This is the first of a three-part series on the topic of trust. Over the course of the past month our congregation has had various discussions on trust. We have looked at our hymns and contemporary music and explored all of the places trust is part of a Biblical story. Once you start looking, you see that trust is everywhere!
SERMON, MATTHEW 14:22-33
“I love you with all of my heart.” That’s what my mother would say. “I love you with all of my heart.” To which I would reply, “do you love Joanie and Rachel (my sisters) too? “Yes,” she would say. “With your whole heart?” I would ask. “Yes,” she would reply. “How many hearts do you have?” I would challenge. How many people can you love with your whole heart? And how can I trust what you are saying to be true?
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about makes sacred communities of faith thrive and what causes them to die, and I believe the most important foundation of what makes sacred communities flourish and what can cause them to fail is trust or lack thereof. So this led me to ask, “What makes people trust and what makes people mistrust?” It’s funny, when you ask people to talk about trust, they usually tell stories of distrust. Someone once said that “trust is like clean air: you don’t recognize it, until you don’t have it.”
About 13 years ago, before children, our home was robbed. It was one of the most violating moments we had ever experienced. The idea that someone had gone through our home, ransacked our closets, obviously looking for our diamonds and emeralds, made us feel unsafe in the very place we should have felt safest. After that awful day we purchased a security system and for a while felt afraid when we came home from work alone. We had lost a trust we had previously taken for granted.
I’m sure you can all think of times we have either been the victim or the violator of trust.
“You said you would pick me up and you forgot!”
“I told you that in confidence.”
“How long have you been keeping that from me?”
“Did you eat the browning I was eating?”
The thing about losing trust is that it makes us feel unsafe and when we feel unsafe, we feel afraid and when we feel afraid, we feel vulnerable.
And nobody ever wants to feel vulnerable.
Vulnerability is like those dreams you have when you show up at work in your pajamas, or worse. Vulnerability is the moment people see how human, how imperfect, how normal you are, and you risk being judged, unaccepted and unloved.
Vulnerability is like being in a major storm and risking drowning to make sure that the person you trust most in the world is out there.
I hate feeling vulnerable. I will do just about anything to stay in control of my environment and look like I have my act together.
I imagine I am in good company.
Peter was an accomplished fisherman and was used to maneuvering through big storms. He could maneuver himself through rough waves while digging his ores in the tumultuous waves. Storms came and went and he always lived to tell the tale. That’s just how life was as a fisherman, you learned to ride out the storm. Nevertheless on this particular night, just before dawn, a storm was raging and they had to have the disciples out to sea and they need to have their wits about them. I imagine that their survival skills were in full throttle and they are using all of their abilities to stay alive. Suddenly this figure appears on the water and that scares them to death. They immediately think it is a ghost and they scream in terror.
The ghost speaks and says, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”
The ghost does not say who he is, only to “take heart” and to not fear. Those lines are enough for Peter to wonder if it is Jesus and so Peter challenges him and says, “Lord, if it is you command me to come to you on the water.”
Does Peter trust the ghost? No.
Does Peter trust Jesus? Yes.
Does Peter know it’s Jesus? No
But Jesus tells him to “come” and Peter obeys the command and Peter steps out of his boat.
Peter abandons the thing that keeps him safe and does something life threatening. He jumps into the water in the middle of a storm. And once he’s out of his security he sees how bad the storm really is and then he gets really afraid, panicky even and he starts to sink.
You know, you don’t have to be a sailor to be in a storm or be really afraid.
We have all had our moments when then winds pick up and we have been in stormy seasons in our lives.
You get a call in the middle of the night. It is your worst nightmare confirmed. Your son is at the hospital. There has been an accident. The car is totaled. “Come right away,” they say. And when you ask how he is doing they only tell you to hurry. And you strain against the oars and the water seems to be rising, and you cry out in fear and despair, “Jesus, are you for real or you just some ghost?”
Your place of business is having to cut costs and they decide to lay you off and you are three years to retirement and this was not part of your plan. A child gets sick, a car get sideswiped, an accident happens. As you strain against the oars and the water rises, and you cry out in fear and despair, “Jesus are you feel real, or are you just some ghost?”
Let’s be clear, we don’t go find the storms, storms come to us and when that happens we need all of our mind, body and spirit and get through it. We certainly don’t have time to pray, we have to get out of debt. We definitely don’t have time to call on Jesus, we have to get to the doctor. We definitely don’t have time to get out of our comfort zone, we have to protect yourself.
Every time you make a leap of faith, or make a decision under the foundation of believing that you are walking toward Jesus you will realize that you are really vulnerable, and when you realize how vulnerable you are, be prepared to sink, because you are a human being and human beings don’t walk on water. Don’t try this at home. Human beings are vulnerable.
All human beings are vulnerable. Not all human beings believe they are loved and accepted for their vulnerability. Some human beings embrace their vulnerability, take heart and do not fear.
Writer and researcher Brenne Brown calls these people “whole hearted people.”
She asks the question, “What separates the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging from those that don’t?”
Brenne found that whole-hearted people had three things in common:
- Courage – “A strong sense of courage. … They had the courage to tell the story of who they are with their whole heart … These folks had very simply the courage to be imperfect.”
- Compassion – “They had the compassion to be kind to themselves first, and then to others, because, as it turns out, we can’t practice compassion with other people if we can’t treat ourselves kindly.”
- Connection – “And, the last was they had connection. And this was the hard part — as a result of authenticity. They were willing to let go of who they thought they should be, in order to be who they were, which is, you have to absolutely do that, for connection.”
The other thing that “Whole Hearted” people have in common is “They fully embraced vulnerability. They believed that what made them vulnerable, made them beautiful. They didn’t talk about vulnerability being comfortable, nor did they really talk about it being excruciating, they just talked about it being necessary. They talked about the willingness to say I love you first. … The willingness to do something where there are no guarantees. … The willingness to breathe through waiting for the doctor to call after your mammogram. … Be willing to invest in a relationship that may or may not work out. They thought this was fundamental.”
The church needs to be place where we practice being whole-hearted. It needs to be a place where people believe that they are worthy of love and belonging. It needs to place where people have the courage to show their imperfections, show compassion and be authentic. Moreover it needs to be a place that embraces vulnerability. A place filled with whole-hearted people.
So that when the storms come. And God knows they will come, we can step out,whether the storm and be saved. Jesus said, “Trust. Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid. I love you with all my heart.”