Are you still paddling in the shallows?
In the lead up to our new sermon series on discipleship, Rev Justin Montague challenges us to step out in faith.
Last week for our wedding anniversary, Melissa and I took a little boat out on this beautiful private lake in North Devon. I took the oars and for about 15 minutes gallantly attempted to row us forward but rather just stirred up the water and circled around a bit.
In defeat, I released an oar to my wonderfully patient and smiling wife and together we preceded to row almost effortlessly around this peaceful and quiet area of water. It was reminiscent of our honeymoon in which together we took out a double-kayak together on the ocean - a great first test for any marriage!
You may recall the story of the disciples called by Jesus to meet him on the other side of Lake Galilee. The disciples tried to cross the lake by boat but found themselves fighting to row against the waves and a storm wind and in all their efforts they made very little progress through the night. Without Jesus, their voyage was like trying to push a piano on your own up a steep hill (maybe Canal Hill in Tiverton!). However, to their utter shock Jesus appeared beside them on the water, the threatening waves still there but His very presence representing a stillness in the storm. After a short dialogue between Peter and Jesus, Jesus called Peter to ‘come’ and step out of the boat to join him.
During Covid-19 we have lived in a time where our boats have been shaken and stirred and perhaps, even to some extent, turned upside down. Maybe you have felt like a solo paddler trying to row forwards but seemingly not getting anywhere fast, or ending up back where you started? For many of us, there is the urge to go back to ‘normal’, to return to safe ground, the security of the familiar and what is known. Of course, there are many reasons and situations why that would be a good thing because getting outside of the boat to something new is uncertain or even scary.
However, there is also a time for us all where Jesus calls us individually and collectively as His Church to ‘come’ and step out of our boats, out of those safe and secure places of faith. To instead, step-out and to step-forward in faith, to trust him, his presence and his promises and to discover a new way of living or learning, whereby we grow in or build our faith. To embrace a new way of being His Church, to serve, to reach out to others, to build connections and community, to build bridges for others to ‘come’ and see what following Jesus is all about.
It may feel risky, it may feel uncertain, it may feel even a little scary and it may even be costly, but discipleship means being prepared to step out in faith, it means fixing our eyes on Jesus; letting Jesus lead us forward and we will discover there is often something of a miracle, or something positively unexpected on the other side. How willing might we be today to leave paddling in the safe shallows of our faith? How willing are we for those opportunities to really challenge and deepen our faith, even through the inevitable waves of life?
Stepping out in faith is not the absence of a storm or even fear, but it is always accompanied by the assurance that Jesus will never abandon us, he will be by our side, that when we need it, he will extend his arm, lift us up and take us safely to shore.
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