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Sermon from Sunday, August 7 2011

Based on: Matthew 14:22-33


The lovely thing about scripture is that there is always more than one way of looking at the story. All four of the gospels offer us multiple challenges about what Jesus really meant and what that tells us about God.

This particular reading from Matthew's gospel is multi-interpreted. Some people believe Peter's great desire to go where Jesus was made him get out of the boat and he should be commended for that. Some people take Peter to task for not keeping his eye on Jesus, which of course gives us a handy reason for why Peter started to sink. Then there are people who say this story is really about being willing to take risks because God is always there to uphold us. Certainly all of these interpretations are valid. None of us has an absolute corner on scriptural interpretation, and all of us are working to understand more about following Jesus.

The interpretation that makes the most sense to me, based on what I know about being a Christian, and the balance of scripture, is that Peter is asked to follow Jesus willingly into chaos.

The disciples are in a boat that's been battered by the waves, is far from land, and worst of all, the wind was against them the whole night. This means getting back to where they started will take a long time.

In the midst of this struggle, Jesus appears, walking on water. Understandably, the disciples are terrified. They are terrified because this walking on water stuff is completely outside their human experience. They think they have seen a ghost. They cry out in fear.

Yet all of their recent experiences with Jesus have been about normal things becoming abnormal. Remember, Jesus just fed thousands of people from two fish and five loaves (in last week's gospel). Now the disciples have spent the entire night trying to cross about six or seven miles of sea at most. And right after that, here comes someone walking on water! The disciples have good reason to be fearful. If it really is Jesus, they are probably thinking, "Is this going to be the ‘new normal?'"

Peter, impetuous leap before he looks Peter, is ready to walk into that new normal. He's ready to follow Jesus now, no waiting. But for once, just to be sure, he asks, "If it's really you, command me to do the same thing you're doing."[1] I'm pretty sure Peter didn't think he would be any less afraid, he simply thought following Jesus was what to do even if he was afraid. Peter thought following Jesus was all and everything and yes, if that really was the "new normal" then he'd better step out into it.

We may not like this and I'm pretty sure neither did Peter most of the time, but this is how Jesus works. This is how God, made in the shape of God among us, works in the world. What was normal is no longer normal. God creates a scary, walking on water, risky business new normal that turns everything inside out and upside down. The sick get visited, the poor get fed, the children learn to read, and those who suffer receive justice and dignity.

That is how Peter knew it was Jesus. Peter recognized that Jesus comes in the midst of chaos. He asks us to leave the familiar, the safe. He has us get into the boat and set out even when the wind is against us. And then, when we are brave enough get out of the boat, Jesus is there with his hand out when we begin to sink. Truly he is the Son of God. AMEN.

The Rev Nicolette Papanek

Trinity Episcopal Church

Covington, Kentucky


[1] Matthew 14:28b (NRSV) Paraphrase mine.

Sermon from Easter Sunday - April 24, 2011

Based on: John 20:1-18

I must admit I was sorely tempted to stand up here this morning and say:

  • Jesus died.
  • Jesus rose.
  • Go do something about it!

And then sit down.

Because truly, what else can you say on the Sunday of the Resurrection, Easter Sunday?

  • Jesus died.
  • Jesus rose.
  • Go do something about it.

If you were here on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, you have the sense of "He died." No need to belabor the point. If you missed out on the deep darkness of the story that led to today, well then, come back next year during Holy Week. We do this every year you know.

Homily from Funeral for Charles F. Allnutt - April 23, 2011

Based on: Luke 10:25-37

"Go and do likewise." These are the ending words from the scripture Charlie's family chose. It was chosen because in their eyes this scripture is most representative of Charlie's life as husband, father, friend, physician, and gentleman.

"Go and do likewise." These words at the end of Luke's story often get lost in the trivialities when the parable of the Good Samaritan becomes just another story about how to act. Yet this powerful story can signal to us there is much more than simply helping others.

Good Friday Sermon - April 22, 2011

Based on: John 18:1 - 19:42

Last night we stripped the altar and church of ornaments. We slowly carried out the things that help to make this beautiful building a testament and a triumph to our Lord. We carry them out and we spend Good Friday in bleakness and darkness to remind us just how broken and needy we are.

It's easy for most upper-middle class folks to forget how broken and needy we are. We go along from day to day with enough to eat and enough to drink and really, if we would admit it, more than enough to buy most of what we want. We need reminders of just how broken and how needy we are, how near death we are, how close to end of our ropes and how very, very close we are to denying both that and the Savior we claim to love. Because underneath this sweetness and light lies bitter darkness, darkness so deep only one thing can penetrate it.

Palm Sunday Sermon - April 17, 2011

Based on: Matthew 26:14 - 27:66

The Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday

May my words be your Word and my heart rest in you as I speak, O Lord. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. AMEN.

The passion gospel you are about to hear is full of small betrayals.

There is the large betrayal of Judas, of course. But what about the small betrayal mentioned in John's gospel when Judas takes money from the common purse? What about Judas' betrayal of questioning Mary anointing Jesus with nard? Judas had lived closely with Jesus and knew his deep generosity, and yet he betrayed that generosity by suggesting Mary's act was far too generous. Judas betrayed Jesus with a lie when he knowing he was the betrayer, he asked Jesus, "Surely not I, Rabbi?" And Jesus responded to that lie with, "You have said so."


Trinity Episcopal Church of Covington Kentucky
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