back to list

Get in the Boat


    Series: Ordinary TIme

    Category: 2017 Sermons

    Passage: Matthew 14:22

    Speaker: Nicole Trotter

    Get in the Boat

    Matthew 142233

    Romanianborn American Jewish writer, professor, political activist, Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor, received countless awards and honorary degrees…died last year…Elie Wiesel wrote a poem titled

    Never Shall I Forget

    Never shall I forget that night,
    the first night in the camp
    which has turned my life into one long night,
    seven times cursed and seven times sealed.

    Never shall I forget that smoke.
    Never shall I forget the little faces of the children
    whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of smoke
    beneath a silent blue sky.

    Never shall I forget those flames
    which consumed my faith forever.
    Never shall I forget that nocturnal silence
    which deprived me for all eternity of the desire to live.

    Never shall I forget those moments
    which murdered my God and my soul
    and turned my dreams to dust.

    Never shall I forget these things,
    even if I am condemned to live
    as long as God Himself.


    Elie Wiesel

    NY Times article footnoted below

    It’s 1944, in occupied Paris. Four friends spend their days in a narrow room atop a Left Bank apartment building. The neighbors think they’re painters — a cover story to explain the chemical smell. In fact, the friends are members of a Jewish resistance cell. They’re operating a clandestine laboratory to make false passports for children and families about to be deported to concentration camps. The youngest member of the group, the lab’s technical director, is practically a child himself: Adolfo Kaminsky, age 18.

    If you’re doubting whether you’ve done enough with your life, don’t compare yourself to Mr. Kaminsky. By his 19th birthday, he had helped save the lives of thousands of people by making false documents to get them into hiding or out of the country.

    Now 91, Mr. Kaminsky is a small man with a long white beard and tweed jacket, who shuffles around his neighborhood with a cane. He lives in a modest apartment for people with low incomes, not far from his former laboratory.

    Mr. Kaminsky says he never accepted payment for forgeries, so that he could keep his motives clear and work only for causes he believed in.

    Though he was a skilled forger — creating passports from scratch and improvising a device to make them look older — there was little joy in it. “The smallest error and you send someone to prison or death,” he told me. “It’s a great responsibility. It’s heavy. It’s not at all a pleasure.” Years later he’s still haunted by the work, explaining: “I think mostly of the people that I couldn’t save.”

    The group focused on the most urgent cases: children who were about to be sent to Drancy. They placed the kids in rural homes or convents, or smuggled them into Switzerland or Spain. In one scene from the book, Mr. Kaminsky stays awake for two nights straight to fill an enormous rush order. “It’s a simple calculation: In one hour I can make 30 blank documents; if I sleep for an hour, 30 people will die.”

    “I saved lives because I can’t deal with unnecessary deaths — I just can’t,” he told me. “All humans are equal, whatever their origins, their beliefs, their skin color,” he later added. “There are no superiors, no inferiors. That is not acceptable for me.”

    He knows there are children in similar peril today, and that having the wrong passport can still cost your life. “I did all I could when I could. Now, I can’t do anything,” he said. Surely, though, the rest of us can.(1)

    Fast Forward to yesterdays events in Charlottesville….

    Waving Confederate flags, chanting Naziera slogans, wearing helmets and carrying shields, the white nationalists converged on the Lee statue inside the park and began chanting phrases like “You will not replace us” and “Jews will not replace us.”

    When I had the response to this from our nations leaders, republicans and democrats, present president and past…there were responses were safe. And my anger escalated. because they were not responding in kind to a visible sign of evil in the world.

    But The clergy were responding…Clergy are stepping up, as are Christians and Jews fighting the good fight. John Pavlovitz minister in North Raleigh said this:

    What we’ve watched unfolding in Charlottesville, with hundreds of white people bearing torches and chanting about the value of white lives and shouting slurs, is not a “far Right” protest. When you move that far right, past humanity, past decency, past goodness—you’re something else.

    You’re not a supremacist, you’re not a nationalist, and you’re not altRight.

    This is racism.
    This is domestic terrorism.
    This is religious extremism.
    This is bigotry.
    It is blind hatred of the most vile kind.
    It doesn’t represent America.
    It doesn’t represent Jesus.
    It doesn’t speak for the majority of white Americans.
    It’s a cancerous, terrible, putrid sickness that represents the absolute worst of who we are.

