This weeks Sermon


Chan Willis – F.P.C.-L.C.

                                                                                                                                                      August 13, 2017

 

“Beautiful Feet”

Romans 10:5-15; Matthew 14:22-33

 

            I would imagine that most everyone here is familiar with the term ‘oxymoron.’  Yes, David, there is an ‘OXY’ in the front of that.  NO, not ‘Oxy-Clean!’  It is, of course, where two words that would be considered to be opposite in meaning are linked together.  Like ‘Jumbo shrimp.’  Or, ‘military intelligence.’  (Sorry, Dave…)  Well, as I read the passage from Romans, it appeared to me that there was an ‘oxymoronic’ expression in the last verse:  Beautiful Feet.”

            OK, let me get a show of hands:  How many of you would consider yourself to have ‘beautiful feet?’  That’s … what I thought/more than I expected.  For those of you who answered in the affirmative, I have two words for you:  ‘Foot washing.’  If there is any part of any of our holy days that can make church members uncomfortable it’s the thought of someone washing their feet… or having to wash someone else’s.  And I believe that this comes in large part because very few people consider themselves to have ‘beautiful feet.’ 

            I would suggest to you that there IS someone who considers you to have VERY beautiful feet.  GOD!  And, in consideration of the two passages for today, there are two particular occasions in which God considers you to have especially ‘Beautiful feet.’  And those would be:  1) When you ‘step out in faith’ in order to COME to Him; and, 2) when you ‘step out in faith’ in order to GO to others.

            It is in the story from Matthew in which we see an example of using those feet to step out in faith to come to Jesus.  This miracle of Jesus walking on the water… and Peter’s attempt to do the same… comes immediately following the miracle that my brother Erich Mansell preached on last week for Communion Sunday:  The feeding of the 5000.  In that story, Jesus uses some common, everyday, and meager supplies of fish and bread to demonstrate to a ‘great cloud of witnesses’ His miraculous power.  Here, he shows that same power to a much smaller ‘cloud’… the disciples.  And in the course of that demonstration, focuses on how one of their own, a common fisherman like Peter, could overcome his own sometimes meager faith to swing his feet out over the side of a boat into the waters of a raging storm.

            This story is FILLED with examples of how WE are to live out our faith in the midst of that ‘raging storm’ we know as LIFE.  We might start with the disciples who were out in the middle of the sea, far from land, in a “boat battered by the waves.”  A small group of believers isolated from the safety and security of their home environment, in their little wooden structure having to endure threatening, adverse conditions.  Hmmm… sound familiar?  Like a particular church we know?

            And then what happens?  In the middle of the storm, Jesus shows up.  But not in a way that they recognize Him.  They thought that they were seeing a ghost, and were terrified.  Of course, we should bear in mind that their visibility WAS a bit ‘impaired.’  Their emotions were already pretty strained as it was, and seeing someone walking on the water, storm or not, is NOT your everyday occurrence.  So, the fact that they “cried out in fear” could be pretty understandable.  Clearly, Jesus understood what they were going through.  Heck, he went out there in the first place, didn’t he? And when he gets within ear shot, recognizing that fear, what did he do?  “Immediately Jesus said, ‘Take heart, it is I.  Do not fear.” (Mt. 14:27)

            Could this not describe what we ourselves go through, both as individual believers AND as the corporate body of Christ?  In the middle of our ‘storms,’ we can know that Jesu understands what we’re going through, and He does ‘show up.’  Jesus is there.  But we may not recognize him… our vision can be ‘impaired’ because of the adverse conditions.  We might not expect Him because we don’t consider his appearing to be an ‘everyday occurrence.’  But my friends, we must rest assured that even as we ‘cry out in fear’ in the middle of our storms,

“Immediately Jesus (says), ‘Take heart, it is I.  Do not fear.”

            It is here that we can consider the very powerful, and surprising, reaction of our brother Peter.  What does he say?  “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”  (Matthew 14:28)  SAY WHAT?!  What is going through Peter’s mind?  Is his brain just a bit ‘water-logged?’  Leave a perfectly good boat to step out into the waters of a raging storm?!  Are you NUTS?  What was he thinking? Was he testing this ‘mystery water-walker’ to make sure it really was the Lord?  Or was he experiencing delusions of grandeur?  Or… did he simply want to ‘be like Jesus?’ 

 

            I’m going with the latter.  That after having witnessed all of the miraculous ways that Jesus had lived out his life as ‘truly God and truly man,’ Peter wanted to experience first-hand some of that miraculous, ‘Godly’ power.  All he asked was for Jesus to bid him ‘COME.’  And Jesus did.  And Peter put those ‘beautiful feet’ of his out on the swirling, swelling water and began to walk to His Lord.  Like a child taking his first steps to a parent.  And like a proud parent, I’m sure that Jesus was pleased with those ‘baby steps’ of his growing disciple. 

