Out of the Boat

27th August 2011

Matthew 14: 22 – 33

I wonder somewhere at the back of your mind you still remember the most difficult and challenging time you went through in life?  A time when you almost lose hope?  

Last Sunday we heard about the feeding of the Five Thousand men.  Today is about another miracle. Jesus walked on the water and Peter too had an experience to walk on the water because Jesus invited him, but fear made him sunk.

This is a well-known story for us Christians, but has a fresh message as each time we engage with it.

Fear is everywhere.  Nobody lives on this planet escape from it.  It is part of our fallen nature.  One of the common fears that affect people in this century is ‘dementia’.  There is a flyer that says ‘cure for dementia at last’. And then says;  ‘Will you help us find the answers to dementia?  750,000 people in the UK have dementia and over a million will have it by 2021. I presume many people fear it even though they don’t actually have the disease.  Fear paralyses a person emotionally just by thinking about its side effect.

Even in the Church there is fear among the clergy, because of the fewer number.  According to the Church times on 15th July 2011, the headlines says; C of E faces demise in ‘perfect storm’ Synod is told.  During a question and answer session, Dr Richmond asked whether the Church commissioners were aware of models that predicted that the Church would fail to be ‘functionally extant’ in 20 years time.  The perfect storm we can see arriving fast on the horizon is the ageing congregation.  The average age is 61 now with many congregations above that…  In response to this Archbishop Rowan shares his vision of a Church in love with God.  Furthermore, he says, ‘it is only when believers are passionate about the God who has not abandoned them that others will see faith as a gift of transformed relation with the world (as well as with God).

Matthew, Mark and John both recorded this event - Jesus sending the disciples on a boat ahead of him. For Matthew, this passage clarifies Herod’s searching statement on chapter 14:2:  ‘He is really John the Baptist, who has come back to life,” he told his officials.  “That is why he has this power to perform miracles.”  

The disciples’ obedience to Jesus made them caught up with the stormy sea.  I believe most of them might have complained about going on their own without Jesus. They are just human like us.  However, despite of the storm they try to keep the boat safe.  In the midst of their struggle they see a figure walking towards them.  That makes them even more terrified and they cried out in fear thinking Jesus is a ghost.   What makes them not to recognise Jesus?  At that very moment, their minds are occupied by the waves. It is true that in the middle of storm, tormented by waves of disappointment and doubt, we are just like the disciples and God seem too far. Matthew wants us to know that it takes the eyes of faith to see and recognise Jesus is around.

In the Scripture there is a pattern to stories of those called by God for a special mission.  God has his own ways to catch the people’s attentions – for instance the burning bush, or wind and fire and now walking on the water.  Such extraordinary happening is part of God’s call to a particular person.  In each situation the person that God called is afraid, however, they always said ‘yes’ to God and they experienced the power of God in their lives. 

The stormy sea is not about bad weather, but to make known to the disciples of their special vocation and who Jesus is.

Jesus knew it was the right time to show the disciples that He was God.  He was revealing his divine presence and power.  Only God can do such a thing.  ‘He alone….treads on the waves of the sea’. On the other hand, it is the right time for the disciples to put their complete trust and confidence in Jesus.  Jesus said, ‘take courage, it is me’.  In other words your destiny is in my safe hands.

Jesus comes to them at 3.00 am. According to the Scripture, God’s meeting place is often at the lowest dark moments of a person’s life.

The disciples recognise Jesus’ voice and Peter a person who acts before he thinks, asks Jesus if he could join Him on the water.  Jesus commands him ‘come’, but when he notices the waves, he sinks down.   Imagine, it is dark, the winding is blowing hard and the waves are very high.

Jesus invited you to go on the adventure of your life.  However, you are so scared.  What would you and I do?  Would we choose to stay in the boat, which is safe, secure and comfortable?  On the hand, the water is rough, the waves are high and the wind is blowing hard, and there is a storm out there.  

If you and I choose to stay in the boat, we will never experience the adventure that Jesus is inviting each of us.  ‘You and I were made for something far more than merely to avoid failure.  We are so scared of making mistakes and fooling ourselves.  The fear of others too can make us to lose our faith and trust in God.  The Gospel urges us that we are called to a very high calling from God.    However, there is something inside each of us that wants to walk on the water – to leave the comfort zones of our lives and surrender ourselves to the high calling and the adventure to follow God.  The question is: what is your boat and what is my boat?  A boat is whatever represents safety and security to each of us apart from God.  Things that pull us away from the high adventure of what it means to be a really disciple!

We too we will never escape storm in our journey.  The storms, difficulties and challenges confirms to us not to rely on ourselves, but in God alone.   It is God who reveals himself and calls each one of us.

Never fix our attention on issues and problems, because they make us fall, but look beyond them through the eyes of faith in Jesus who is God. The disciples worshipped Jesus.  “Truly you are the Son of God!’ they exclaimed. And that can be your prayer and mine.  In our adventure with Christ, we will continue to be surprised by Him and there is no right word to express or describe who Jesus is, except to get down to our knees and worships Him. 

Sister Veronica CSC

St. Michael's Convent, Ham Common