Walking on Water

Delivered July 8, 2001 by Dr. Clive Calver, President of World Relief.
See also a later sermon by Dr. Calver, delivered 11/17/2002

Sermon Text:
Matthew 14:22-33
22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on
ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd.
23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself
to pray. When evening came, he was there alone,
24 but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted
by the waves because the wind was against it.
25 During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.
26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified.
“It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.
27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
29 “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water
and came toward Jesus.
30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried
out, “Lord, save me!”
31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little
faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.
33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you
are the Son of God.”

Good morning. Some of you by now may have concluded that I seem to have an accent. This is absolutely untrue.. Any accent among us is yours, not mine. Don’t get offended at me folks, it’s your country. But it is definitely my language. It’s lovely to be here with you. I bring greetings from the Board of World Relief. Just to say a word of explanation before we turn to the word of God. The Board of World Relief is, of course, owned by 43,000 US churches, yourselves included. It’s the oldest of the relief and development agencies and it’s the only one that doesn’t help the poor. You may be a little disturbed by that, thinking your giving went to the poor, well it doesn’t. It goes to the church to give to the poor. That’s what makes World Relief unique. It’s churches helping churches help the poor. You might say, “Oh, it goes to the Christians.” No, no. As Archbishop William Temple once said in Britain, “The Church of Jesus Christ is the only society on earth that exists entirely for the benefit of its non-members.” I want church to be church in Mozambique and church to be church in Malayi. Church to be church in Mongolia. You help make that happen. By always giving through the church, the church then gives to its people. Builds the community. What it does is it means you always get the gospel going with the social action. After all, what is the point in giving a child food to live tomorrow, if they face eternity without Jesus. You cut down the corruption by working through the church and you maximize the efficiency. It’s far better value for money at the end of the day. So that’s what World Relief is. It is church helping church. If you want to sponsor a child, please go to World Vision or Compassion International and they’re wonderful agencies. But if you want to help the church transform the nation that’s what World Relief does. You may say, “Why are you moving it to Baltimore?” Because it is such a wonderful place, Baltimore. Is that not enough reason? It’s actually because of an old friend of mine, Bob Seiple. Ambassador Seiple used to be the head of World Vision. Bob and I were sitting in his office in Washington one day and I said, “Bob, I’ve got to bring these three head offices together for World Relief. Where would you do it?” He said, “Baltimore.” So I looked it up on the map, found where you were, came and looked. The city was really kind. The mayor has been very, very helpful, because the Catholics and the Lutherans hear the idea of the evangelicals coming, as really appealing. It makes Baltimore the church relief and development center for the world, and we move here God willing on August the 3rd. Lots of people said to me, “Why not Colorado Springs?” The answer is I can’t run a Relief and Development agency out of Colorado Springs, it would be inconsistent. Baltimore has a combination of the rich and the poor, the hungry and the hurting and those who have more. Baltimore has a combination of churches and facilities. It’s got great airports. It’s near to Washington and it’s nearer to Britain than Chicago is. But as an American agency it’s a great place to be and we are thrilled to be welcomed, very grateful to you all. Trust you will pray with us as we try to make the move. It does not mean that all 9,000 of World Relief staff will move here. 95% of the staff are indigenous to their own country. But there will be, ultimately we will have the space for 177 staff centrally here in Baltimore. Thank you for your support for World Relief. It’s the church helping the church to help the hurting.

The reason why I believe that is so important is because there won’t be any American Christians in heaven. I don’t know if you realize that. Personally I am delighted, but I regret, it’s okay you will get the accent, you will never get the humor. So if you think you should be laughing, you probably should. The simple fact of it is, there won’t be any British either. That will reduce the cultural tone no end, but there won’t be. There won’t be Asians or Africans. We’re going to be a family folks. One day in glory there will be no Jew or Greek, no bond or free. There will be no black or white. There will be no divisions between us, we will be a family for eternity. I don’t want us to spend eternity alternating between praising Jesus for who he is and apologizing to our brothers and sisters for watching them die. So thank you for all that you have helped us and enabled us to do through the church around the world to bring life and hope for the future. If you don’t know about World Relief, if you would like information we have some absolutely hideously colored leaflets available outside on the table, with my friend Pastor Bruce Sexton, who is the local church relations director for this region. They really do look horrible. They are called “Is the World a Lost Cause”. They are so hideous that you can’t miss them. And I do need you to get rid of them, so if you wouldn’t mind taking one, it would really help us. I mean imagine having to take them back with us. So if you could take them, just rip, do that with them. Then stick your name and address on there. And leave it with Bruce. Don’t take them home. They are too cheap. You’ll trash them. Just put your name and address on them. Then I will plague you, beseech you with unsolicited mail. But I will only do it when your brothers and sisters are dying. When CNN isn’t telling you and when you want to know. And I would love to tell you, because we are church. And together as church we earn our commitment to Jesus.

