Jesus tries to get away, alone, to get some Facetime with his Father, but as we recall, over 5,000 hungry people followed him, so he and disciples fed them. Now he sends the disciples out on their own to the “other side” of the sea while he finally gets a break (Matthew 14:22-33). He trusts they know what to do. There are people there that need their help. But the seas are rough, the wind is fierce and they struggle to keep the boat afloat.
Perhaps this is a metaphor for so many of us buffeted by the winds of the Novel Coronavirus, over 160,000 Americans dead and counting, who knows how many times that number of families and friends who are grieving, confusion over what to do about the Pandemic, unemployment is high, businesses closing, racial tensions erupting nearly every day, lock-downs and quarantines, masks and sanitizers, the US Mail has slowed down, questions about a safe election in the fall, and more, so much more, all come together to make it feel as if the ship of State as well as our own personal boats are struggling to keep afloat. And if it isn’t external winds buffeting us, there are the sleepless nights, low and even high-level depression settling in, anxieties and fears and other effects of the ongoing isolation and disruption of much, if not all, of our daily routines becomes exhausting – physically and emotionally.
Jesus senses the problem and comes to his friends in the boat – walking on the water. They think it’s a ghost. Only Peter knows who it is and asks, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” Take heart, it is I, says Jesus. Do not be afraid. Peter steps out of the boat. All is going well until he realizes how wild and tempestuous it is when you get out of the boat to follow Jesus! Peter begins to sink and cries out for help. “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reaches out his hand, catches him and says, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
As courageous as it was for Peter to step out of the boat, which is really what Jesus is asking all of us who want to follow him to do; we who have promised in our baptism to follow and obey him. It is even more courageous for Peter to ask for help. How many of us do our best to pretend all is well, when things have rarely, if ever, been as dangerous and chaotic as they seem right now? Peter is the most courageous one in that boat, both for stepping out to follow Jesus, and for calling out for help. Asking for help is the first step to getting saved. Yet, how often do we really do this – call for help?
But why does Jesus say, “…why did you doubt,” I wonder. Why did you doubt? But he does not doubt it is Jesus; he steps out of the boat sure that it is. As I was running on Friday morning, and singing in my head, “Help me Lord, Help me Lord, Help me Lord I’m feeling low…” It happened. Like Elijah waiting in the crevice of a rock for God to come to him; Elijah who endures, like us and the disciples in the boat, wind, earthquake and fire – finally hears a still small voice. Suddenly I lost all sense of the world around me, and a voice came to me and said, “I was telling Peter not to doubt himself! I could see he believed in me, but he doubted himself – that he could withstand the winds and the waves and the danger we all faced all around us. I wanted him to know, “You can do it, Peter! You were doing it! You will survive long after I am gone. Don’t doubt yourself!” Just as suddenly, I was back running around the parking lot wondering what lap it was and where had I just been.
That’s what the Lord wants us to hear today: call out to Jesus for help, and He will remind you: Do not doubt yourself. Call on me. Call on the others. We can survive the winds and waves that swirl about us if we just step out of the boat and walk with Jesus wherever he goes. If we go to be with all those he goes to see. Indeed, when they get to the other side, we will read there are many more like us in need of his healing and saving touch. Just barely touching the hem of his garment, they are healed, saved, and given the courage to trust themselves to survive. Do not doubt yourself. Have faith and do not fear. Reach out your hand, and I’ll be there to lead you safely home – your true home is with me, my Father and the Holy Spirit. Amen.