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Take a Chance

10 June 2012. Mark 3:20-35, Matthew 14:22-33

So, if following Jesus is no risk at all, as I claimed earlier, why have a week on taking chances?

The ‘no risk’ claim is only true in the overall picture, isn’t it? For every one of us, life involves risks. Every day involves risks; some bigger and some smaller. Love is a risk, because people and circumstances change. They say crossing the road is a risk; but one day I learned even getting out of bed can be a risk, though pride says I’d rather not discuss the details.

One of the great aussie warcries is “Have a go ya’ mug!” But having a go is a risk, isn’t it? You might fail. You might get hurt. You might make a fool of yourself.

I chose those two gospel readings this morning because they both involve risks. In the first, Jesus takes the risk of pursuing his task among people he knows. His parents come to restrain him because some were saying he had gone out of his mind.

In the second, Peter takes a seemingly unnecessary risk by getting out of a perfectly safe boat. But he takes that risk, succeeds for a moment then fails spectacularly.

Peter got a lot of attention in my early years of church. I was trained to think of him as impetuous, perhaps foolish, to be learned from but not imitated, and the biggest surprise package of all when he came good at the end.

As a result I think I was oh so wrong about Peter for many years. I’ve changed my mind completely about him.

I envy Peter. It may be a sin to envy, but there it is, I’m just being honest. Peter was impetuous. It is even possible there wasn’t an ounce of sense in his head. But Peter was all in. If Jesus was there, Peter was there if he could manage it. If Jesus was on the water, Peter wanted to be on the water with him.

I don’t think it was a miracle that Peter came good. I think it was natural that Peter would not only come good, but would be the leader of the pack. Not because he was strong or loud (he seems to have been both), but because he simply trusted Jesus and he was willing to risk everything in following Jesus.

I am a thinker. Perhaps you are too, and if so you’ll understand what I’m about to say. I never act without thinking it through. What are the chances of success vs failure? What are the gains if we win? What are the losses if we lose? Am I up to it? Have I got time for it?

Then the honest stuff I don’t like to admit … how bad will I look if I fail? How many people will still be with me if this goes pear shaped? How bad will I look if I fail?

Some of those things are good and necessary, in their place. But I think Peter would have had a few different processes gong on. Here, of course, I am guessing based on the stories about him.

How much does Jesus want me to do this? Have I seen Jesus do anything like this before? Will this bring glory to Jesus. No chance of success – perfect! Just like last time.

Peter was impetuous. But he also led the way with faith. He got out of the boat – why? Because Jesus said “Come”. To Peter, if Jesus said it he gave it a go. Friends, that is faith.

Faith is the thing Jesus called out of his followers over and over again. I think Jesus loved Peter and his impetuous faith.

And finally I arrive at the reason for having a topic on taking chances. God loves faith in action, and faith in action requires that you take a risk.

If you try to share your faith, you take a risk of being rejected or looking silly. If you try to help someone you risk messing it up, being rejected, being taken advantage of. If you offer to pray for someone you risk being rejected, and if you do pray for them you risk looking silly if the thing you’re praying for doesn’t happen.

You can’t take a step in faith without taking a risk. Historically, for many reasons, the majority of churchgoers have been female. One of the reasons (among many) is the gradual movement of the church into being a risk-free place of safety in an unsafe world.

It is well documented that this is natively offensive to most men. Women are more often protectors and value safety more than men, and men are more often risk takers than women.

But the bad news to all lovers of safety and risk-free environments, the church was never meant to be risk-free. It is meant to be the home of faith, people of courage who will change the world in the name of Jesus.

I want to assure every person, male or female, that there are more than enough ways to courageously exercise faith in the name of God in this broken world.

One person I heard of recently, the artist who illustrates a friend’s Christian children’s books, is presently serving time in prison for demonstrating against legalised abortion and handing out information brochures on the subject.

You may or may not agree with his stance, and I think I do, but I’m sure it took courage to exercise his faith in that way, and I bet it still is.

It may not mean going to prison. It may be that there is something within you that requires courage and the risk of faith in action. If there is, will you take that risk in the name of God?

There may be some issue around you that demands a response of faith. Will you take the risk in the name of God? The question is to us all, and God is waiting for an answer.