August 11, 2002

Matthew 14:22-33

As soon as the meal was finished, [Jesus] insisted that the disciples get in the boat and go on ahead to the other side while he dismissed the people. With the crowd dispersed, he climbed the mountain so he could be by himself and pray. He stayed there alone, late into the night.

Meanwhile, the boat was far out to sea when the wind came up against them and they were battered by the waves. At about four o'clock in the morning, Jesus came toward them walking on the water. They were scared out of their wits. "A ghost! " they said, crying out in terror.

But Jesus was quick to comfort them. "Courage, it's me. Don't be afraid."

Peter, suddenly bold, said, "Master, if it's really you, call me to come to you on the water."

He said, "Come ahead."

Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus. But when be looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink. He cried, "Master, save me!"

Jesus didn't hesitate. He reached down and grabbed his hand. Then he said, "Faint-heart, what got into you?"

The two of them climbed into the boat, and the wind died down. The disciples in the boat, having watched the whole thing, worshiped Jesus, saying, "This is it! You are God's Son for sure!"

[The Message ]


1. Without an hour's wait for the food to settle and avoid the possibility of cramps while on or in the water the disciples are sent on. Likewise, the crowds went full away. The time of mercy for others was past and the time for mercy (prayer) for self was back.

What are you waiting to digest before just jumping in because GOD insists that it be done now and not an hour hence? What do you do with your fullness? Wait for it to wear off so you can get some more? Lay down to take a nap? Go forth to share the energy received? Can sleep be prayer in action (now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the lord my soul to keep...)?

Amazing the different directions one little paragraph can go.

2. Been battered by any waves yet? Or is it, still being battered by waves? Those silly old waves sure can make one skittery. The rhythm of waves is not as regular as they appear. Just waiting for the next one makes one ready to misread what is going on. The expectation is that there will be no let-up so everything is seen in light of the waves. Merciful, praying, Jesus is seen as a scary incarnation of the next wave.

I have a large (2'x3') block print of a laughing Jesus in my office. Some describe it as scary, mostly because of the teeth that show in a head-thrown-back guffaw. I was present when it was being done in the first floor lounge of the seminary dorm while, in the basement, the Weathermen were plotting their next raid into Chicago and undercover agents were all over the place.

That was quite a wave for the seminary to provide sanctuary for those who participated in and provoked violence. I'm not sure that Jesus was any less scary to the seminary administration than to the disciples in the boat.

In the midst of the waves of life may we glimpse Jesus' teeth smiling and hear deep within us the echo of, "Courage!"

3. I've always like the water-walking story better than the calming of the storm. I don't find that Christianity lets us avoid storms and death but brings an invitation to walk amid the storm and to experience resurrection beyond death.

Oh, I still get faint-hearted, as does the whole church (note the difficulty we have with such basics as sexuality and the military).

While I can appreciate the tendency we have to respond in awe to storm stoppage, inviting, encouraging, and empowering a few steps on the water seems much more awe inspiring than stopping a silly old storm that's just going to come back.

I wonder if we will remember this passage in another two weeks when we hear about Jesus building the church on the rock of the one who skips across the water for a bit, loses momentum and starts to sink, and calls out for help. Is the church still being built on the sinking-and-being-raised rocks that are you and me? I hope so.

Isn't this dynamic image of a rock much more enlivening than trying to protect some eroding rock of Gibraltar.

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