Jesus says, "Come."
He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. Matthew 14. 22 - 33
I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know how to swim.
I don’t remember ever being afraid of the water.
In fact, I have always loved the water and been soothed by it.
When we lived in Cornwall, I began swimming competitively and eventually became the Cornwall county champion for the 50 yard freestyle…yes I did!
I lifeguarded and taught swimming lessons as a teenager
and I taught all my children to swim before they were a year old.
I have even been teaching my grandchildren to swim when I could.
I love the water and have never felt afraid, uncomfortable or out of control in it…
except in a boat in a storm.
I am married to a man who grew up on the water and was trained by his father to manage a boat in all weather conditions, and thus he did the same with our boys.
There doesn’t seem to be any weather condition that the Courtney men won’t go boating in.
Thus I have had several experiences in storms huddled down in the hull of the boat terrified that regardless of my physical prowess in the water, I was not going to be able to handle this situation and I was terrified.
Those have been times when I, like Peter, have cried out, “Lord save me!”
Those have been times, when I, like Peter, have doubted my captain!
When we look at this passage from the gospel of Matthew, many of us probably wonder if it really happened. If you translate scripture literally, it did really happen and you must believe that Peter walked on water, sank when he doubted himself and was saved by Jesus. I like that way of looking at it, however it only helps me when I am in a storm on the river or in the ocean.
Another way to look at it is to think figuratively about the notion of Jesus coming to us under unbelievable circumstances, showing up in places we would never expect him to be…in fact calling us into those places with confidence and hope in order to get through the storms.
When have you reached out for God and been led into the darkness on the way to the light.
Another way to look at it is to recognize that Peter challenged Jesus… “if it’s you, tell me to come to you in the water.”
How many times do we challenge God…do we say “if you can save me, please do”
“it is you God, I believe. I am with you.”
In this way of thinking, perhaps Peter doubted that it was really Jesus and thus he sank.
Moving away from the water imagery, think of the stormy conditions of our lives.
Fractured relationships, failing businesses, systemic racism, pandemic and disease…all these and so much more rattles us to our core, leaving us bereaved, lost, confused, terrified.
We find ourselves in desperate need of a source of strength greater than any human strength.
We long for an outreached hand, a calming influence, a savior.
However, I suspect many of us here have been in situations like these where that calming influence, that non-anxious presence came at the most unlikely time.
And at that unlikely time, we realize we have been very close to the One who walks on water.
In stepping out of the boat, Peter is true to form and he reminds the reader that in order to be an agent of the Kingdom of God, of blessing and restoration, one must be willing to take risks, to chance being a failure.
Riskless Christianity -- safe, huddled, stagnant -- stays in the boat.
My take-away from this gospel is to claim the miracle of the presence of God in the stormiest of conditions.
To celebrate the love of Jesus in the outreached hand of one who says, “I am here, I can help, Take my hand.”
And to embrace the sustaining presence of the Holy Spirit, God moving among us keeping us afloat as we persevere on this journey.
Doubt dilutes confidence and thus we sink. But without doubt we may not be forced to learn to swim.
We must keep the faith!
As Frederick Buechner says, “Faith in God is less apt to proceed from miracles than miracles from faith in God.”