Dear Church Family,
My favorite preacher of all time died about a year ago. Fred Craddock is considered one of the best preachers of the last 100 years. He was funny and folksy and you wouldn’t even realize, in the midst of that congenial manner, that he was all the while—as another famous preacher has described it—doing “open-heart surgery on you.” Here is a piece of a sermon he gave entitled “Faith and Fear” which he based on the Matthew 14 text where Jesus walks across stormy water to his disciples in a boat.
“Jesus’ walking on the water is not to be understood as a miracle. Look at it, listen to it. Jesus comes in the storm on the sea and says, ‘Take heart, I am.’ These words are translated, ‘It is I’ or ‘I am he,’ but what Jesus actually says is, ‘I am.’ ‘I am’—that’s the name for God. God has come to them in the storm in the person of Jesus, and what happens? They cannot believe it. At first they say, ‘It is a ghost, it’s a ghost!’ From a distance Jesus does indeed seem like a ghost. I know a lot of people who have never made friends with Jesus, and he is still out there as a ghost-like thing…

“The sermon Matthew preaches is a sermon to the church. It is a sermon for all of the followers of Jesus in all our little boats in all of the storms, trying to make it alone. The disciples were not alone, but they were trying to make it alone—and they couldn’t. That is a hard lesson to learn. The church is never, you are never, I am never exempt from the temptation to try to go it alone…

“In the boat—we are all in the boat—we can give pep talks to each other. ‘We’ll make it. Some of you bail, we’re going make it.’  We can start whistling and singing. But the plain fact is that without trust in God, we are not going to make the shore. But if we trust in God, ‘we are more than conquerors through him who loves us.’”

This past week, we had elder training for your five new elders going on the church’s Session. In our own language we discussed this same truth for our own congregation: how important it is to not get drowned in the details of our work but to lift our heads and look to the truth that this work is not ours alone but it is God’s work for this congregation and for the world. Only in turning to him, in trusting his work in this place, will we have the opportunity to reach the shore. What a relief this is that we are not in this work alone! And what a reminder it is for us to return again and again to the Source and Foundation of our mission, Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord.

Please join me in a prayer for the mission and ministry of our church and of all churches that seek to follow Jesus:

Lord Jesus, we too are in the boat. And we row and row and row. Help us to remember that you are waiting to join us in this boat, waiting to calm the storms that can surround us. And help us to welcome you in and turn to you as the source of our strength and our peace. In your holy name we pray. Amen.

Christ’s peace be with you this week,