Junior Varisty Water-Walking

  • Matthew 14:22-33
  • Fox Valley Presbyterian Church

Everything is about high school…

That’s a line from a movie I saw recently…but what movie it was, how it played into the plot line, those things are not important…because there are so many movies and stories and books and urban myths in our culture that tell us that everything goes back to high school…

I’m not sure if I agree completely with that statement, with the idea that our whole lives play out predetermined by our teen years. I am sure that I don’t want to relive my own teen years, but there so many people and experiences from that time that still haunt me, for good and for bad, that I resonated when I heard the line in that movie: Everything goes back to high school.

Now, for those of you who are teenagers right now, you are living in that reality and if you’re not a teenager yet, my guess is you are eager to get there. This sermon might not take too much imagination for you…But, it’s going to take some work to get the over-20-folks among us on board for the rest of this sermon.


And so, this morning, if you are however far past being a teenager, I would ask you to indulge me for a the next minutes: I’d like to ask you to invite you to reach down and get in touch with your inner teenager

…yes, you heard me right: your inner teenager, not your inner child.

I’d like you to reach down deep and pull back to the surface the person you were as a teenager, whatever wonderful blend you were of impulse and insecurity, hi-jinks and hormones, creativity and caring, possibility and pimples, I’d like you to bring that person back for just a few minutes, and let him or her sit next to you in the pew for this sermon.

Because, this morning, before we climb into the boat with the disciples, I’d like to invite you all of you to join me and four teenagers from this church on a trip we shared this month, to North Carolina, to the Presbyterian Retreat Center, Montreat, to a week when we and 1000 other teens took over this little mountain town.

So come along on this trip…

Montreat Group

Two weeks ago, in the middle of the night, Cassidy van Cleve, Kata Williams, Nicole Ludema, and Sam Eichelberger were brave and excited enough to get on a bus with me and Loy Williams, a bus that was already filled with a group from the Presbytery of Milwaukee. And very quickly, we recognized ourselves to be in the midst of other disciples traveling where we were traveling, anticipating what we were anticipating.

12 hours, 2 truck stops, a Perkins and a Pizza Hut later, we were in the middle of a great gathering , a crowd of people from all over, people who came from North and South and East and West , gathered in the mountains to pray and play and listen for Jesus. We would spend hours in a hot auditorium, singing, and worshiping, laughing and even crying, hours in smaller groups, groups of people we hadn’t known before, hours in those groups spent meeting new people, trying to forge quick relationship, talking, and sharing.

Now, if you’ve ever been to any Christian youth event: a camp, a retreat, a mission, a week or a weekend, you probably know…the hardest work is making yourself open and available, and just vulnerable enough to let those new relationships form, and to let God in, and to let Jesus say something new to you…

And so, we all stretched ourselves, to meet new people, to know god better, to know ourselves better, to make our spirits available to a changing and challenging word from God.

In my small group, a group from all over, a group of people who were all completely new to me and to each other, I saw people open up slowly, and watched them listen to each other more carefully, and listen for God more deliberately.

I don’t know for sure, but it seemed like it was a little harder for us adults to be open: I know I was never able to fully let go of my self-conciousness and pride enough to get fully engaged in the crazy morning “energizer” dance routines…but our church’s delegation delighted in watching Loy, who is, it turns out, an incredible practitioner of the energizer.

There’s such a beautiful openness and impulsivity about being 15, and I was humbled in the moments when I saw kids not just playing and laughing and being silly and joyful together, but forging new friendships, caring for each other, and bringing God’s presence into the room.

Some people were braver than others…they were ready to step off the boat and get into the water right away. Others put a careful toe in first. Some waited a whole week just to dip in a fingertip.

Whatever we did, we always knew that we were in this whole thing together. For one week, we were in the same boat, sharing experience with this gathering, sharing the time and place, sharing a sense of Jesus’ presence with us.

But, the entire week, we carried a schedule in our back pockets with this reminder…we were going to be called away from this place.

And, we carried enough of ourselves from home to know that we were not isolated from the things that buffeted our lives at home.

And finally, the last night came, and there we were, standing and singing around a lake, each holding a candle, in a circle of light, but a circle that would not last.

Because Jesus was calling us to go down from that mountain…

And as candles were blown out, as the singing slowed, we hugged, and took last pictures, exchanged phone numbers, and within the hour, our bus was rolling back down the mountain to the midwest.

There were so many things to take away: friends and pictures, t-shirts, cell phone numbers, a whole raft of new facebook contacts, the need to get a good night’s sleep…funny stories, videos of Loy doing energizers,

But if there’s one thing that can last from that week, one thing that might take our minds back when we get distracted by the wind and waves of everyday living, it’s the presence of Jesus, holding us up, catching us when we are afraid we’ll go under.

Everything is about high school…

Most of us are relieved that, as we’ve grown and changed, everything is not about high school.

But, as Christians, maybe everything is about that moment in the boat…being sent out on our own, in a little ship, buffeted by the wind afraid of the waves, on our own, sent out by Jesus.

Maybe everything is about that moment when Jesus comes in such a terrifying fashion.

Maybe everything is about that moment when our eagerness gets ahead of us, when we jump out of the boat, ready to walk with Jesus.

Maybe everything is about the things that distract and distress us, the wind and the waves of everyday living,

And, maybe everything is summed up in that moment, when we cannot help but focus on Jesus, the who reaches out a hand, and catches us, the one who says, “Do not be afraid.”

“Lord, if it is you, let me come to you on the water.”


One Response to “Junior Varisty Water-Walking”

  1. ms rev or not Says:

    glad to see the final draft w/ the ending (which was much simpler, in a good way, than i imagined).