Peter Walking on Water & Elijah and the Still Small voice
Matthew 14:22-33; 1 Kings 19:9-18:
- In the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC there is a four piece art series by Thomas Cole called The Voyage of Life. It was completed in 1842. It depicts Cole’s vision of the serenity of birth, youth, adulthood and old age – each with a person of a specific age in a boat on water with amazing landscape. At the bow of the boat is an angel holding an hour glass. Somewhere in each painting is another angel either in the boat, on the shore or beckoning from the sky. When one views Manhood (the 3rd in the series), the waters are stormy, dark clouds above and rapids and rocky waters ahead. The man is on his knees praying in desperation and the angel is far off in the sky looking down. Cole seems to be saying that when life gets turbulent, we pray, seeking God’s presence and help.
- In today’s gospel lesson, the disciples are in the boat on the sea and the wind and waves are strong. I have been on the Sea of Galilee two times, and once we were experiencing the end results of a great sand storm that had come up from the Sahara – it was so dusty/foggy that we could not see the shore. The other time, this year, it was beautiful, yet windy and took some time to get to the shore. I can imagine what the disciples (even those who were fishermen and used to being on the sea!) felt that night.
- The disciples see what they believe to be a ghost. They cry out, much like we might in the midst of the storms of our lives when we encounter something totally unexpected or unfamiliar.
- Then they hear the voice of Jesus: Take hart! It is I! Fear not!
- How we long to hear that voice in the midst of the storms of our lives!
- Peter, ever the brave one, decides to join Jesus on the water. Jesus beckons him out, and Peter walks on water!
- In our lives, we sometimes get brave and say, “Lord, I can handle this. Let me do it on my own.”
- The wind increases, perhaps the waves swell. Peter gets distracted from Jesus and begins to sink. “Lord, save me!” he cries. And Jesus does.
- How often do we get distracted in life from focusing on Jesus and begin to sink. Brave for a while, like a child who has learned to tie their shoes or ride a bike we exclaim – I can do this! Let me do it alone! I don’t need you! – then, when we fail or fall, (and left to ourselves we inevitably will!) – we cry for help.
- And there is Jesus, ready to pull us up to safety. Every time.
- Elijah, in the Old Testament lesson, has just slain the prophets of the Baal, and the queen is after his head. He runs to the mountains to seek God, and expects to be rescued. “There is no one else left who believes in you but me! And they are going to kill me!” he cries. God tells him to go stand in the opening of the cave where he has sought refuge. A great wind that can split mountains comes; an earthquake occurs; a great fire comes upon the land. But God is not found in any of these. Then the sound of sheer silence descends. AND NOW ELIJAH WRAPS HIS MANTLE AROUND HIM AND KNEELS, FOR GOD IS FOUND IN THE SILENCE AND THE STILL SMALL VOICE.
- And what does this voice say? You are not alone. There are others who are faithful. Your work is NOT complete. Get down off this mountain- quit hiding AND GET BUSY!
- The same was true for the disciples: they see the ghost, are comforted by the voice of Jesus, walk on water, cry out for safety, are saved and peace and calm come when Jesus and Peter are back in the boat. Then they proclaim “Surely you are the Son of God!” Their proclamation of faith did not end on that stormy night. They would spend the rest of their lives proclaiming who Jesus is – sometimes at great peril!
- God calls you and me to live our lives, sometimes in quiet, sometime in stormy seas. But the voice of Jesus – sometimes bold, sometimes in sheer silence – is there to comfort us.
- As we engage in our mission and ministry: feeding the homeless, comforting the sick, riding the subway, welcoming the sojourner, praying with colleagues, cooking dinner, smiling at Starbucks or Bloomingdales in the midst of rude customers, teaching children and young adults, editing books, making sure accounts are accurate, using whatever gifts God has given us – being a light to the world: God is there. Listen for the voice – sometimes bold, sometimes quiet. Take hart! It is I! Fear not!