium. The thief had come to steal and kill and destroy. That’s what had happened to me.

But in his grace God pulled her up from the ruins of her life, set her feet upon a rock and gave her new life. Now she is reunited with her children. Now she is herself a minister to those who are broken and marginalised. Now she knows life in all its fulness. Now she is a published author, for goodness sake!

She has come up from ashes to beauty. Her tears have turned to songs of joy. From long nights of unspeakable horror to dancing in the light of a new day.

We might say The Lord saved her – as surely as he saved Peter from the watery deep in those hours before the dawn on Lake Galilee two millennia ago. The Lord is still in the business of saving.

Maybe you know that in one way or another God has saved you. Maybe dramatically as in Jacqui’s case or quietly and without fuss or fanfare. Maybe you too were drowning beneath the storms of life or maybe you know yourself saved today though back then you hardly knew that you needed saving.

Talk of being saved is hardly fashionable these days. We choose softer language; we’re not all together comfortable with the concept of needing to be saved. ‘Saved from what?’ many would ask, not at all sure of their need of salvation or that there might be a situation out of which they weren’t perfectly capable of saving themselves. ‘Fine for those who were addicts but it doesn’t apply to me.’

And on top of that, the language of ‘being saved’ is too closely associated with parts of the Church which, for other reasons, we’re perhaps less than keen to associate with.

So we’ve backed off from talk of being saved. Which, were it just a question of language, would hardly matter. But it’s more than that. Of course it’s more than that. And it does matter.

Our need is to be saved from being apart from God, our maker. And whether the gap between us and God is an inch or a mile, it amounts to the same thing – that we are distanced from the One who made us. Not at one with God. Not at peace with God. Not in step with God.

All of us, the apostle Paul makes clear, fall short of the glory of God. We know not the primary relationship for which we exist and therefore there is a fundamental problem with our existing.

This ‘being apart’ manifests itself in every conceivable way. It’s more than a theological idea; it works itself out every day in the living of our lives, almost as some kind of syndrome or condition that affects our thinking and feeling and doing – and causes our lack of thinking and lack of feeling and lack of doing.

Our selfishness, our unkindness, our intolerance, our lack of grace, our lack of love, our arrogance, our willingness to walk by on the other side and our unwillingness to turn the other cheek, our impatience… the list goes on.

The fact that we aren’t truly angered by injustice, by the inequalities in our world, that black lives haven’t mattered…

That children dying in Yemen isn’t a cause for daily concern, that Palestinian people being forcibly and illegally driven off their land has ceased to bother us…

That our caring for creation is something that we tend to when firstly we’ve tended to ourselves…

Whether it be the lack of good moral choices on our own part or the corporate chaos of our society and of the world, it’s what happens – it’s what is – when we are apart from God. And it’s what we need saving from.

So too that deep down insecurity – that we aren’t entirely sure of who we are or why we’re here. That we struggle with both our identity and our purpose and with assurance concerning our destiny. That there’s often an emptiness within, a bleakness of spirit. That we build walls around our hearts and our emotions, that we’re suspicious and guarded and closed…

It’s what happens – it’s what is when we are apart from God. It’s a state of being that brings with it a catalogue of implications.

From all of that, Lord, save me. Lord, save us. We’re drowning as surely as Peter was.

And yet there is good news. The Saviour saves. The One who reached out his hand and pulled Peter from the foaming waters is still reaching out. The One who pulled Jacqui Reid from the pit and broke the chains of her brokenness is still reaching out.

And to all who, as Paul put it, would call on the name of the Lord – believing in their hearts and professing with their mouths – God, in his grace, will come and come quickly. And they shall be saved. And they shall be free. And they shall know life in its fulness. And they shall know healing and wholeness in the deepest parts.

This God is near.

So let the Church own this good news and let the Church of Jesus Christ proclaim this good news. For how shall they believe if they have not heard and how shall they hear if this word of life is not made known.

How beautiful are the feet of those who will bring this good news to a world crying out for good news – a world that knows what it has been and groans and cries out to be more.

Lord, save us.

Come, Lord, and make all things new.

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, AMEN.

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