Gospel of St. Matthew 14:22-33
Jesus 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?” When
they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying,
“Truly you are the Son of God.”
Sermon Aug. 13, 2017
The Rev. John M. Atkins
Ever since I was a little boy, I recall hearing the story of Jesus praying on the
mountain, and then walking on the water to rescue his disciples. It is one of my
favorite Bible stories. But over the years, I admit that I’ve struggled with the imagery
that is so beautifully portrayed in the Bible.
With the help of my mind’s eye, I can place myself among Jesus’ disciples in
that small fishing boat. I can feel the raindrops and the Galilean sea-water fiercely
splashing against my face and soaking my body. I’m able to strain my eyes and feel
my heart beating rapidly as I barely make out a human figure walking on that stormy
I can hear Jesus’ faint voice as I gaze upon Peter climbing out of the boat to
join Jesus on the sea – and then watching him sink. I’m able to hear Jesus chastise
his disciples – me included – for our inadequate faith. Suddenly, I realize the growing
silence as the storm subsides. What an impressive and powerful experience!
Yet, while the story, like any drama, is packed with suspense and emotion, I
admit to experiencing this story as both inspirational and unsettling. You see, I’ve
known too many circumstances and experienced more than enough disappointments
to take stories like this one and apply them at face value to my life. Life is much
more complicated than a walk on the sea.
I’ve never really seen Jesus come to my rescue walking on the water. If Jesus
is relevant for my life, which I believe he is, then there has to be more to the story
than words, suspenseful drama and emotional imagery. Where is the substance of
the story for my life and yours? What is there about this story that has muscle to
impact our lives, disappointments, heartaches, trauma and all included?
To me, the story reveals truths about the human condition. At one time or
another, we all experience life as harsh, scary and turbulent. Whether we admit it or
not, at those times in our life we need help. We flounder and drift until there is
intervention. Supportive intervention helps to provide a calming effect and a
renewed sense of stability in one’s life propelling us forward with deeper awareness
and increased resilience.
When I am pummeled by the storms of life – raging and threatening my peace
and sanity – God is the intervention. God is the one who provides the calming effect
and helps renew stability when those ravaging winds blow.
Gently and lovingly our God helps me open my heart and mind to deeper
awareness of my fears and my needs, my wounds, my limitations and the
possibilities. I’ve discovered that God indeed does have the power to calm my fears
and give me peace.
Larry is a friend of the family. I met Larry when I was a pre-teen back in our
little country church in Missouri. I remember him as a tall, handsome, strong man
with a gentle voice and a kind smile.
10 years ago, Larry was diagnosed with ALS. Since that time, he and his wife
have explored and participated in several treatment options, both approved and
unapproved by the FDA. It seems the later has helped Larry the best. He continues
struggling with the disease, but presently is still able to walk and communicate.
However, it seems to be getting worse.
Through it all, Larry has not given up on his faith in God. If anyone is having a
storm right now, it’s Larry. But he is at peace in the midst of the storm because he
trusts that God is ultimately in control and that there is more to life than the
obstacles we face. Our God cares and companions us through the storm, whatever it
may be. Larry holds tight to God.
For me, it’s comforting and inspiring to know that there is much more than the
word- for-word narrative to this beloved Jesus-story. There is muscle to the story.
As God’s revelation, Jesus enables his disciples to connect with God so
profoundly that this relationship we have with God can calm life’s storms. God has
the ability of being our intervention and encouragement during those turbulent
times. God can and will be our support and our peace. But God never imposes upon
us. Rather, God waits for our invitation.
The life-storms will rage and threaten to disrupt us from living as God intends.
Let them rage. Through God’s enormous love for us revealed in Jesus, we have God’s
supportive presence and calming peace. Just ask.