Fear of Storms

Proper 14, Year A, RCL, Track 2

1 Kings 19:9-18, Romans 10:5-15, Matthew 14:22-33

A detail from, Herbert Boeckl`s fresco "Saint Peter`s rescue from the Lake Galilee" (1928) inside the pilgrimage church Assumption of Mary, market town Maria Saal, district Klagenfurt Land, Carinthia, Austria, EU. Photo by Johann Jaritz / CC BY-SA 3.0 AT

He was focused on the Lord. He is walking on water and then Peter becomes distracted. Shifting his focus to the blustering wind and the tumultuous sea; he begins to sink. Jesus reaches out and catching him he says, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” Once back in the boat the weather calms and all the people worship Jesus saying, “Truly you are the Son of God”.

I think we all know this story. We see a miracle of walking on water but I wonder if this miracle isn’t so much that Jesus walks on the water, for he is the Son of God, the Messiah. But the miracle we recognize is Peter, one of us, a fellow disciple; we see someone like ourselves walking on the water. This is the real power and amazement found in the story. It is a story of great faith that is quickly lost. A simple man who goes from safety, to adversity, to the peril of death, and in a moment, back to safety again.

We may not walk on water. We know it is impossible. And I wonder if it is because we know it is impossible, that we will never do it. It would take a great amount of faith for me to have such confidence knowing that I could step out onto the surface of the water and not sink. Just imagine what it would take for any of us to go to Eagle Lake and simply attempt to walk across it. You would not put on your bathing suit. You wouldn’t be worried about the alligators. You would simply step out and walk across the small lake. Much like Peter, it would probably take the actual appearance of the Lord himself, calling me to step out, before I had that much faith. But beyond the literality of this story, we know that the wind blows in our lives, that there are many times of unrest and dis-ease.

The winds of the world can blow fear into our lives. We see this through the political memes that tell us we need to be afraid of what is happening in the world. We need to fear who is in office, or who will be in office. There is plenty of fear-mongering about the all too real virus that affects our daily lives in so many more ways than we could have imagined. Even beyond this, there are storms that blow into our lives. Regardless of politics and pandemic, we are still buffeted by marital or family struggles, finances, the concerns of work, or the demands of caregiving. We may feel completely worn out by the constant barrage of wind and waves. We may feel like we are sinking.

The storms in our lives are real, whether they are actual storms like a hurricane or metaphoric storms. But we do not find the Lord in these storms; meaning we will not find God by seeking him in the actual difficulty we experience. Elijah did not find God in the wind, or the earthquake, or the fire. For Elijah, God was in the sound of sheer silence. Wherever God was, it was identifiable to Elijah and he knew that God was near. He puts on his mantle and covers his face before he goes out into this “sound.” For the disciples, the Lord was not in the stormy sea or the wind that tosses their boat. The disciples found Jesus on the water walking toward them; a calming force that is outside the storm yet within their grasp. The Lord is not in the horrors themselves but by our side, with us; walking with us through the perils of life. When we find ourselves in the grips of fear, we can turn to the Lord and when we recognize him, he says, “Take heart, it is I, do not be afraid.”

These feelings are the story of our faith. When we open our ancient texts, we find people, not too dissimilar to ourselves, struggling with issues very much like our own. As we find in these stories, and likely in our own lives, there are times when all we cling to is our faith. We reach out our hand, grasping for the Lord whom we pray is within reach. And I think we find that he usually is. He is there even when we have little faith. He is there telling us not to be afraid. He is there to take our hand as we gasp for air, to put us in the boat and tell us that all will be well. All will be well.

Maybe it is true that we do not have enough faith to walk on water. But I pray that each of us has enough faith to blindly reach out to the Lord when we are in trouble. Then we can let go of the fear and we may find that we are resting in his loving embrace; we find that the storm is calm and that his promise is true. He is with us now, and to the end, and beyond.

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