    (1) NYTimes, Pamela Druckerman, 2016

    No, naming it won’t change it, but naming it is necessary nonetheless. It’s necessary for us to say it—especially when the media won’t when our elected leaders won’t, when our President won’t. It’s necessary to condemn it so that we do not become complicit in it. (2)


    Our scripture today opens with these words; Jesus makes the disciples get into the boat… (14:22) Compels is the better choice of word when you look at the Greek, Jesus compels the disciples to get into the boat. Compels allows us to have an ultimate choice in the matter because we do. We can ignore what is happening in our country, we can call it terrible on both sides of the issue, and in doing so become complicit in outright racism and antisemitism…or we can get in the boat that will be… battered by the waves, far from the land. (14:24)

    Pastors from all denominations, professors and activist like Cornell West, Harvard professor, got in the boat…Rev. Seth Wispelway, a pastor at the local United Church of Christ, got into the boat, Rev. Traci Blackmon, a UCC pastor, got into the boat…

    verse 24but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land,* for the wind was against them

    Compelled by Jesus and everything he stands for…these people and many more…showed up to battle and fights the good fight…knowing a storm would come..knowing they would be battered far from land… the winds were against them…but that’s the thing with wind…the things we call spirit in the church, at times only seem to be against us….but we are called to step into it, the holy spirit, wind, and fire, elements that can move and destroy, because when these elements become part of the good fight, when Christ shows up in the chaos, you too, can take heart…because that is a wind that will bring about change, and you will be on the right side of history.

    Jesus enters… take heart, I am….do not be afraid…

    In the middle of a storm…Take heart That is take courage. That’s the word we are really given in this scripture…


    Courage form latin word cour, which means heart…and the word courage meant to speak your mind with your heart. (3)


    As people of the Christian faith, it’s this…Our heart is rooted in the heart of Jesus Christ…..we are called to live our lives in accordance with Jesus Christ…one in which all people are God’s children, and all people are loved by God. To take heart, to take courage, to speak our mind with our heart requires we stand up to oppression, to empirical rule, to inequality, to hatred.


    Litany against white supremacy (Pastor Jennifer Preaching)

    Gracious and loving God,
    In the beginning, you created humanity and declared us very good
    We were made in Africa, came out of Egypt.
    Our beginnings, all of our beginnings, are rooted in dark skin.
    We are all siblings. We are all related.
    We are all your children.

    We are all siblings, we are all related, we are all your children.

    When your people cried out in slavery,
    You heard them. You did not ignore their suffering.
    You raised up leaders who would speak truth to power
    And lead your people in to freedom.
    Let us hear your voice; grant us the courage to answer your call.
    Guide us towards justice and freedom for all people.

    We are all siblings, we are all related, we all deserve to be free.

    Through the prophets, you told us the worship you want is for us
    to loose the bonds of injustice,
    to undo the thongs of the yoke,
    to let the oppressed go free,
    and to break every yoke;
    Yet we continue to serve our own interest,


    To oppress our workers, to crush our siblings by the neck because we are afraid. Because they don’t look like us, act like us, talk like us.
    Yet, they are us. And we are them.

    We are all siblings, we are all related, we are not free unless all are free

    In great love, you sent to us Jesus, your Son,
    Born in poverty, living under the rule of a foreign empire,
    Brownskinned, darkhaired, middleEastern.
    They called him Yeshua, your Son,
    Who welcomed the unwelcome, accepted the unacceptable—
    The foreigners, the radicals, the illiterate, the poor,
    The agents of empire and the ones who sought to overthrow it,
    The men and women who were deemed unclean because of their maladies.

    We are all siblings, we are all related, we are all disciples.

    The faith of Christ spread from region to region, culture to culture.
    You delight in the many voices, many languages, raised to you.
    You teach us that in Christ, “There is no Jew or Greek, there is no slave or free, there is no male and female.”
    In Christ, we are all one.
    Not in spite of our differences, but in them.
    Black, brown, and white; female, nonbinary, and male; citizen and immigrant,
    In Christ, we are all one.

    We are all siblings, we are all related, we are all one in Christ.


    Take courage…Take heart… John (16:33), “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world”

    I am he says….He is…he is there, he is with us, he is a part of us and he is beyond anything we can control, like the wind. So get in the boat. Get in the boat. You won’t be alone.