Why Walk on Water?
August 10, 2014
Matthew 14: 22- 33
What is Peter doing walking on water! Now I know that it is frightening to cling to a little boat in the midst of the storm. But isn’t stepping out of that boat onto the waves complete madness? Why would Peter leave the relative security of the boat and set out on his own onto the sea? Peter leaves the boat and sets out into the storm, because he knows that Jesus is there. In doing this, Peter gives us an example of discipleship. The disciple always realizes that the safest place to be is close to the Lord. Even though a boat might be keeping us afloat, that boat could sink. And when it comes to sinking, we want to be close to Jesus. The gospel shows us that Peter’s decision was right. Because when he begins to sink, Jesus stretches out his hand and catches him.
Today’s gospel, then, calls us to discern: where is Jesus? Is Jesus sitting with us in the boat of security in which we sail, or is Jesus calling us to step out of that boat and come to him? We might have realized for some time that the job we are in is not the best one for us and that we will never reach our potential if we stay in it. And yet, there is security in that regular paycheck and we have no assurance that we could find something better. The disciple asks, “Where is Jesus?” Is he with me in the boat in which I sit? Or is he asking me to step out of that boat and walk on the water? We might be in a relationship that is abusive, in which we are not valued or respected. And yet, there is stability and some companionship in the relationship, and we are terrified to think that we might have to live alone. The disciple asks whether Jesus is asking us to stay in the security of that relationship or to leave it behind. We might for years have had a dream to develop some talent that is ours, to organize a program, to attain a goal. But that would require much effort and some risk, and we have no guarantee that we would succeed. It is certainly easier to keep things the way that they are. But Jesus may be calling us to walk on the waves.
Now to be sure, there are many times when Jesus is with us in the boat, and he wants things to stay just the way that they are. But today’s gospel reminds us that that is not always the case. Sometimes Jesus is asking us to leave what is familiar, what is easy, what seems secure, and come to him in the midst of the storm. And when he calls us, here is the good news. Although the waves may be high and the winds strong, and people might think that we are crazy to step out of the boat, we are simply being disciples. We are only going to where Jesus is, taking with us the confidence that he will not let us sink. He will give us life.
Where You Do Not Want to Go
August 13, 2017
God is good, and God loves us, and God intends to save us. Because of all of these positive truths, it is easy to imagine that our relationship to Jesus is one of comfort. We like to picture Jesus as the one who blesses the little children, feeds his sheep, and displays glory on the Mount of Transfiguration. Although all these descriptions of Jesus are accurate, they are not the whole picture. This is what makes today’s gospel important, because it shows us that following Jesus is not only comforting. Sometimes it is terrifying.
In the story, Jesus commands Peter to get out of the boat and walk to him on the water. Now, walking on the water is not where you want to be. Who wants to be moving with hundreds of feet of cold, dark water below you and waves crashing on every side? But Jesus asks Peter to get out of the boat to make it clear to us that following him is not always a joyful journey. Sometimes, it is walking where you really do not want to go.
We all know the importance of family. But difficulties can arise in our family. A person can become hurt, dysfunctional, or bitter. We say to the Lord, “I do not want to deal with this every time the family comes together. My heart is broken over it, and I don’t see any easy way out.” Jesus says to us, “I know that it is discouraging and frightening, but I need you to walk to me through the storm.”
We begin to worry about a spouse or a parent as we all grow older. Then there is a fall or a stroke, and we realize that we have just become a caregiver. We say to Jesus, “I’m not ready for this. My plate is already full. I don’t know how I will be able to pull this off.” Jesus says, “I know it’s difficult. You will have to leave some things behind. But I need you to trust and to come to me.”
Whenever we experience a shock in our life, from a friend who betrays us, from a loved one who dies, we say to Jesus, “I can’t get over this. I’ve lost the joy of living. I don’t see any hope.” Jesus says, “I know how frightened you are. I know that it seems impossible. But what I need you to do now is step out of the boat.”
When Jesus asks us to go where we really do not want to go, he does not make us any easy promises. He does not assure us that our way will be simple or that we will never falter. Peter would be the first to testify that sinking is a part of the journey. When Jesus asks us to find our footing on the waves, the only assurance he gives us is that we will not have to find our way alone. The challenge of discipleship is to believe that his word and his presence will be enough for us.
Jesus is always with us. That should give us strength and comfort, as long as we remember that following him is not just walking on land. Sometimes, it is walking on water.
A Tiny Whispering Sound
August 9, 2020
1 Kings 19:9a, 11-13a
We are people of faith. Therefore, when we find ourselves in crisis, we expect that God will help us. In times of trial, we wait for God’s presence. Yet many of us here realize there are times when we are in need and God seems to be missing. We end up waiting for a God who does not come.
Now this could be when we lose someone that we love dearly—the sudden death of a spouse, an end to a serious dating relationship. We find ourselves walking around with a deep emptiness, with a hole in our heart that nothing can fill. We wonder, “Where is God? I need God’s consolation.” It can happen to you if you receive a serious medical diagnosis, and suddenly your future changes. You say, “I need to be brave. I can get through this.” But fear interrupts every second thought, and you ask, “Where is God? I need to know that God has not forgotten me.” All of us are becoming discouraged by the coronavirus. We are tired of being isolated and separated from the people we love. We say, “This has to end. It can’t go on forever!” But then as one month moves into the next, we lose energy and hope. We wonder, “Where is God? I am losing my energy and my hope. I need God to lift my spirits.”
When we find ourselves in any of these circumstances, today’s first reading can be of help. In that reading the prophet, Elijah, is in crisis. God promises to come to him. So, Elijah goes up to the mountain to wait for God. There he experiences heavy winds, earthquakes, and fire. But God is not in any of those things. Then he hears a tiny whispering sound, and he knows that God is with him. What this reading tells us is that sometimes when we feel that we have been abandoned by God, we are not looking in the right places. God might not be present in the big issues that rock our lives. God might be found in the small sounds and actions that surround us.
If your life is broken because of a lost relationship, God might not be found in the emptiness that accompanies you. Then it is time to wait for the day when you catch a positive memory of the person who you lost, a great day together or an awkward moment which made both of you laugh. When you find yourself laughing in that memory, God is there. You might feel abandoned as you face a serious sickness, but God might not be found in the pain, the treatments, or the fear. Then you should wait for the day when a card arrives in the mail from someone you don’t know all that well. It simply says, “Thinking of you.” You are surprised, because you never imagined that person cared as much. And in that surprise God is present. As we face this coronavirus, God might not be found in the isolation or the social distancing. But then one day you are at the supermarket and the cashier says, “I love your mask!” You realize that you are wearing a mask with kittens on it that was made by your 12-year-old granddaughter. You are filled with thankfulness that she is in your life. And in that thankfulness, God is with you.
Now, of course, we do need to continue to trust and believe that God will help us in the big things of life. But it does us no good to ignore the little ways that God is present to us. Often we cannot find God in a miraculous cure, an earthquake, or fire. It is then that we should look for God in a moment of laughter, a wink from a stranger, or a tiny whispering sound. Because when we find God there, we will also find courage and hope.