In this “Rising Strong” series, we have remembered a few things so far about what it means to live as children of the resurrection.
First – we have to be ourselves. God has uniquely created us with gifts and skills and has put us in this place for this time. We shouldn’t spend our days trying to be someone we are not. We need to learn to love and embrace who God has made us to be.
Second – we should wholeheartedly put ourselves to work for the Kingdom of God. If you are a fisherman – go out there and fish for people. If you are an accountant, go out and count people for Christ. If you are a mom or a dad or a grandparent, love every person you meet as a child of God. Take the life God has given you and use every minute of it to serve the Lord.
We are called to take both of those things and put them into practice. So, if you haven’t already filled out or turned in the “Gifts and Talents” booklet that we handed out last week – this is your opportunity. It is one way you can let us know here at the church what are some of the ways you are willing to be yourself and go all in for God. There is a box at the back of the sanctuary to turn them in, or you can drop them off in the office. There are also some blanks there, as well.
Today, we are going to ask what happens next…
What happens when you figure out who you are and you give it all to God?
In the past six weeks, I joined a gym… a “transformation center”… and spent some intentional time focusing on my own health and well-being. I’m now twenty pounds lighter and trying to figure out how to keep up the effort without the strict diet and accountability of the group I worked out with.
One of the things that we talked a lot about during those six weeks was failure.
Every week, there would be at least one exercise where our goal was to do as many as possible. Whether it was sit ups or planks, a dead lift or overhead press, the goal was to increase either the weight or the duration of the exercise so that you physically could not do one more rep.
Now, this was not how we were supposed to exercise every muscle every time. But the general idea was that if you weren’t pushing yourself and trying to really grow, you wouldn’t.
Arnold Schwarzenegger once said, “the last 3 or 4 reps is what makes the muscle grow. This area of pain divides the champion from someone else who is not a champion. That’s what most people lack: having the guts to go on and say they’ll go through the pain, no matter what happens.”
What most people lack is the guts to go on.
We lack the drive to be willing to push ourselves to failure.
In our gospel reading this morning, the disciples of Jesus Christ are in a boat. They have been sent by Jesus to head off and get ready for a new ministry adventure, but they have been kept up by everything that is going on outside of the boat. The wind is blowing, the waves are strong, and they are a bit fearful of what lies ahead. They really don’t know if Jesus will be on the other side of the lake in the morning.
We are a lot like those disciples. We are all here, because at some point we responded to the call of Jesus Christ in our lives and we showed up. We heard the call and got into the boat, even if we didn’t quite know where this boat was headed.
But, like the disciples, we also really want Jesus to come with us, to be with us, and we are afraid to push off from the shore out into the world.
In some ways, I think that is where our church is right now. We are hanging out in this boat that has kept us safe. You’ve been kept your heads above the waters and have navigated lots of storms. But the winds of the spirit have been blowing and have been moving among us, and I think that in many ways, we are now finding ourselves in uncharted waters – we are just a little ways from the shoreline that we are used to.
Right out there with the disciples. They found themselves in stormy waters, in unfamiliar territory, in a place they thought Jesus couldn’t possibly be. So much so, that they didn’t recognize Jesus when he showed up in the middle of the night.
Only Peter was brave enough, courageous enough, only Peter had the guts to go on and seek Jesus out there on the water.
He remembered who he was and who God was.
He remembered the ways that Jesus had called him to follow and the amazing things that could be accomplished in God’s name.
And he took the risk to step out of the boat… to be foolish and daring and to trust where the Spirit is leading.
He didn’t let his head tell him “no” when his heart was screaming “yes”.
And he walked on water.
Well, for a minute.
He got scared. He stumbled. He started to fall.
By all accounts, Peter failed.
But the thing is, he took the chance where no one else had.
He pushed himself far enough that he could fail, that he might fail, and while he did – it also meant that he was the only one who was in a place to grow from that experience.
In his book, Failure: Why Science Is So Successful, neuroscientist Stuart Firestein points out all the ways the scientific process guarantees failures and flops.
There are very few eureka moments or big discoveries compared with the thousands of failures and flops that happen along the way.
But every one of those failures is an opportunity to learn, tweak, grow, and do something different.
Every one of those failures allows you to learn a new limit or boundary and to push past it.
As a church, maybe we should embrace not only the art of ministry, but also the science of ministry.
We should take big enough risks and have the guts to try new things if the Spirit is leading us.
And we should not be afraid to fail and to fall flat on our face.
Because every time we do, we have the chanced to process, evaluate, and make adjustments.
When you turn in your Gifts and Talents booklet, here is the thing I want you to remember. You don’t have to be perfect in order to offer your gifts to God. None of us are. You will make mistakes. You will need others to help you and teach you. And you might even discover that something really isn’t for you. But you will never know what your limits are and how God might stretch you unless you offer yourself!
As a community, that also means that we need to be open and ready to surround people with love when they offer themselves and work for God’s kingdom, fully expecting that there will be mistakes along the way.
Innovation and discover take time, patience, grace, and a familiarity with failure. Holy failure. The kind of failure that means you are constantly moving on towards perfection – without judgment for where you have been.
God isn’t done with us yet… so may we have the courage to be ourselves, go all in, and make a whole lot of holy failures… knowing that Jesus (and this community of faith) is right here, ready to catch us.