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!” Matthew 14, 25-30
In conversations and readings over the last few days, there seems to be a common theme: chaos. The shocking events of last weekend in Charlottesville threw many of us into a riptide of emotions, multiplied many times by inescapable rhetoric. Then there’s North Korea. Sudden and unexplained death. Downed trees and damaged homes. Young people turning life upside down as they prepare to leave for college, their parents pondering their own identity.
We are in uncharted waters, and they are roiling. Lord, save me! Small wonder our Sunday Gospel lesson sticks with us. Just as Peter became aware watching Jesus walking on the water, what we thought we understood, the natural order of things, the recognizable boundaries, feel changed now. You and I are impressed that Peter stepped out of the boat, in spite of the fact that he walked into a tumult. But isn’t that faith? Stepping into chaos and expecting to find Jesus?
That’s where we are. Yes, we become frightened in the swirling, unfamiliar maelstrom; we start to sink. Lord, save me! I’m doing that a lot. But Jesus continues to call us to step out of our familiar place. We must expect—I’m trying to expect—Jesus to be there.
Here’s the gift: we have a boat.
Our boat is the church. If you are at St. Alban’s or a similar structure, look up. The vaulted ceiling looks like the keel of a ship. Indeed, the term nave is from navis, Latin for ship. Our boat has been strengthened by the witness and faith of those who have gone before us. It is where we expect to find Jesus, and it is where he shelters and nurtures us when he rescues our sinking souls.
Let us pray for calmer seas, both in our personal lives and in our world. But let us also be outfitted prayerfully for the storms, recognizing that the tumult is not the end of the story, that when we step out in faith, Jesus will take us by the hand, and the boat will get us to the shore.
Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.
This Cup writer will be away until mid-September. Let’s talk again then.