Friday, 5 August 2011
I think that like the disciples there is a part of us that is terrified of Jesus.
Most of the time we like to think of Jesus as a friend or comforter, maybe a guide or teacher. Yet in some stories, like this one, the idea of Jesus, a man walking across a stormy sea, is utterly strange and confronting. The disciple’s terror may not simply be the strangeness of the situation by the fear that can be generated from within when confronted by something we don’t understand and cannot control.
Now, whether or not the story happened in the way Matthew describes could be a point of contention but Matthew weaves a marvellous tale for his listeners packed with depth of meaning that reaches to the core of our existence.
I just want to make a three quick points about the story.
The first is to say that the image of the disciples in the boat was adopted by the early Christian community as a symbol for the church.
The disciples facing the storm as experienced fishermen worked together and battle the storm, they were in it together and the believed that they would sink or sail by their own efforts.
Sometimes I suspect that we in the church feel a bit the same. We sail the stormy seas of life, thinking we are guiding the ship, thinking that we are in control and that it is we alone who have the capacity to defeat the elements.
Jesus’ appearance ultimately calms the storm and reminds us that even thought we think we have things in hand there are forces greater than our efforts, powers that can even demonstrate a command over nature: God.
As the church we should take confidence in this, whilst we battle the storm, Jesus comes to us and we are not alone.
This brings me to a second point about Peter. Peter demonstrated more than a little faith, in my opinion, to step out of the boat. If we are going to follow Jesus, going to him can mean taking the risk of stepping out of the boat.
There are times when we see the walls of the church and our gathering as a kind of life vest, a security blanket. We are OK to own our faith in this setting but when we step out into the storms around us we can suppress our journey with God and so hide from others the hope we have found in following Jesus.
Today the footprints (footprints are being to each congregtaion member) that you take with you are a reminder to step out in faith every day. Step out with your little faith and take the confidence that where ever you find yourself Jesus is there ready to reach out and give you a hand.
The third and final point thing is to think a bit about the sea and the storm. If we go back to the story of creation in Genesis the image of the beginning is that of God moving over the waters.
The metaphor that is presented demonstrates God drawing back the waters of chaos to make a space in which to create. There are the waters above and the waters below.
This metaphor carries into this story. Jesus walking on the waters in the midst of the storm – the waters of chaos and uncreation above and below. The deep roiling waters and the lashing storm threaten life.
But Jesus stands in the midst of the storm as a beacon of hope, he is unassailable.
As I consider the waters above and the waters below I was struck by the things which threaten us, things which threaten to unravel the world as we know it.
Above us loom the storms of climate change and rapidly depleting resources, natural disasters and millions of starving people in the horn of Africa.
Below us the churning of the waters are like: plummeting markets and drought and war.
And whilst these mind bending and massive issues rage around us the winds that blow through our own lives distract and we become frightened. Winds of loneliness, of illness, of broken relationships. Winds of unemployment, of depression, of constant change.
Here in the midst of the storm Jesus calls to us come and reaches out to help us in the midst of our fears and our doubts and our questions.
This is the hope we find in this story – God has not left us alone to the ravages of the storm but comes to us in the midst of it.
This is the good news that we celebrate today. The good news we celebrate in being together, to remind each other that God is with us. The good news we celebrate as we baptise and as we share bread and wine. The good news we are not alone that God is with us, that Jesus is here reaching out his hand to lead us through our life’s journey.
By Peter Lockhart
(photo creative commons)