We’re going to look at the word of God in Matthew and all I want to do with you this morning is I just want to say four things, because I want to answer one simple question. And the question is this, “What kind of God is this?” “What kind of God is this?” “What kind of God is Jesus?” And being a preacher, I want to give you four answers. So if you’ve got a piece of paper handy and a pen, if you want to scribble down the four answers that will help us as we look together.

The story of walking on water. What does it tell us about the character of Jesus? It’s obviously important, because it occurs in three of the four gospels. It’s there in Matthew, it’s there in Mark and it’s there in John. It comes just after the feeding of the 5,000, which is in all four gospels. They are there because they are nature miracles. They reveal the character of God. No one could do this except God himself. And so it tells us four things about our Lord. And the first one is this. What kind of God is this? Well he is a God that watches you. He is a God that watches you. Would you mind raising your hands if you have ever been to Israel? You all have never been to Israel. Thank you. Well you will know that the Sea of Galilee is only eight miles across and there above Capernium on the hillside, there’s a very old cave. It’s 2,000 years old. And if you lie in it, there’s just about enough room to lie prostrate in it and you can be protected from the weather. We don’t know if that’s where Jesus sheltered that night, but he may well have done. Because he watched his disciples as they tried to get across the water. He watched as they only got 3 3/4 miles. He watched as they struggled against the winds. And he watched as they failed. He watched, as they were on their own. They were alone, they thought he was going to come to them and he didn’t. When they expected him, he wasn’t there. Jesus watches you when you are alone. He watches you when you have run out of support. He watches you when you don’t know what to do. He always keeps his eye on you. Because he feels you need it. He is the God who watches and he watches you when you get into deep water. And they really did get into deep water. It’s very deep 3 3/4 miles out in Galilee. And when you and I get into deep water, we don’t know what to do, he is still watching. And have you noticed how he turns what seems to be bad into what is actually good. Let me tell you a story. In Serbia, in December I was there because the Pentecostals and the Baptists have been working together. This is quite novel. And it’s great to see. There are about 9,000 evangelical Christians in Serbia and they are working to help the Kosovo Serb refugee’s, who are almost all Serbian. And the European economic community has been funding them. Funding the Baptists and the Pentecostals to work together for the refugees and it’s been great. The EEC has taken a 75% overhead charge. 25% has gone, 25 cents on a dollar has gone to the refugees. Now it’s been great training and a great program, but anyway we have taken over from January the 1st on 12%, working with the same people because we only work through the church, with the church, or for the church. And while I was over in Serbia talking with the church leaders, I met Snet Sauna. Now Snet Sauna is the head of the Christian kindergarten school. And her name, Snet Sauna means Snow White. Fabulous name for a kindergarten head, isn’t it? And I was talking to Snet Sauna and she is really one of these articulate Christian women. I was really struggling and trying to push her to get answers and in the end I thought well you’ll answer ask, Snet Sauna, so here goes, “What was it like when we bombed you?” I asked her, “What was it like when we bombed you?” When NATO bombed you?” “How did you feel?” She said, “Oh we had a lovely bombing.” I can’t stand people like that. I don’t know about you, but it’s very difficult. I said, “What do you mean you had a lovely bombing?” She said, “We had a lovely bombing. You see it changed all of our values as church, because the things you thought were important suddenly weren’t important with the bombs coming down.” And it changed our view of family, because it wasn’t our unique close family anymore, it was everybody around us who was important. And she said that it changed our ideas of security, because the only safe place to be was in the arms of Jesus. She said it also changed our idea of evangelism, because how can you put off tomorrow, to tell someone about Jesus when they could die in the bombing tonight. She said, “We had a lovely bombing, it changed our values. It changed our idea of family. It changed our sense of security and it changed our view of evangelism.” We will never be the same again. You see when you are in deep water, he watches you. When you’re in deep water, he turns it around. When you alone, he watches you. And when it’s dark, he watches you. You see it was the fourth watch of the night, it was about three in the morning and the great advantage of being the Son of God is he can still see you. He still watches, he still looks and as I walk in the darkest places on the planet, it’s amazing how much Jesus is watching. How much he’s gotten there first. I would love to take you with me to one Presbyterian Church I preached at. It was just held up by a couple of timbers holding up the mud roof, because it was in Southern Sudan. And it was on the outskirts of Southern Sudan and we were taking a plane and going around into the interior and Southern Sudan has less than 10 miles of paved roads and it’s the size of Western Europe. It has no gas, no electricity, no computers, no radio, and no television. It has no fresh running water, no regular food supply, no guaranteed clothing. There is no hospital, no education and no medicine. It’s also the probably the fastest growing church on the planet. Come with me to the village of Vietnam–and as we bounce along the track, where the plane puts down, I go trying to find the tribal elders, because the people are starving to death. We had been watching babies lay down on the ground to die by their mothers. There is nothing else that can be done and we are there too late. And when I find the tribal elders, everyone is sitting under a spreading tree, there are about 200 people there. I said, “what are you doing?” Because a spreading tree in Africa, means a meeting. A religious meeting. I said, “what are you doing?” They said, “Oh, we are worshipping Jesus. Have you ever heard of him?” I said, “Yes, I have.” They said, “Ah, he’s heard of Jesus. Hey he’s heard of Jesus. This masongu (that means white guy), he’s heard of Jesus.” They said, “you have heard of Jesus?” I said, “Yes.” They said, “that’s wonderful, because we have heard there’s a book.. You have never seen it, have you?” I said, “Yes, I have.” They said, “He’s seen the book.” I said, “Look, we have come to arrange for food supply, to try to keep you alive.” They said, “That’s wonderful, could we have the book first?” Nine months later we baptized 1,000 people in that area. Because you see, in the darkness, he’s watching. And in the darkness, he gets there first. And as John reminds us, light shines in the darkness. And the darkness can not overcome it. And the name of that light is Jesus.

