I love the theme of Patriarchs Behaving Badly – we certainly have more of that this week in the Genesis reading. Israel, “Jacob,” does not see that the favoritism he shows Joseph creates some of the same problems he’s already lived through and that his own apples have not fallen far from the tree. Just as he tricked his own father, now his sons will collude to trick him – just different means and different ends. If you know the stories of Joseph and his siblings, you know that within this story there is rape, adultery, murder, mysteries… Colorful history for us!
But I’m intrigued by our Gospel today and how I see it interweaving with us here at St Martin – and within the larger diocese and Episcopal Church. We have a simple story on the surface: Jesus performs a miracle by walking on water – the disciples are afraid – then the disciples worship Him. It’s different than how Mark would have told it, right? The disciples never get who Jesus is. But this is Matthew – and only Matthew who tells this story. And poor Peter – he always the impetuous one – the one who will question and test. I’ve heard this preached many times: “if only Peter would have kept his eyes on Jesus…”
Let’s look at it differently. Jesus MADE the disciples get into the boat – he put them out to sea – He may have pushed them away from shore and waved goodbye even!! He wasn’t worried about them – he knew where to find them at dark-thirty when he was ready for their company again. Then he surprises them with the miracle – the second one they’ve seen in less than 12 hours – remember Him feeding the crowd? And Peter wants in on some of the action. He wants to try it too. It would be exciting wouldn’t it? But being merely human, Peter cannot pull off the miracle and is assisted back to the boat by Jesus – but because Jesus got to prove who He is, the others believed and worshipped.
How about us? It’s no real coincidence that there is a lot of “boat” language in the church – a lot of churches are even built to look like boats from the underside – huge hulls. We get into our boats every time we come to church – and we’re here today. All in this boat together – rocking along. Jesus knows where we are – he’s here with us – He is as a Ghost among us – a Holy Ghost – we count on that – we bank on that – we have faith in that every single week when we ask ordinary elements to become for us the body and blood – we believe He is here with us in bread and wine – in our hearts – speaking to us.
Sometimes – maybe it should happen more often – we get excited about something God is doing – a miracle we want to participate in. We can be like Peter and check it out first – “Jesus if this truly is you, call to us” – once we’ve heard the summons then maybe we’ll climb out of the boat. Scary that “out of the boat” stuff – we know Peter could swim – it was part of his vocational work – Jesus never really put his life in danger, but there was a strong wind – anything could’ve happened. Peter got a taste of the miracle before he began to sink – which allowed Jesus to save him – he was in over his head – so Jesus got the Glory. What are the miracles we see happening around us? What miracles are we called to participate in? What skills do we have that would be slightly dangerous to test – because we might get in over our heads? HOW CAN WE POINT TO JESUS AND ALLOW HIM TO GET THE GLORY OF A PROJECT THAT WE CANNOT CONTROL? How can we show others WHO He is so that they can worship Him?
Paul has some great tips today: If you’re not sent, how can you proclaim? If you don’t proclaim, how can others hear? If they don’t hear, how can they believe? Everyone will be saved if everyone proclaims by words, by deeds, by example…
The strong winds against us are overwhelming – no doubt – hurricanes, drought, famine, civil wars, national wars, Somalia, Syria, Haiti, human trafficking, diocesan lawsuits, church property disputes – we can sink quickly – we might even be afraid to try – but Jesus is there – stretching out His hand to save us – probably thinking “You of little faith, why do you doubt?”
In a bit we’ll be praying Prayer C – commemorating our ancestors who behaved badly but were redeemed – and saying: “Deliver us from the presumption of coming to this table for solace only and not for strength” – one of my favorite parts – we’re in this boat together – give us strength to step out into the strong wind – to not be afraid to check out what we want to do by asking for Jesus to call us – to give us the strength to call out for help and ultimately to let Christ be seen and glorified in all that we do!!
Remember that Peter was the only one brave enough to even try…