The 10th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 14A (August 13, 2017)

Lessons:
1st Kings 19:9-18
Psalm 85:8-13 (8)
Romans 10:5-15
St. Matthew 14:22-33

Semicontinuous Series:
Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28
Psalm 105:1-6, 16-22, 45b (1, 45)

Prayer of the Day:
O God our defender, storms rage around and within us and cause us to be afraid. Rescue your people from despair, deliver your sons and daughters from fear, and preserve us in the faith of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Lesson:

14:22 Immediately [Jesus] made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. 25 And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”

28 Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.

St. Matthew 14:22-33. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Connection, Compassion, Kindness and Power

This week’s Gospel lesson tells a remarkable story. It features, as its most enduring image, the figure of Jesus, walking across the Sea of Galilee towards a distressed group of seafaring disciples. Battered by the waves, far from shore, fighting the wind, they have come to fear for their lives. To make matters worse, they suddenly glimpse what appears to be a ghost, making its way towards them. Terrified, they cry out in fear.

Jesus has come not to terrify them further, but to save them. As he prays by himself on the mountain, finally entering into the time of rest and meditation he sought after hearing that King Herod had executed John the Baptist, on some level he becomes aware that they are endangered. Rather than continue caring for himself, he makes his way across the waters. They don’t realize it at first, but their difficulty is about to end. Jesus will comfort them, saying “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” He will save Peter, whose fear left him vulnerable to the waters. He will calm the storm. He will elicit from them a profound profession of faith: “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Some are tempted to see in this story the encouragement to get out of the boat and walk in faith. This despite the fact that Peter accomplishes no more by setting foot on the waves than the disciples do by putting a hand to the oar. All are in mortal danger, threatened by powers of wind and sea that no human determination can conquer. Their terrified cries are well founded.

No, this story is about Jesus. Jesus, whose connection with his followers causes him to be aware of their difficulties far out on the sea. Jesus, whose compassion leads him to abandon his own time of caring for self and soul, and enter into the danger his disciples are facing. Jesus, whose kindness is expressed in words of comfort and encouragement. Jesus, whose power is evident in the calming that takes place in the waters, and in the disciples’ hearts.

In the midst of their distress, Jesus comes to them with connection, compassion, kindness and power. As he does for us. When resources at hand don’t seem sufficient to carry us through the day. When grief and sadness assault the walls of our hearts. When the diagnosis is the opposite of what we have been hoping and praying to receive. When treasured relationships are fractured and threatened. When the challenges at hand are far more than human determination can conquer, Jesus comes.

Connection, compassion, kindness and power. This is the gift of Christ. For you. For me. It is the hope on which we set our sights. It is the beacon that guides us through the dangers. It is the power and strength on which we can lean. May the presence of Christ be our source of strength and comfort in every time of difficulty. May it elicit in us the same response those disciples had: “Truly you are the Son of God.”

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What were the disciples feeling as they ran into difficulty far from land?
  2. Why do they first see Jesus as a dangerous; a source of additional fear?
  3. How does his action lead to their confession?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. When have I felt threatened and vulnerable?
  2. How has my faith been a source of strength and comfort in difficult times?
  3. What can I do to remind myself of God’s connection, compassion, kindness and power?

The author would love to hear what you think about this post.