Our texts this week are very rich. There is a lot find within all of these texts, but especially our first reading and gospel. I was thinking about what direction to take this:
What part of the story to focus on?
What can we take away in our time and in our place today?
I don’t think we focus enough what happened before we got to this section of the gospel. Jesus has just healed sick people. Jesus has just feed over 5,000 men, not including the women and the children who were also gathered.
It is easy to overlook that before Jesus did all that, he was looking for a quiet place. He was looking for way to escape the crowds, and perhaps even his disciples, in order to mourn and grieve the death of John the Baptist. However, he put his own need for quiet, solitude, prayer, and what we would call self-care for the sake of those gathered around him.
This is something that we, as caregivers, tend to do. We put our own needs and care on hold.
Jesus sends the disciples away and dismisses the crowd. He realized he is out of energy. He doesn’t want and long for solitude, but it is essential for him to carry on his ministry.
Jesus sends the disciples ahead of him on a boat. The weather turns bad with waves and wind beating up against the boat. The disciples, most of them, had been professional fisherman. They would not have necessarily enjoyed this weather, but it probably would not have scared them.
Suddenly, the disciples see a man walking on water towards them in the distance. I’m guessing this is a sight they had never seen before and a sight none of us have seen before. The disciples become fearful thinking they must be seeing a ghost or a spirit, not bone and flesh, walking towards them.
Jesus repeats one of the most common phrases in all of scripture, appearing 365 times, “Be Not Afraid”.
The disciples realize it is Jesus. Then Peter excitedly and anxiously shouts “Lord, I want to be right next to you. If you command it, with everything I have seen you do, I’ll be able to walk on the water and come out to you”.
It is as though Christ says “come, if you want to but…alright”.
We get an one word reply from Christ, it is “Come”.
Peter steps out of the security of the boat and his company of friends. He is doing well, for awhile he stays on top of the water walking towards Christ. His focus is right there on Christ, which is what we emphasize in this text because when Peter realizes what he is doing the logical/rational part of his brain reacts. He starts thinking “Wait a Minute! I am Human! I cannot be walking on the water!”. He starts to sink. He screams out to be rescued and Christ extends his hand, rescues him, they both get into the security of the boat, and the storm starts to settle.
Walking on water is no easy task. A couple of years ago, at the Highlander festival, I was put into one of the big, blow-up hamster balls. Then, it was put into a kiddie pool of water and I was to walk on the water. If I ever had the illusion that I can walk on water, it was shattered that day. It was quite amusing to watch, there is even video of it on our Facebook page.
Walking on water is not an easy task. The thing is you lack control.
It is no secret that I am OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), is it is an anxiety disorder often flaring up when I feel like I am not in control. I often explain that when things in my life out of control, which is always, I need to control what I can. It is usually that my home is clean and organized.
Peter may have had a similar experience. He is out on the water, when suddenly he realizes that things are out of his control. So, what does he do? He tries to take control of the situation, instead of continuing to walk towards Christ he starts sinking.
How often do the storms rage in our own lives, externally and internally, that make us realize that we’re not in control?
How often do we respond to that by trying to take control?
If not over the whole, at least what we can?
How often do we feel over-whelmed as though we are sinking?
I hadn’t thought about until reading a commentary this week, but Peter leaves his boat of comfort risking everything to walk on the water because of his faith, or trust.
How often are we willing to get out of our comfort, safety, and security?
How often are we willing to leave the support of family and friends readily available to help us weather all the storms?
How often are we willing to step out and head towards what Christ is calling us to?
I think often times we do not.
Christ calls us to many things such as our Baptismal promises:
We’re called to speak out against injustice.
We’re called to speak out against hate.
We’re called to act with compassion and mercy.
We’re called to love and to serve.
How often do we risk our comfort to live into those promises?
How often do we risk our comfort to live into those callings?
I think we have more opportunities to follow Christ in such a way, but we do not do it.
My encouragement for us this week is to think about the times that we do or do not get out of the boat or our comfort . May we be assured that if we begin to sink, God is always there to rescue us. Amen.
Scripture was Matthew 14: 23-33.
Originally preached on 13 August 2017 at Gloria Dei (Kelso, WA).