Deuteronomy 31:6, Matthew 14:27-33, Matthew 17:20

Emerson Goering

As a new BVSer, I have been reflecting on my life journey – from beginning to now – and I am astonished at what I have accomplished – given my previous fears.

As a kindergartener, I didn’t say a word out-loud in front of my class until the last week of the school when my teacher told me that I couldn’t move ahead to first grade until I could speak in front of the group. I did, but my suffering didn’t end once I’d crossed that hurdle. I had headaches and stomach-aches – due to anxiety – almost every day in first and second grade. And my stress wasn’t limited to school. Even when my parents were just a few feet away, I used to quake with terror at the thought of having to ask for ketchup packets from a McDonalds employee. I absolutely hated the idea of leaving my mom, even if only to spend the night at my best friend’s house or a weekend at my grandma’s. I suffered from shyness and stranger anxiety as a child. It has taken many years to work through it.

Now I’m standing here, preaching at a church in Washington, D.C, – my new “home far away from home” – for this next year. At just a few months past my 18th birthday, I mustered up found the courage and the faith, to not only leave my family and my friends, my hometown, my home state, but I am halfway across the country. AND I even recently jumped out of a perfectly good airplane at 13,000 ft. I enjoyed every second of that free-fall back to Earth – although, I was relieved when my parachute opened as planned. Anyone who knew me 5 years ago would never have guessed that I go skydiving. Up until the moment she saw me leap from that plane, my friend was convinced that I was going to back out. She was the one who stood on the sidelines REFUSING to jump.

When it comes right down to it, taking on a new adventure – of any kind -takes a few seconds of courage and complete trust in God. Deuteronomy 31:6 says, “Be determined and confident. Do not be afraid. Your God, the Lord himself, will be with you. God will not fail you or abandon you.”

With these words in mind, I trusted, I leapt. I trusted God as I took that literal leap of faith, exiting the plane into thin air. I trusted God as I left my family for this new chapter in my life.

BVS has been and will, I’m sure, continue to be an adventure. An adventure far from old friends and family – An adventure that takes me out of my comfort zone, and finds me leaping into thin air, trusting my Lord, My God – with my life.

This most recent leap has led me to the Church of the Brethren, Office of Public Witness. I’m so happy with where God has chosen to land me, or rather, launch me. This placement with the Office of Public Witness will provide me with the opportunity to work in the political arena while applying Brethren values to my work. Many of the people who have previously served in this position already had college degrees, before joining this team. I have just graduated high school. Volunteers before me not only had at least four years of college but also four more years of life experience.

BUT, I have a strong passion for peace and social justice, as well as a willingness to serve. In order to do justice to this position, I have to have confidence in myself. But more importantly, I have to have faith in my Lord and God’s plan for my life. I can’t let my thoughts and fears hold me back from such a great opportunity to learn and to serve. The faith I have in God’s plan for me and the faith that I have in myself bring me to where I am right now – and I couldn’t be happier.

In this well-known scripture, Matthew 14:25 and 27-33, Peter is hesitant when Jesus asks him to get out of the boat and step onto the water. When I think of ‘leaping in faith’, I am reminded of this scripture where the disciples, specifically Peter, – in a boat, being battered by waves and wind – have an encounter with Jesus.

25 Early in the morning Jesus came walking toward them on the sea. 27 Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” 29 “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” 32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Recently, I again read this scripture with a fresh set of eyes and an open heart. This parable speaks to my situation, and you may be able to find some truth in it for yourself, First, I hear – have faith the sky’s the limit. It doesn’t matter if you’re trying a new hobby or moving halfway across the country to follow God’s call. Either way, nothing is impossible with faith.

‘Believe and You CAN Achieve’, is much more than a phrase on an inspirational poster. Maybe a better way to say it would be, “Believe in the Lord God with all your heart, and all your mind, and all your soul, and God will take you places you could have never imagined.” It’s a little wordy for a bumper sticker, but maybe I can put that saying on a t-shirt.

I am also reminded that secondly, God is always there for us. ALWAYS! Let me say that one more time…God is there for us. ALWAYS! Faith is what keeps us above the water. We must trust in God.

We all put our trust in something at one point or another, but have we always trusted God? Have we trusted God with all our heart, and all our mind, and all our soul? Did we hesitate? Do we hesitate? Did we doubt? Do we doubt? Did we struggle with handing our life over to God, our Creator? Do we struggle with handing our life over to God, our Creator?

We need to remember that God always has been and always will be here – for me, for you, for us. Again and again, in countless stories and parables, God reminds us and promises – that – ‘we should not fear’ – that ‘God is always with us’. We are encouraged to have faith and to act on that faith.

In Matthew 17:20 we are reminded of ‘mustard seed faith’. This is a faith where answering God’s call on our lives may begin with a tiny little step of faith. This tiny little step of faith has the potential to grow from a little seed into a gigantic tree – a powerful outcome. This is a faith that can move mountains. This is a faith that does not hesitate, does not doubt, does not struggle. This is a faith that puts life in God’s hands and trusts.

“Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

A small bit of faith – what began as a tiny mustard seed – a step out of an airplane – a, one thousand, two hundred, forty seven mile journey to answer God’s call – My tiny mustard seed step of faith – is beginning to grow. I can’t wait to see where God will continue to lead me.

I know, my job is to listen to His God’s voice, to pray for His God’s guidance, and to go where God calls.

That shy, quiet, almost six-year-old Emmy – the one who hid behind her mom and trembled at the thought of speaking in front of her classmates, is now here, among you delivering a sermon.

Wouldn’t Mrs. Parsons – my ever-patient and encouraging kindergarten teacher – love to see me now?

My message for you today – is – One thought one directive – one ‘must-do’ on the your ‘to-do list of life’: Have Faith and Leap! AMEN

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