The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
E. Bevan Stanley
August 9, 2020
Proper 14, Year A
Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28
So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water. In the Name of the one, holy, and undivided Trinity. Amen.
Well, we have been buffeted by a wind this week. On top of CVID19 and confronting the systemic racism in our country, losing power, phone, and internet is seems unnecessary. For some of us it may feel like we are sinking. At the very least we need to bailing the boat. Wouldn’t be nice to just be able to walk on top of the troubled waters of our lives?
I feel bad for Jesus in this story. When Jesus heard that John the Baptist had been beheaded by Herod, he wanted to take his disciples and go off by themselves and have some time to digest the sad news. Clearly John’s death shook them.
They get in a boat and go to a lonely place, a deserted place. When they get there, he finds a crowd had got there ahead of him. He heals them. He feeds them. He sends his disciples back in the boat, while he sends the crowds away. Finally, he has some time alone to pray, which he does on “the mountain.” Then sometime between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m., Jesus catches up to his disciple in the boat by walking on the water. He has not had a chance to sleep. The disciples have been struggling to row against stiff headwind. The disciples think he is a ghost or apparition at first, until he says, “It is I; do not be afraid.” Then Peter says, “If it really is you, command me to come to you on the water.” Jesus says, “Come.” Peter does and is able to walk on the water until he realizes how big the waves are and he loses his nerve. When Jesus gets in the boat the wind dies, and the disciples worship Jesus.
Our lives are feeling pretty overwhelming at the moment. I don’t know about you, but there is still no power at the Rectory. We are trying to eat all our refrigerated food before it goes bad. Alinda is making daily trips to get ice.
Peter sees Jesus walking on the water. He thinks this is not only cool, but an answer to his problems. And he does walk on the water, until he allows the waves to turn his attention away from Jesus. I am reminded of the scene in the book and movie, The Shack, in which the main character tries to walk on the water of a big lake and immediately sinks. Jesus comes and says, “Here, take my hand. This works better if we do it together.”
So I am wondering, what does it look like to cope with our difficulties with Jesus. We are buffeted by many challenges. How can we walk on top of the waves? Compassion is part of it. When Jesus saw the crowds, he did not tell his disciple to find another deserted place. felt for the people who were in need. Seeing one’s difficulties in the context of others’ gives perspective. John had just been killed. Having to put of his weekend a few hours didn’t seem like so big a deal to Jesus. When I get grumpy about the cold showers and not being able to watch TV, get to thinking about people who never have enough water of any kind. People who cannot avoid contact with COVID19. People who have the deck of economics stacked against them because of the color of their skins, and their parents, and grandparents skins.
And when in prayer, I put all those others in God’s hands, I find a new energy to do something useful. I can clean up some of the storm detritus. I can email my state legislators. I can attend a webinar. And then it can seem Jesus is holding my hand and I am not just swimming, but walking on the waves. Here is a quotation from St. Columba, founder of Iona, that expresses some of what I am feeling today:
The path I walk, Christ walks it.
May the land in which I am be without sorrow.
May the Trinity protect me wherever I stay,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Bright angels walk with me — dear presence —
in every dealing.
May I arrive at every place, may I return home;
may the way in which I spend be without loss.
May every path before me be smooth,
man, woman, and child welcome me.
A truly good journey!
Well does the fair Lord show us a course, a path.
We may be being buffeted now, but its truly a good journey.
 “The Protection of Columcille,” attributed to Columba of Iona.