He is the God that watches. Second, he is the God who walks. And he is always walking to his people. Have you ever asked yourself, how it was that Jesus could walk on water. How it was that Jesus could walk on water? Well it was ever so easy. You see, because before he walked on the hills by Galilee, he made them. Before he walked on the waters of the lake, he made the water. Before they nailed him to a cross, and hammered nails in to his hands and feet and rammed the crown of thorns on his head, he made the wood that they crucified him on. It was quite easy for the Son of God to walk on water. He made it. And he stills walks on water. He still comes and does the impossible. He still comes and brings that which we could never conceive of. He is still the living God. The one who death could not contain, who broke out of the grave. The one who is alive and is one day coming to take us to eternity. He welcomed Jean into his presence today, he will welcome you and I one day. Or he will come through the clouds and he will take us home. That’s the kind of God he is. He is the God that walks on water. The disciples thought it was a ghost coming. They always got it wrong like that, you know. Just after his resurrection he came for breakfast, they thought he was a ghost. I find it quite incomprehensible, because ghosts aren’t normally good at cooking breakfast. And ghost, quite frankly, are not morning people. And Jesus says, “Don’t be afraid.” And they were scared out of their minds. He says, “Don’t be afraid, don’t worry, don’t be frightened.” If you go home at lunchtime and you take your bible and you read it from cover to cover, and you ask how many times Jesus or God, or scriptures says, Don’t be afraid. You will find that it’s 366 times between Genesis and Revelation. That saves you the trouble. But it’s one for every day of the year and an extra one for leap years. Because I reckon each one of us needs Jesus to say, once a day, don’t be frightened. Don’t be fearful, don’t worry, don’t be anxious, trust me. He walks on water. He is the God who walks. And he walks to meet people in their need. And as William Barkley use to say, “You and I are the hands and feet of Jesus.” We are left here to be those who he walks through.

