‘GRIT – Courage, Forgiveness, Trust, Surrender, Love’
Rev’d. Tanya Stormo Rasmussen/Mission Trip Work Campers
The Congregational Church of Hollis
16 September, 2018
Mission Trip Sunday
17th Sunday after Pentecost
Luke 5:1-11, Matthew 14:22-33 

Luke 5:1-11 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)        
5 Once while Jesus[a] was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. So they signalled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” 11 When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.

Peter, an ordinary fisherman, started his faith journey when Jesus in a safe place: his own boat.  But Jesus had other plans for him, a vision that would allow Peter to become a far greater man than he had ever imagined: eventually, he became the leader of the church in Jerusalem!  Peter learned about the GRIT God had given him to accomplish amazing things.  It all started when he obeyed Jesus’ instructions, as he learned about the power of faith, doubts, and God’s persistent love.

Our first hymn will help us to become more aware of God’s presence with us here and now.
Let us worship and welcome the God who is with us.

Call to Confession:
When Peter saw Jesus’ power and wisdom, he became aware of his own mistakes and pettiness.  He confessed to Jesus, “I am a sinful man!” and expected Jesus to leave him.  But Jesus said, “Do not be afraid”—and he proceeded to show Peter just how powerful God’s love and forgiveness is.  Let us confess our need for God’s grace and renewal in our own lives.

God of love, your vision for our life is often so much greater from the small lives we live.  Forgive us when we lack the courage to trust you, when we fail to forgive others, and when we share our love only with people we like, or people like us.  Help us to follow Jesus’ example, because he knew the way to true and eternal life.  Amen.

Assurance of Forgiveness:
Here’s the Good News: Jesus didn’t come to tell us that we are rejected or condemned, but rather that God loves us in spite of our sin and brokenness.  We are forgiven, and invited to live in new ways!  Thanks and glory be to God!

Introduction to the Theme 

I’m going to ask a few questions for all of us to think about.  These are questions we were asked to think about across the week in Wallinfgord, Connecticut.

  • What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?
  • Why was that risk challenging for you?
  • What happened?

God has always called us to take risks—risks that will help us to grow, risks that invite us to trust God.  But taking risks and trusting God (and other people) takes courage.  Some of the things we learned about on our Mission Trip included the importance of faithful risk-taking, the power of trusting God, and the amazing experience of growing as we follow Jesus’ teachings and example.

Scripture Lesson

Peter risked certain things by following Jesus:  his comfortable routine, the sense that he was in charge, his image as a fisherman.  He possibly risked losing friends who didn’t understand why he was becoming one of Jesus’ “groupies”.  Maybe you can think of other things.

But what he risked for the sake of faith in Jesus, he gained in his growth as a person.  He learned the joy and power of a life with God.

Listen to another story about how Peter grew while he was with Jesus.  In this reading from Matthew’s gospel, Jesus was once again teaching a crowd.  He was wrapping it up, and instructed his disciples to depart to go home and he’d catch up with them.

Matthew 14:22-33 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land,[a] for the wind was against them. 25 And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”
                        28 Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he noticed the strong wind,[b] he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

In this passage, Jesus helps his disciples grow the GRIT they need to sustain their life and faith.  At first he showed no hesitation: Peter had a moment of courageous faith when he stepped out of the boat.  It was exciting to try something bold and new.  But very quickly, fear of the unknown overshadowed his confidence.  Peter had to face his fear, and trust that God was in control—that Jesus would not fail him.

Think of a time when you tried to do something that was new to you.  How did fear of the unknown work against you?  What happened?

According to Rick Lawrence, an author and youth group leader who writes for Group Magazine, “Grit is the engine that drives perseverance in life.  It’s the core strength that helps us face and overcome challenges and obstacles. And it’s the essential characteristic that sustains our lifelong pursuit of Jesus.  Without grit, our faith wavers, distractions derail us, and our focus blurs.  Every person of great impact in the world—people who have lived for Jesus in world-changing ways—needed grit to do it. Spiritual grit is fueled by a passion for Jesus and makes us able to endure whatever life throws at us.  As we pursue a deeper, more intimate relationship with Jesus, a passion for him grows—helping us gain the courage we need to run the marathon of life.”

Across our week in Wallingford, CT, we learned that our spiritual GRIT is strengthened when we practice courage, forgiveness, trust, love, and surrender to Jesus Christ, who is the embodiment of God’s love.

Jesus helped Peter grow the GRIT he needed to sustain his life and faith.  At first, he showed no hesitation—Peter jumped at the chance to do something unique and new.  It made him feel alive and powerful.  But fear of the unknown quickly overshadowed Peter’s confidence, the waves of change started to scare him, and he began sinking beneath the weight of them.  It happens to all of us.  But Jesus helped him face his fears, and he didn’t make him feel like a failure when he struggled.  He just encouraged Peter to trust, and to keep trying.

We learned during our reflection times that Jesus can help us develop the spiritual strength and perseverance we need to face our fears, if we allow Jesus’ teaching and example to influence our own choices.  We can learn from Jesus’ courage, how to face our own fears and trust that God will give us the strength we need to get through tough situations, even if we feel like we’re not going to make it.

So, we learned about courage and trust.  We also learned about the power and importance of forgiveness, which takes spiritual strength.  The world doesn’t encourage a lot of forgiveness.  Maybe when we’re little kids, we learn that apologizing and saying, “Apology accepted” is the right way to behave.  But as we get older, there are more subtle messages to “get even” or “don’t let them win” if someone else has hurt or angered us.  But Jesus showed us the power of forgiveness in setting us free, truly free.

We read the passage from Romans 12:14-17, where Paul writes: “Bless those who persecute you.  Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them.  Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.”

We had time to think about what happens when we ask God to bless someone who hurts us, instead of wishing them harm—how we change, and become even stronger.

Finally, we talked about Love and Surrendering to God.  We read the passage where Peter, who had denied knowing Jesus and had sort of abandoned him at the end, has a conversation with Jesus after the resurrection.  Jesus asks Peter if he loves him—and Peter says, “Yes, Lord.”  Jesus says, “Then take care of my sheep, tend my lambs.”  In other words, take care of all God’s children; show me that you love me by loving others.  We learned about what it takes to surrender our own will to God’s will—how hard that is because we tend to want to be in control.  But how, with spiritual GRIT we can get better at loving God, loving other people, and surrendering to God’s love in our life and seeing how powerful it is when God’s love works through us.

Courage, Trust, Forgiveness, Love, and Surrendering to God: these were the themes we explored across the week through our devotions, and we were invited to think about them as we worked.

© 2020 The Congregational Church of Hollis, UCC