Friday, August 05, 2011

This Week’s Focus: Walk on the Water

Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, "It is a ghost!" And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, "Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid." Peter answered him, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water." He said, "Come." So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, "Lord, save me!" Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?" Matthew 14: 22-33

Dear Friends,

In gospel after gospel the message is the same… yet another illustration of basic Christianity: We are the beloved children of the Father, redeemed by the Son, called to live in and share his love with each other. But today’s gospel is different. It deals more with the requisite underpinnings of a life in Christ – our faith, our hope, our embrace of God’s grace.

Peter, as usual, fills the role of “everyman”, the perfect foil to illustrate the essence of faith. Christ calls Peter to leave the boat and come to him over the water: Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid. While instinct, experience and the world tell Peter to hold back, Christ calls him forward and Peter answers the call. He suspends rational disbelief and walks across the waves to Jesus. But the way is not easy. He is storm tossed and terrified. His initial enthusiasm is overwhelmed by a realization of his surroundings. He doubts and panics and calls out: Lord, save me!

How like our own journeys of faith. How like our own fears and doubts. Christ calls to us across the waters. And our initial self-serving instincts, amplified by a cynical world shouts back: What are you, crazy? What’s in it for me? Even if we are able to suspend our initial disbelief and take our first faltering steps, we quickly learn that a journey of faith is not a sprint on a fast track. It is a marathon fraught with obstacles, frustrations and misdirections. But in our doubt and disappointment we have only to cry out: Lord, save me! And Jesus will take us by the hand. And if we listen with our hearts, we will hear him say: Do not be afraid…You of little faith, why did you doubt?

So let us answer his call across the waters. Let us journey together, joyfully praising God and serving our neighbor…confident that his saving hand is a prayer away.

Faithfully yours in Christ’s love,

The Reverend David F. Sellery, Rector

Duccio, di Buoninsegna, d. 1319. Jesus Appears on Lake Tiberias, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. [retrieved August 1, 2011].

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