Come with me to Turkey, to one of the refugee camps. I took the US ambassador there, the end of last year. It’s fabulous to see what the Christians have done. It’s fabulous to see what the churches have been achieving. And there, come and meet with me Acia. And as we walk out of Acia’s house, now we are going to get in to language problem folks. How familiar are you with level crossings. Oh, dear. How do I describe a level crossing? Trains, roads. It’s where the road crosses a train track. Level crossing. Railroad crossing that’s much more logical. Have you ever sat there for 14 minutes while your average size US goods train goes through.? You’ve seen all those containers. Well the containers, we make in to homes. You put windows and doors in them, you provide running water, you provide electricity, you make a home out of it. And I, after the Turkish earthquake, was one of those in the three camps we ran for the Turkish churches, Acia was in one of those homes. And she came out of it everyday and just beneath her was the mosque. And she would look down at the mosque and she said to me, she said, “I would come to look down at the mosque and everybody who went there seemed to come out the same way they went in. But then I looked at the Christians here from Istanbul. Remember there are only 1400 Christians in the whole of Turkey. She said, “I looked at the Christians running around helping us and that’s where I met Jesus.” Because they were different, someone different walked in them. And I have met him as well. When you’ve got 1400 believers, one convert is a banner waving a fair. It’s fantastic that Jesus walks through his people.

He’s the God that watches, he’s the God who walks and thirdly, he’s the God who works. I think Simon Peter gets a really rough deal from most of us. I really do. I mean we all say Simon Peter, he is the one who denied Jesus. Yes, he did. Three times he did, but he was the only one there left to do any denying. The rest had scattered. I think it’s real tough on Peter. At least he’s still around. And he’s always the one who sank. Yes, he was. He’s also the only person whose ever walked on water, apart from the Son of God. And he actually did it. As long as he looked at Jesus he walked on water. Yes, I know he sank, but at least he got out of the boat. The rest stayed there. And I am tired of a comfortable conservative, convenient evangelical Christianity that sits tight in the boat. When people out there are desperate for someone to walk on water towards them. To try to explain what I mean. We give what we can afford. We pray with the time we have available. We go where we will be sure that we survive. Folks, sometimes you have to walk on water, you have to get out of the boat. Sometimes it is not enough to stay sitting there. Sometimes we have to do that which we would not normally do. Sometimes we have to go as we wouldn’t normally give. Pray through the night, this would not be our normal fashion. Because your brothers and sisters are dying out there. There is a world in dreadful need and we have to get out of the boat and walk towards Jesus.

Around 300 AD in the city of Carthage, Bishop Cyprian took the very best he’d got. The young men and the young women and what he did was he sent them into the plague infested areas of the city. Because it was a real, real bad bear of a plague. And they cared for the sick and they ministered to the dying and they brought people to Jesus. And they were called the Parable Army. The one of the great untold stories of church history. And I love the Parable Army. Parable Army, those who came and went along side, those who came and drew near and they got fed up with watching people die, so they put their mouths to the oozing sores of the plague victims and these young men and women sucked out the poison and spat it out. They lived and died for Jesus. And the world was never the same after the Parable Army. I longed to see the Parable Army and I met them six weeks ago in Bangladesh. Pastor Simon had the smartest, nicest church in Decca and he resigned. He was the key elder statesman, among the evangelical clergy and he resigned. He took his church in the slums. The problem was that in the slums in Bangladesh, older surface water is arsenic infested. The children play in it. But last year they had a terrifying bout of Dingoo fever, the year before last. Dingoo fever is like the Ebola virus in Zaire. When you’re bitten by the mosquito, it doesn’t actually germinate until the rainy season comes or you’re bitten in the rainy season. It’s at its worse in the slums. And then you start to hemorrhage from your nose and your mouth and you die. What Pastor Simon did last year was he and his church and four other churches in the slums, came to World Relief and asked us to provide smoke guns and mosquito nets and they marched as church into slums of the start of the rainy season. And they smoked the mosquitos out and they left the nets behind them for the people. It never hit CNN or NBC. It’s one of the greatest acts of courage I have ever heard of. It’s the Parable Army all over again. Pastor Simon said to me, “The rainy season is coming. We’re going back in. Give us the smoke guns we are going back.” That’s what is means to walk on water, folks. We’re not all called to do that. But we are called to stand with our brothers and sisters who do. We are called to make it possible that this world might be touched with Jesus, because he is a God who watches, he’s a God who walks, and he is a God who works through his people to get us out of the boat, and out in to dangerous waters to serve him.

