Monday, August 11, 2014

Take Heart, You're Not the Miracle

This past Sunday I served as supply pastor for the congregation of one of my colleagues who is recovering from an accident. Her recovery has taken longer than any of us would want and it is so obvious that her people adore her as their leader. And her love for them is profound. They know it will be longer still.

I was told there would probably not be kids but about 6 showed up and so I decided we would sit together and sing "Jesus Loves Me" which when someone asked, included the sign language. I asked that the first time we sing that verse with the word "me" but the second time with the word "us."

Which means that we ended up singing- "We are weak, but he is strong."
I think that was just a little hard for us sing, but important to hear as we remember why we gather as the church and where our power and strength come from.
We heard in our lessons in the Psalm to listen to what the Lord is saying, and in Romans to remember it is not our own heroic efforts that matter. And of course, Jesus and briefly, Peter, are walking on water.

I have to confess that I would have been a horrible disciple. For one thing, I get seasick. No one in their right mind would’ve wanted me in their boat. And there were way too many boat trips for that to go well. But I think the even bigger reason why I would not have been a good disciple is that I can be impatient. Not only were there all those boat trips but in Jesus’ day, it was a very different matter. There were no motors, no GPS, no technology. They were at the mercy of the wind, and the waves and the weather. Like we hear in our gospel today.

This is actually the second boat story in Matthew. In the first, the disciples are in the boat and they hit a serious storm, and the boat is literally about to capsize, and they fear they will drown. And Jesus is asleep in the boat with them. They wake him up screaming perhaps trying to save him or maybe hoping he’ll do something. And he calms the storm. And they wonder if he could more than a great rabbi- maybe he’s the Son of God?

This time around, Jesus has just finished a major miracle in their presence, the feeding of thousands, and he has sent them on ahead of him because he wants time apart to pray. He has sent them to cross the Sea of Galilee but as we hear, the wind is against them. The waters are choppy, and it is a rough go. If you’ve ever been on a rough boat ride, you know, that trip seem to take an eternity.

They left in the evening, and now it is early morning. They’ve been up all night trying to navigate, and they’re battered and frazzled and tired. It’s been maybe close to 12 hours and they should be there by now. But they’re not. They’re still far from where they want to be. And they are NOT with their leader.

They just want to get where they’re headed but they are somewhere in between feeling kind of helpless.

Perhaps you too in the absence of your beloved pastor feel that way. She should be better by now and you should be together moving on in the journey of wherever ministry is headed.

It’s no small wonder the disciples don’t recognize Jesus when he comes, given what they’ve been through. And really, who had ever seen a human walk on water. What can this be? Jesus says, “Take heart, it’s me.” And that’s miraculous.

But if it’s a miracle, Peter leaps to the conclusion he wants to be a miracle too- command me to do that! I want to walk on water!

And Jesus, ever patient, tells him to “Come.”

But Jesus didn’t command Peter to do it first. That was Peter.

Years ago there was a book written called “If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Gotta Get Out of the Boat.” And when I was younger I loved that thought. Inspire people to get up and do something miraculous. Baloney. It can be easy to step out in faith, but a sustained faith takes more than us.

Peter steps out in faith but can’t sustain that faith by his own heroic efforts. He gets distracted- first by believing he is the miracle. And then when he blinks and realizes that while he is walking, the wind and the seas are still rough- he loses his nerve when we remembers the world around him. He takes his focus off of Jesus and that’s when he begins to sink.  

And Jesus could have let him. Jesus could have proclaimed this is Peter’s epic fail. But instead when Peter cries out, “Save me!” he reaches out his hand and puts him back in the boat. Take heart- the seas are calmed. Because I am here. And this time the disiples say- truly Jesus is the Son of God! And they’re further in their journey.

My Mom works as a hospice volunteer, and one of the things she talks about is the heart to heart hug. It’s a hug that focuses on the fact your heart and the patient’s heart touch in that hug that calms fears, and anxieties and shows love. I kind of imagine as Peter is hauled into the boat again, there is that moment where he gets a heart to heart hug to reassure him. As Jesus does what he always does- reaches out a hand- the hand that feeds, blesses, heals, saves and forgives.

I take heart that the disciples are a group that seem to have moments that they seem to grasp just who Jesus is, and then a whole bunch of moments where they clearly don’t, and then another moment where they clearly see God and then even colossal failures where they don’t. Because I think we are that way too.

But in all of those moments where we struggle to see Jesus in our midst, Jesus continues reaching out and meeting us and touching our hearts. Restoring, encouraging, saving us.

And I think as ever it’s important for us to remember that we are not the miracle. It is not up to any of us to be the miracle. Christ is the miracle in our lives. Who calls us to also remember that our focus should be upon Jesus and staying in the boat together as the church.

We don’t know the timing of the journey. And there are times we struggle to see God at work. But this gospel reminds us that the God who is powerful enough to command waves is also a God whose never ending desire is to continually reach out a hand and save us. A God who sees us through the tough times and promises there is more to the story.

May you take heart and be strengthened in hope that God will bring you to the next moments in ministry together.


No comments: