In Matthew Chapter 14 Jesus has learned that John the Baptist has been beheaded by King Herod and desires to withdraw from the crowds to a deserted place. When his boat arrives at his destination he finds that the crowds have arrived ahead of him. Jesus is tired. Jesus is grieving the death of John and needs time alone to rest, to grieve, to pray, to consider what this means for him and his ministry, but Jesus postpones his needs and attends to the needs of the people first, healing their sick and feeding the 5,000. When all are fed Jesus sends his disciples away in the boat to the other side of the lake, dismisses the crowd and goes up the mountain by himself to pray.
Taking time to rest and to pray, to spend time with God is important even for Jesus. I am looking forward to spending a quiet week when I return to St. Joseph with no scheduled meetings or activities. I have also scheduled a five day retreat for the first week in November. Are you taking your Sabbath? Are you taking your vacation time? Are you taking time to rest, to be with your family, to be with God? Are you taking time to just be? I am as guilty as anyone of being busy “doing”, but it is important to be “being” as well. This week Albion College and Purdue Northwest professors will return to prepare for classes next week. Students will move into their dorms. I pray you have had a restful summer. As classes begin, take time for Sabbath, take time each day to rest, to pray, to just be.
Meanwhile back in this morning’s gospel story, the disciples are contending with a headwind which is making their progress across the lake slow and difficult. Perhaps they are proceeding by tacking, following a zigzag path across the lake. Several of them are fishermen so they know how to handle the boat and cross the lake. As they work they see Jesus walking towards them on the water and they are terrified! What can this mean? Is it a ghost? Imagine what you would think if you were out in the middle of a lake and looking up you saw someone walking towards you on the water. Jesus perceiving their fear, calls out saying, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” I don’t know about you, but I would not feel any less afraid after being told this. Glen is a pretty amazing guy, but if I was out in the middle of Lake Michigan in choppy water and I saw Glen walking across the water towards me I would also be terrified. If Glen waved and said, “don’t worry, it’s just me, I will join you shortly”, I would not feel better. I would not believe it was Glen. I can just hear Peter saying, “Yeah, right, if it is Jesus then command me to get out of the boat and join you!” And Jesus does. Bless his heart, Peter climbs out of the boat and walks on the water towards Jesus. Believe you me; I would NEVER have gotten out of that boat. I have to admit though that if I had, I would have found it pretty exciting to be able to walk on the water, to feel the wind at my back and the water between my toes, the waves hitting my knees, my backside and then reality would break through. What do I think I am doing, I cannot walk on water and I would sink into the lake. Peter calls out and Jesus grabs him by the arm and pulls Peter out of the water and into the boat and the winds die down and the Sea of Galilee becomes calm. And Jesus says to Peter, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
Why does Matthew tell this story? Why does he have Jesus walk on the water? Why does he have Peter walk on the water? The other gospel stories do not have Peter climb out of the boat and walk on the water so why does Matthew? Verse 33 gives us the answer, “And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
I don’t know if Peter really climbed out of the boat and walked on water. I don’t even know if Jesus walked on water, but IF Jesus walked on water he can be no ordinary man. Ducks and geese float on water and paddle across the surface. Some people have great fun windsurfing, standing on a floating board and moving swiftly along the water’s surface, but even they would not step off the board and expect to continue standing on the water. Matthew is telling us that Jesus is divine, that Jesus is the Son of God. Furthermore, Matthew is saying that if we have faith, that if we trust in Jesus and God then we too will be able to do amazing things.
I am proud of St. James’ and all that we are doing in Albion. You have grasped Presiding Bishop Michael Curries’ request for us to step out of the church and into our community of Albion and run with it. We cannot be sure of how we will be taken. There will be those who question our motives, who doubt that this is what God asks of us, but I say trust that God is with us. The Albion Recreation Department came to us and asked if we would work with them to provide a literacy program for the Peapods and we were successful. We put out a feeler inquiring if there was any interest in working together for Albion Community Gardens and the response was immediate and continuous. The Bishop is very pleased with what we have been able to accomplish in such a short time. Someone from the Eastern Diocese of Michigan congratulated us yesterday for receiving the UTO grant for our tractor.
I believe that God is with us in all that we do. This does not mean that we won’t have troubles and storms in our lives. We will. Some of us will still have diagnoses of cancer, of congestive heart failure, of COPD, cataracts and Alzheimer Dementia. Some of us will have difficult times in our jobs, with unemployment, with financial difficulties. Some of us will have troubles in our families and our marriages, with alcohol and drugs, with bullying and abuse, but we can trust that God is with us in the midst of our troubles. If we call out for help, we can trust that God is already there walking with us in the midst of our sorrows, perhaps even reaching out his arms to carry us through the worst of the storm.
Have faith; trust God to be with us as we jump out of the safety of this ship and into the stormy seas of life. The winds will blow, the waters may be rough but we can trust that God is with us. That is why we plant the seeds of love, the seeds of the Kingdom of God. We are growing relationships, community, and friendships so that in the storms of life our neighbors will also know that they are not alone, that their neighbors walk with them, that God walks with them. Amen.
Mother Darlene Kuhn
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