Lastly, he is the God who waits. Have you ever been interested and intrigued by the way that Jesus doesn’t immediately leap to the rescue? That he waits for so long. Eight hours it took them to go 3 3/4 miles and then we read in one of the other gospels, when they were willing Jesus came on board and then immediately they were at the shore. The last half of the journey took them seconds, because the Son of God was there. You try to work without Jesus, it will take you hours. You try to work in the power of the spirit of God and with Jesus, you are there within seconds. But folks, sometimes we are so busy waiting for Jesus, we forget that he might be waiting for us. We’re so busy waiting for revival, waiting for a move from God, waiting for a moment, he’s actually waiting for us to be ready. We pray for him to do and he’s waiting for us to be the answer to our own prayers. I love Jesus and the way he does this. He waits for his people. It’s so gracious.

Let me close with a story. I have a hero. There are lots and lots among the 9,000 in World Relief, it’s easy to have them, but one is very special to me. She is 6’2″ tall. She will only admit to 6′. She’s 32-years-old. And she will almost certainly never get married. Because she lives in Cambodia and it’s a bit hard to find 6’2″ tall male Cambodians. She has 4 children, all adopted Kamaya children. Her name is Yoko Vanupschar. Around 95% of our staff our indigenous to the country, we are training national leaders. 5% are ex-patriots helping to train those leaders. Yoko is Dutch. She is an expert. I would love to take you with me to Cambodia. I have already told Jerry that I intend to take him, so he’s got it on the line. But you will have to make sure that you warn him before he goes, to watch his feet. You see there is one piece of unexploded munition for every member of the population. You still walk the killing fields and human bones and teeth come to the surface. The children play in the water, which is floating with human excrement. They drink it, wash their clothes in it. 87% of the water the kids drink in Cambodia isn’t fit for human consumption. An 11-year-old child works 12 hours a day, stripping garlic. They get 25 cents for the day. The poverty is grinding, but a mother can always sell a child. If you have an 11-year-old daughter she’s worth $300 the first time a man uses her. $150 the second, $50 the third and after that she is worth $3.00. In the second year, she’s worth $2.00. I’m not saying that to titillate, but to appall. But what we try and do is to try and help the mothers. We provide little capital loans, $50 saves the life of a family. We provide sewing machines. We train people in it. It’s amazing what you can do to help a mother have another way to support her family. But Yoko looked at what we were doing to the mothers and she looked at the children. So she started a children’s club. She taught the kids about Dingoo fever. She taught them about personal hygiene. She taught them about Jesus. In four years by the grace of God, she has added 15% to the Christian population of Cambodia. God has used her to train 100 Cambodians to do the work along side her and she shares the leadership with four others. The children went back and told their moms and dads. The moms and dads came to Jesus. We have had to plant 168 baby churches in four years, because one girl stopped waiting for Jesus, she realized he was waiting for her, because she got out of the boat and went and did it. Brothers and sisters, I am not saying this to you to get you to fill in a leaflet. Or because World Relief is coming to Baltimore, I am saying this to you because it’s the heart of Jesus. That he watches his church. He walks to his church. He works for his church, that we might get out of the boat and he waits for his church to be ready for him to use them. You see it’s so simple. My son Chris went to dig wells in Southern Sudan for a year. When he left, he left a prayer letter for his prayer partners, for his friends in Britain. And the last line read this, ” As my dad says so often, together by the grace of God, let’s go change a little bit of this world for Jesus.” Hey, let’s do that together, over the coming months and years. God Bless You.