Amazingly I got to see Hamilton in San Francisco before it closed. A friend had a ticket and asked if I wanted to go? Believe it or not I turned her down, until another friend asked me if I was crazy. So I went. In preparation, I immersed myself in the soundtrack, and fell in love. Powerful hip hop music and an ethnically diverse cast teach history with insight and vision, with a love story woven in for good measure. It is truly a moving and engaging musical worthy of its 11 Tony Awards in 2016. As I am sure you know, it is the story of Alexander Hamilton the orphaned immigrant who fights in the revolutionary war, is Washington’s right-hand man and becomes the first Secretary of the Treasury. This founding father is a prolific writer most of Federalists who helps to shape our new nation. Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote this poignant tale with songs like “A Room Where It Happened” as Hamilton and Jefferson decide where the Nation’s capital will be located, “One Last Time” when Washington steps away from power, “You’ll Be Back” wittily sung by King George as he loses his colonies, and “History Has Its Eyes On You” as Washington shares the agony of military defeats and reminds Hamilton no one gets a say in “who lives, who dies and who tells your story.”
I was so moved by this experience, I tell everyone I see about Hamilton. I listen to the music day and night. I valued the experience so much I was willing to travel to San Francisco and to pay the price of the ticket. Because a friend invited me to share this experience I went from someone with no knowledge of this play, except for the buzz about it, to a true believer, a convert, to the influence this art can have on our social conversation. The music lives in my heart and I tell people about it all the time. I even wore the T-shirt to church. Some say, Hamilton took Broadway by storm!
Our gospel message today is about Jesus calming a storm. After feeding the 5,000, Jesus sends his disciples across the sea so he can pray. But when evening comes, the wind and waves are threatening the boat filled with the disciples. Now Mark and Luke also tell the story of Jesus calming the storm, but he is with them in the boat – you recall he was sleeping. But in Matthew, Jesus comes to them in the storm. All night the storm rages. The disciples were terrified, even as experienced fishermen. The storm does not let up, they cannot get back to shore, after hours of being tossed by the sea. In their moment of fear, we see a moment of faith. Jesus responds, “Take heart, It is I.” At first it sounds like take this moment into your heart. But what “Take heart” really means to have courage, be hopeful, find comfort in a fact. The fact is that Jesus is with them. Even the words he uses, ego eimi, It is I, are the same words the Greek translation the Septuagint uses when God spoke to Moses at the burning bush. In this terrifying moment, Jesus comes to them, calms the storm and reminds them of their God.
Then Peter does an unimaginable thing. He takes a leap of faith, climbs out of the boat and walks on water with his Lord. Who does such a thing? Someone who believes in Jesus, who has faith that he is Lord, who sees beyond the typical ways of doing things, to know that with one word from Jesus, “Come,” he would be able to walk on water. Yet right along with that faith is doubt. The winds pick up, Peter takes his eyes off of Jesus and begins to sink. Isn’t that exactly what happens with us. We believe in Jesus until the storms of life distract us from our Savior. Returning to Hamilton we see his moment of doubt and faith. Because of his infidelity he was estranged from his wife, and he had lost his son, his career, and his legacy. In that moment, he does the unimaginable. He comes to his wife, and humbles himself. Tears come to my eyes, as his wife silently takes his hand; the chorus sings, “Grace too powerful to name” angelic voices echo, “Forgiveness.” They take heart in each other. They save their marriage. She spends the next 50 years sharing his legacy. Sometimes big things have to happen so that we can see a big truth. When Jesus walked on water and calmed the storm, the disciples saw the big truth: Jesus is the Son of God.
So, if your big truth of faith is that Jesus is the Son of God, or that Jesus has forgiven you with a grace too powerful to name forgiveness, then you take heart in that truth, it abides in you and directs your life. It gives you the courage to do the impossible, to step out of your comfort zone, to climb out of the boat. That means as Paul says we share God’s love in our heart with the words of our mouth. Paul quotes, “The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart.” Scripture challenges us to tell people the truth of Jesus, the reason we believe, the big truth of our faith. We are to share our faith for two reasons: First, how are the people who have never heard of Jesus to call upon him, trust him, and experience his love, if we do not share our faith? How are they to hear, believe and proclaim Jesus if you do not tell them? We must step out of the boat, do the unimaginable, and share our faith with people who have not yet heard of Jesus. Now there might be storms that come with this behavior, but Paul promises no one who believes will be put to shame. Walk on uncharted territory, namely the waters of what if I told my neighbor about Jesus?
Secondly scripture tells us, the one who believes with the heart is justified and the one who confesses with the mouth is saved. Telling others about Christ’s love means we are in a right relationship with God. We follow the great commission to make disciples of all nations. That is a principle of our faith. So why is it easier to tell people about a new play, a new musical I went to see, than to tell them about Jesus, the divine player who has forgiven you, made you whole and loves you beyond words? How you tell your faith story is up to you. No two people would do it the same way. Share the moment that God became real, the time you experienced Christ’s love, the time you felt God in your tears. Step out of the boat of your comfort zone and share your faith. Take heart; Jesus is with you on this journey. It may feel like you are trapped in a storm but remember that we can do unbelievable things when we stay focused on Jesus, rather than the winds that say “keep your mouth shut”.
The final song of Hamilton is “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story.” It is about legacy and love. Presidents Jefferson and Madison marvel and what Hamilton gave our nation. His wife speaks of furthering his legacy by speaking against slavery, helping to fund the Washington Monument, and starting an orphanage in honor of her orphaned husband. Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story. We all have a legacy to leave. The question is will the truth of your faith be part of your legacy. Will you have the courage to step out of the boat and share your faith, and tell Jesus’ story. Who lives and who dies is in God’s hands. But who tells Jesus’ story is ultimately in yours. Amen.