            Of course, we all know what happened next.  He realized just what he was doing… he changed his focus from Jesus to his surroundings… and that’s when he began to sink.  When he took his eyes off of Jesus was when he got into trouble.  But even so, when he quickly cried out to Jesus, His Lord was there to “immediately reach out his hand to catch him.” (Matthew 14:31)

            I find it interesting that so many of us could likely readily recall what Jesus said to him next; a phrase that has become a part of our regular vernacular, even if you have never opened up the Bible… in the words of the ‘Old English’ King James Version:  “O Ye of little faith; why did you doubt?”  But what can get lost in that seeming chastisement of Peter is that he had enough faith to step out in the first place!  Peter is an example to us all that YES, we will falter.  YES, we will take our eyes off of Jesus and begin to sink.  But that the Lord will be there to extend his saving hand.  And that WE ‘of little faith,’ who can be so plagued with doubt, must nonetheless make that first step of faith as one called by Jesus to “Come.”  And as we do, our Father God will take great pride in those ‘steps of faith’ made by ‘beautiful feet.’

            So, once we come to know that Jesus who is always ready to extend his hand to rescue us… as we trust in the Lord how saves us, who whispers in our ears, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid”… THEN WHAT?  Do we just prop up those ‘beautiful feet’ on the pew and say, ‘OK, I’m good. ‘Blessed assurance, Jesus is MINE!’ I’ve got that ‘joy down in my heart’ and that’s ALL that matters…’

            Paul’s words to the church in Rome also reminds US of our ‘response-ability.’  In verse 8, he writes that “The word is near you… in your heart and on your lips.Now, when ‘the Word’ is used, we know that it can mean the Word Written.. the Scriptures… or the Word made flesh… Jesus.  Either way, our trust in Jesus … whether as He revealed Himself directly, or thru the Bible… is both to be in our heart AND on our lips.  Romans 10:9 is one that ALL of us who follow Jesus should have in our personal ‘quiver’ of Scriptures: “IF you confess with your lips that ‘Jesus is Lord’ AND believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”  It is, perhaps, one of the most fundamental verses in all of Scripture, for a couple of reasons:  ONE, is that is offers up what is considered by many to be the very first ‘Affirmation of Faith’… LONG before the Apostles’ Creed or the Nicene Creed. And much simpler to recite or remember.  “Jesus is Lord.”

            And SECOND, that our salvation is… at least in Paul’s mind… a ‘two-part’ action.  To ‘believe in our heart’ AND ‘to confess with our lips.’  Now, that second part… to ‘confess with our lips’… may seem unnecessary.  Unimportant.  But let’s think about it:  If you TRULY believe something in your heart… if an allegiance is really important to you… shouldn’t you be willing to express that belief ALOUD?  How many of you are McNeese fans… LSU fans… fishermen… hunters… card players… parents… grandparents?  Are you willing to ADMIT that out loud?

OK… so how many of you believe that God raised Jesus from the dead?  Can you confess with your lips ‘Jesus is Lord?’  Say it with me… ‘Jesus is Lord.’  The Great Apostle goes on to say that “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord”… as you all just did… “shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13)  That’s not just the ‘Good news’, my friends… that is ‘GREAT News!’  RIGHT?

            Or IS it?  For what does Paul say next?  “But HOW are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And HOW are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And HOW are they to hear without someone to proclaim him15 And HOW are they to proclaim him unless they are sent?”  Oh yeah, it’s GREAT that everyone who calls on the name of Jesus will be saved from the death of their sins with the promise of eternal life,  but just HOW are they to come to ‘call’ on Jesus’ name?  By someone who ‘proclaims’ that name of Jesus, and is ‘sent’ to do so.  In case you missed it, my friends, Paul is talking about YOU and ME!!   Those ‘beautiful feet’ of yours are NOT only meant to COME TO Jesus… but also, GO WITH Jesus to proclaim Him to others. 

And remember, this is not just that ‘crazy’ Apostle Paul talking.  Jesus made it pretty clear in his final instructions to His disciples:  "Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to all creation.” (Matthew 28:19)  For us who call ourselves followers of the living Lord Jesus, this is NOT optional…

            So, I leave you with the difficult question:  What are you personally doing to ‘preach the gospel?’  Sure, you may have stepped out in faith to believe in Jesus… but how are you stepping out in faith to share that faith with others…  to ‘confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord.’  Not just in the mirror… but to a ‘real live person’ who does NOT look like you…

            Now, you may be thinking, ‘I could NEVER talk to someone about something as personal as my Christian faith!’  And I get that.  What was that old saying?  ‘Never discuss religion or politics in public?’  Well, we sure seem to be able to do the latter one pretty well!  Well, here’s an idea:  tell them about this friend of yours who once saved a very dear friend of his from drowning in middle of a big storm at sea. And there’s this really cool song that tells about this brave man, and you could send it to him/her if they’d like.  Entitled “Eye of the Storm,” here’s a few words:

“In the eye of the storm, You remain in control
And in the middle of the war, You guard my soul
You alone are the anchor, when my sails are torn
Your love surrounds me in the eye of the storm.

When the storm is raging And my hope is gone

Even when my flesh is failing, You're still holding on” –Ryan Stevenson

            STILL don’t think you can do it?  Well, just remember that ‘even when your flesh is failing,’ Jesus is ‘still holding on.’   I know it’s not easy… but sometimes, just like Peter, you just have to JUMP IN… ‘beautiful feet’ first…