Church of England Diocese of Bath & Wells Portbury

Sunday 09/08/20

9 Aug 2020, midnight

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Matthew 14:22-33 1 Kings 19:9-18

After the feeding of the five thousand, we have the account of Jesus walking on the water of the lake. We could almost say: of course, if he can feed the crowd on basically nothing, surely, he can walk on water! We don’t mean to be disrespectful, but we can expect the Son of God to manifest power based on his special authority. If only we see it. For the things of God, as revealed at the beginning of creation, as well as his dealings with people all through history, and the law and the prophets, are being proclaimed now, anew, by Jesus. As somebody has remarked, the scene of Jesus (and Peter) on the water, has rarely ever been painted. Perhaps because it was so tricky to portray, or perhaps because some people would say it went too far, in showing up Peter’s shortcomings in terms of his faith. Whatever the reason for not painting this scene, it still is a powerful record of the way in which God is above the created order. It shows us how he uses creation ‘as a footstool’, as the Psalm says, and that faith in God can be a witness to his glory. And when it comes to the glory of God and our relationship with him, we shouldn’t be too worried about Peter’s reputation, or our own as it happens. I like Peter; he’s a bit of a larger-than-life character: impulsive, ready for anything, as long as it means action, tending to act first and think later. An endearing but somewhat risky characteristic. But then, what kind of friend would you rather have: one who did what seemed the right thing and then worried about it afterwards, or one who spent so much time thinking it all through that it would take weeks or months before anything got done? I’ve got a cousin who described his two sisters like that: one as impetuous, acting without thinking, and the other as thinking, without ever acting. But let’s not digress.

Here is the picture: we are all in the boat, and there, all of a sudden, is a strange figure, walking towards us. He looks like a ghost, an image of fantasy; just like many people in the world see him, unrelated to our lives or our problems. Some find him frightening; others wish he’d go away and leave them alone. There are others, like the disciples, who believe in him, but still don’t know what to expect from him. He often does the impossible, like healing the sick, raising the dead, feeding the crowds, and challenging the religious authorities. Some people think it would be good to copy him, if only they could, and set out to bring his love and power, his peace and hope, to our world so full of need. But then they allow their focus to change: instead of keeping their eyes on Jesus, they let them drop and fall on the size of the problem. Instead of seeing Jesus, they see the darkness, the waves and the wind. Is that how our own faith works? Looking at the impossible and forgetting that God is with us? Christian discipleship is a bit like that. We know that we’re not supposed to walk on water in the literal sense, but other things, like wrestling with temptation, or focussing on our prayer life, are not impossible for us to do – if we keep our eyes fixed on the One who has perfect and total authority, whether we see it or not.

Our hearts and wills may bounce up and down, as far as we allow them to be tossed by the wind and the waves of life. But if we are ready to listen to the encouragement of Jesus himself, we can stand. Who is it that created the world, and who has authority over it? That’s the one who rules, and that’s the one who saves. Amen.