This is the message I presented at the Walker Valley United Methodist Church in Walker Valley, NY, for the 11th Sunday after Pentecost, August 8, 1999.  The Scriptures for this Sunday are Genesis 37: 1- 4, 12 – 28; Romans 10: 5 – 15, and Matthew 14: 22- 33.


How often have you heard the term "what you see is what you get"? Often times, those using computers use the phrase "wee-zee-wig" with means the same thing. In computer terms, it means that what you see on the computer monitor is what will be printed out.

Of course, many people, especially when personal computers first came out, didn’t realize that this was the case and they would try to make what was in their mind what they wanted on paper. When this would happen, the output would not be what was desired and what you saw was not what you got.

Many times, our conversations with others take on the same type of approach. We will be thinking one thing but what others hear may be something totally different. I hope, of course, that my sermon today is not one of those situations.

The scriptures today deal with what we see, understanding what we see and knowing what to do with that understanding. The Old Testament reading for today is about Joseph and the day his older brothers sold him into slavery. Joseph’s brothers were angry with him, in part because as younger brothers often do, he had told their father of something wrong that they had done. In other words, he snitched on his brothers.

Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives, and he brought their father a bad report about them.

And there was the matter of the richly ornamented robe that Jacob had given him. If you have brothers or sisters, then you know how gifts given to one sibling or the appearance of favoritism can cause problems with the other siblings.

And last, there was the matter of Joseph and his dreams. Joseph was a dreamer. The Hebrew word used in the OT reading means “master of dreams” or “dream expert” but in the context that the brothers used it, it was used with obvious sarcasm. Joseph saw the future as it might be. But his brothers lived in the present and to them dreams meant nothing. So, in a society where birth order was extremely important, the last straw for the brothers was the dream that Joseph had that had them bowing down before him. When the opportunity came, they sold Joseph into slavery, unknowingly setting the stage for the dream they so despised to become reality. They did not want to see what Joseph saw.

The disciples saw Jesus walking across the surface of the lake but because it was early in the morning and they were perhaps still half asleep and a mist was rising from the surface of the lake, they couldn’t tell that it was Him. Rather, the disciples thought they were seeing a ghost. Wouldn’t you, faced with an unknown apparition that appeared out of nowhere and defied what you knew was impossible, be just as terrified as the disciples were that morning?

What Jesus asks us to do is focus on Him and block out all outside distractions? But many times we are like Peter, eager to do what Christ wants us to do but faltering when we become aware of the outside world.

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

That may be the one thing that keeps us, as it were, from walking on water. We may want to come to Jesus; we may hear Jesus calling us to come to Him, but we hear the wind and we see the waves of water and we suddenly realize that we are sinking. Faith demands that our focus always remain on Jesus

When we focus on the here and now, when we let the distractions of the world around us get to us, there is no way that we can see or hear what Jesus offers us.

The passage from Romans speaks to us today about the nature of righteousness. Righteousness does not require that we do things that go beyond faith and believing. As Paul told the Romans,

But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).

Asking Jesus to come down from heaven or to arise from the grave are impossible questions for us to ask, let alone think about. But faith does not require that we do anything like that; it is the real world that makes those demands. All that Jesus asks us to do is believe.

"That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile – the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Just as we have to change the way we see Jesus, focusing solely on him, so too must we see the world in a different manner. Joseph’s brothers could only see the world around them and had no way to see or comprehend the future that Joseph tried to tell them about.

The disciples came to know that Jesus was truly the Son of God but when they saw Him walking across the water, the image they saw was not of Jesus but of a physical impossibility. If we try to see Jesus in terms of this world, the world we live in, we will never see him.

Like the disciples that morning, Wesley and others came to see Jesus and His message in a different light. The prevalent attitude of the church during Wesley’s time was that poverty was a result of sinful life. In the sermons of that time, one can read of a real concern for those less fortunate but it was assumed that the only way to save the working class, the poor and downtrodden was to make their lives better. Wesley felt that it wasn’t necessary for those less fortunate to be like their betters but it was necessary to enable them to find the way to Christ for themselves.

Paul challenged the Romans then, he challenges us today to focus on what to do with the word.

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

It is not important to have just heard the word and believe in it. We must also take the word out into the world. This can be a very daunting task because we are so prone to see the world around us and let it take away from what we truly wish to see.

When Peter’s focus was on Christ, he could do the impossible, he could walk on water. Yet, when he let the feeling of the wind on his face and he saw the waves lapping against his feet distract him, he lost his focus and fear took over as he sank beneath the water. That is the way life is for us sometimes. Yet, when that happens, whenever we may feel frightened, unsure about what is to take place, all we have to do is remember what Jesus say to His disciples that morning on the lake, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

When we open our hearts and let Jesus be the central part of our life, when we don’t let the outside world distract us from the true meaning of faith, then we can actually see more than we ever thought possible. In other words, when our focus, our faith, is on Jesus, what we see is what we get.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.