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8-13-17 Sermon

Sermon August 13, 2017 Tenth Sunday After Pentecost

A family was on vacation in Colorado and visited the Royal Gorge Bridge. This wood-plank bridge stands about 1,000 feet above the Arkansas River, and was known to sway in the wind. Looking at the bridge, the father nervously said “I don’t think I want to drive the car across this bridge.”                                                                                                               

“What are you worried about?” his teen-aged daughter replied. “This car’s a rental.”                                                

Some of us can most definitely sympathize with that Dad.  I don’t think it was the rental car he was worried about.              

Just after Jesus had fed the 5,000+ people, he dismissed the crowd, and told his disciples to go on ahead of him by boat to the other side.  And he went up the mountainside by himself to pray. Meanwhile a storm came up and the boat, with the disciples, was pounded by the wind and the waves.                                                                                                                       

So Jesus, walking on the water, went out to the disciples.   Impetuous Peter wanted to imitate Jesus so wearing his brand new NO FEAR t-shirt, said, “If it is You, LORD... command me to come...” Peter incredibly stepped out of the boat on the water, intending to walk to Jesus. But frightened by the strong wind, Peter doubted and started to sink.  Peter’s “No Fear” attitude cried out to Jesus, “LORD, save me.”  Immediately Jesus reached out, grabbed his arm. Jesus, urged the disciples not to be afraid, but instead to have faith. 

Fear—faith—and Jesus.  Then all the disciples, including Simon Peter worshipped Jesus, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” It is an exciting story and it is one of the best-known stories in the New Testament.                                                   

Fear is, of course, a universal emotion. Ranging from the fear of falling to the fear of trains or planes, and countless other things.  Many—if not most all of us, are bound by something of which we are afraid.  We see chaos, death and decay and our reaction is to be afraid.  We see change, confusion, and uncertainty, and our reaction is to be afraid. The disciples were terrified. “Take courage!”  Jesus said to them.  “It is I.  Don’t be afraid.”                                                              

Fear is a thief. It robs us of sleep, energy, enthusiasm and the present.  It forces us to shrink back from our responsibilities and most certainly, steals the joy in life.                                                                                                                         

Jesus said to his terrified disciples: “Take courage! It is I.  Don’t be afraid.”  The New American Standard Bible includes the phrases "do not fear" 57 times and "do not be afraid" 46 times.                                                        

When Andrew Jackson was president, he went to hear, the then famous evangelist named Peter Cartwright preach. The elders of the church warned Pr. Cartwright not to offend the President. They certainly didn’t want the President of the United States of America angry at them. At that time in history, the President could influence a religious denomination--not that this could ever happen today. So, the elders were insistent that Cartwright must not offend the President. They wasted their time.    

When Pr. Cartwright got up to speak, the first words out of his mouth were these: “I understand that President Andrew Jackson is here this morning. I was told to be very guarded in what I say, so let me begin by saying this: “Andrew Jackson will go to hell if he doesn’t repent of his sin!”                                                                                                                             

The entire congregation gasped in shock. After the service, Andrew Jackson met the preacher at the door--looked him square in the eye and said, “Sir, if I had a regiment of men like you, I could conquer the world!”  Jackson appreciated meeting a person of conviction and courage.                                                                                                                        

Being a follower of Jesus isn’t for wimps. It’s for those who are willing to do whatever it takes to bring in Christ’s kingdom.   Christians are to be people who have conviction and courage.                                                                         

Occasionally Peter showed conviction and courage, but on the night Christ was betrayed, Peter denied Him 3 times. Jesus needed more from Simon Peter --just as he needs more from us.                                                                                               

The assumption in the American church today, is that you can be a Christian but not a disciple.  That is absolutely false.  To be a Christian is to be a disciple.  Christianity is not merely social club that you join because all your friends are there. Neither is Christianity a fan club for the man Jesus.  Jesus doesn’t want fans; He wants followers.  He doesn’t want spectators; He wants people who will walk in his footsteps.  He wants people of courage and conviction who will give their very best to serving him.  People who will deny themselves and take up their cross and follow him.

After Pentecost, Peter became a rock for the early church. He and Paul became devout steadfast leaders of early Christianity. We, in our time, in this congregation are called to be like Simon Peter and Paul, to take our commitment to a higher level and give all that we have to serve our Savior. There are souls depending on it!

Fear     Faith     Jesus