Jesus Christ our Faith!

Jesus Christ our Faith!

Genesis 37: 1-4, 12-28
Psalm 105:1-6, 16-22
Romans 10: 5-15
Matthew 14: 22-33

But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’ Matthew 14:27

Tena koutou katoa e te whanau o Te Wairua Tapu.

Today Whanau, I want to acknowledge all our volunteers and the fantastic work they have achieved at the church. Due to no fault of their own, we have had to ensure they have the necessary protection to allow them to do what they do without any worries. And to see this small team of skilled and unskilled members continue to show up every week, unpaid and chip away at all the work that needs to be done is nothing short of amazing. I know we have a huge support base out there whanau but when you get to see the transformation that this team has accomplished will blow you away. So we are a month or so away from completing the major jobs but we will be looking for some skilled painters in the weeks to come. So don’t be afraid to contact me and I will keep you all informed of our progress. For me, standing firm in our faith and watching faith in action has been a huge part of what has so far transpired for Te Wairua Tapu in 2020.

Which leads me to today’s gospel where we hear that the disciples “Cried out in fear”.

A strange place to begin but I remember when we were kids and used to walk past our urupa at night, someone would yell out, “Look, there’s a kehua (A ghost)”. And, we used to bolt, run as fast as we could home, scared as anything, afraid of getting caught by the ghosts. Well, I was anyway. I’ve since outgrown those childhood fears but I haven’t outgrown fear itself. I’ve been in the same boat as the disciples many times in my life. Maybe you have too.

Fear. We all have our own fears. We all have our own ghost stories to tell. Regardless of whether ghosts are real or not, fear is. You could all tell a story about fear in your life, about a ghost that haunts and frightens you. There are all sorts of fears and ghosts. We fear our own death and the deaths of our loved ones. We fear the loss of our health, security, success and our reputation. We fear failure and what others will think about us. We fear being out of control and powerless. We fear the unknown, what will happen, and what might not happen. We fear others; those who look, act, and believe differently than us. And, we fear not being good enough and getting found out.

You see, fear can be the primary force that drives and controls and our lives. I’ve experienced that in my own life and I’ve seen it in the lives of others. I’ve seen how it can take hold of us and distort our vision and drown our lives. Fear often determines the choices we make, the words we say, the actions we take and the prayers we offer. Look at the events of today’s world and you’ll see fear. Fear is one thing both sides in any conflict have in common. Listen to the voices in your head and you’ll hear fear. It’s usually the loudest and most talkative voice. Read the headlines and you’ll find stories of fear. Study the scriptures and you’ll discover that the most common thing God tells the people is to not be afraid. And yet, most of us are. We’ve rowed the same boat as the disciples. We’ve been tossed about by the storms of life and we’ve seen the ghosts and we’ve cried out in fear.

Have you ever felt as if your world is full of darkness? Where the waves of life have smashed and battered you and it seems like you’re always rowing against the wind and getting nowhere? If you know what that’s like then you know what it was like for the disciples. In those circumstances it’s easy to see ghosts, to be terrified, and to cry out in fear. That’s what happened to the disciples. It happens to us. And, it’s happening throughout our world. The world today is crying out in fear. People are crying out with tears and screams of horror. Others cry out with silence in the dangerous worlds and circumstances that they find themselves in. Some cry out not knowing what to say or do. In whatever way we do it, at some point we all cry out in fear. Like the disciples, we more often than not, cry out to be rescued from the circumstances of which we are afraid. We want to escape the storm and avoid the ghosts. We want to be picked up and set down somewhere else, somewhere that is safe, calm and comfortable. Please Lord save me!

But Jesus doesn’t do that. He didn’t do that for the disciples and he doesn’t do that for us. Instead, Jesus reveals himself, speaks, and comes to the disciples in and from the very midst of the storm itself. He didn’t take the disciples out of their storm, he entered their storm. You see, Jesus doesn’t come to us from outside our storms and fears. Yet, that’s often where we look for him, outside the circumstances of our lives. We are too easily persuaded that the solution to all our circumstances only come from outside. That is the exact opposite of what today’s gospel tells us. Jesus came to the disciples walking on the water, through the wind and in the darkness. Jesus’ peace, words of comfort and presence are not outside the storm but in the centre of the storm. So why do we not look for him in that place, in the place of our fears? That’s where Jesus shows up. Where else would he be, the one we call Emmanuel, God with us? If Jesus is not in our storms and fears then he is not God-with-us.

This is why we always need to examine scripture as sometimes we may miss what’s really happening, like in today’s gospel. If all we see is Jesus defying gravity and walking on water then we have missed the miracle. The wind and the waves are more than just weather conditions. They are more about what’s happening within the disciples than what‘s happening around them. The real miracle is that Jesus walks into the storms that brew and rage within us. That means divine power and presence have and always will overcome and conquer human fear. It means that Jesus is with us in our most scariest circumstances. But the disciples couldn’t recognise this. Sometimes we don’t either. “It’s a ghost,” they screamed in terror. It’s the only thing that made sense. People don’t walk on water. It had to be a ghost. What else could it be? That is the power of fear to deceive and distort our lives. Our storms and our fears are the very place in which we abandon God. Most of us, however, don’t do that until we first feel abandoned by God. Surely that’s how the disciples must have felt. Jesus made them get in the boat and cross the sea alone as it seems. They had been abandoned to the open sea, the darkness, the waves, the wind and left with their own efforts, fantasies and illusions. Jesus done this so that they might abandon themselves to God.

The very elements that threatened to destroy the disciples became the environment in which they recognised Jesus as the Son of God. What they first perceived as certain death they now recognise as new life, hope and salvation. Every time we cry out in fear Jesus comes to us saying, “Take heart, it is I, do not be afraid.” That’s the invitation to abandon ourselves to God in the midst of our storms and fears. No matter how big the storms are Jesus walks through them to get to us. No matter how strong the wind blows it is the wind through which Jesus walks to us. No matter how dark the night it is the night in which Jesus comes to us. No matter how great our fear is, Jesus Christ has already defeated it. “Take heart, it is I, do not be afraid.” Amen.

Archdeacon Kaio Karipa

Merciful God, hearten us, so that like Peter we may have faith even when we fail. Grant that any recognition we receive brings worship not to ourselves but to you. Through Jesus Christ our Liberator, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen

The Venerable Kaio Karipa
Sydney Maori Anglican Fellowship Church of Te Wairua Tapu