31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
February 24, 2019
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
Intentionally send an email with a typo; do something you are mediocre at; and start doing something – anything. That’s Reshma Saujani, the founder of Girls Who Code, ‘s advice in her new book, Brave, not perfect: fear less, fail more, and live bolder. Specifically, it’s Reshma’s advice to women and girls, who she believes are socialized to be perfect, which makes them less likely to take risks and try new things.
For example, research has shown that a man will apply for a position if he meets 60% of the qualifications, but a woman will only apply if she meets 100% of them. Reshma sees this “safe” behavior in the Girls Who Code club as well. In one instance, the instructor was walking around the room checking in with her students and came upon a girl whose screen was completely blank. The instructor knew that if she looked at the computer’s keystroke history, she would see how many codes the student had written and erased over and over again, but sadly, the student would rather look like she had done nothing all afternoon than show the instructor an incomplete code.
But trial and error, failure, is how we learn, how we improve, how we be our best selves, so Reshma Saujani is encouraging everyone, especially women and girls, to worry less about being perfect and focus more on trying new things, being bold, taking risks, stepping out of the box. (NPR, On Point, February 4, 2019)
Peter has no trouble stepping out of the box or in this case, the boat. He bravely steps out onto the water, which is no simple thing because it is dark; the boat is being battered about by the wind and the waves; and oh yeah, people can’t walk on water.
None of that stops Peter. He sees Jesus walking through the storm toward them, and Peter asks Jesus, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” (Matthew 14:28)
Peter has it all. He is brave in the face of the storm; he is willing to take a risk and try; and he is faithfully obedient to the will of God made known to him through Jesus.
So what goes wrong? Why does Peter sink?
According to Professor Stanley Saunders from Columbia Theological Seminary in Georgia, Peter begins to sink “when his human perceptions of reality overwhelm his perception of divine power.” (workingpreacher.org 2/24/19)
Those were some big words to say that Peter begins to sink when he starts thinking about what he is physically capable of instead of focusing on what God is capable of.
We’ve all been there. We feel called to do something new. We think about it, pray about it, and discern that this is truly a step God wants us to take. And even though we might be nervous, we faithfully step out of the box; we bravely step out of the boat.
At first, everything is fine – until the wind picks up and the waves get choppy. Then the second-guessing begins. We start to think, “It’s awfully dark out here. The seas are kind of rough. Was this such a good idea?” And then we begin to question in earnest whether we have the skills, the ability, the courage and bravery to walk on water. And the confidence we had when we first stepped out of the boat begins to disappear, and we start to sink.
It happens to us as individuals, and it happens to us as a Christian community. We are afraid of failing, afraid that we don’t have all of the gifts we need to succeed, so we don’t try new things, we don’t take risks, we don’t step out of the box, out of the boat.
In his book appropriately titled If You Want to Walk on Water You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat, John Ortberg writes, Sure, “The boat is safe, secure, and comfortable.” however “there is something- Someone- inside us who tells us there is more to life than sitting in the boat. You were made for something more than merely avoiding failure. There is something inside you that wants to walk on the water – to leave the comfort of routine existence and abandon yourself to the high adventure of following God.” (Ortberg, 17)
This is not about taking risks for the sake of taking risks; this is not about being brave so you can get a better job; this is not about change for the sake of change; this is about extreme discipleship, extreme faithfulness, trusting God enough to step out of the boat and transform the world in amazing ways with the love of Jesus Christ.
We are living in a time of great change. Our safe little boat of the church is being buffeted by the wind and the waves. And some churches are hunkering down, gathering up all of their resources, and rowing desperately for the shore.
And then there are other churches, who despite the waves and the wind, are bravely stepping out of the boat to join Jesus on the water. Churches like Zion Lutheran down the street from us, who twenty years ago was faced with the decision to care for others through their Meals for our Neighbors ministry or to hire a pastor to care for them. And churches like United Congregational Church in Bridgeport who let go of their large, historic building, that they could not afford, so they could keep their 20 outreach ministries to the Bridgeport community.
These are Christian communities who have heard God’s still speaking voice calling them to do something new, and despite their fears and nervousness, they have said yes to God’s grand adventure. They have said yes to stepping out of the boat because they know that we are not alone on this journey. Jesus is there beside us. Jesus is there to guide us. Jesus means it when he says, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” (Matthew 14:27)
And these are churches that know that God’s power, God’s ability outweighs anything we can dream or do ourselves. These Christian communities trust that anything is possible with God – even walking on water.
Stepping out of the boat isn’t easy. It isn’t safe. There are no promises that when we follow Christ’s call and get out of the boat that all will go well. Things might get messy, be imperfect. We might fail and fail again. We will likely fail and fail again, but here’s what I know for sure. God is calling us. God is calling us, the community of the First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ in Bristol, to get out of the boat and join God on this amazing adventure. And God is promising to go with us, to be with us.
So take heart; do not be afraid; and get ready because God is calling us to try something new, something amazing, something that will make the world a better, kinder, more loving place for all of God’s people.