THis week's Gospel passage is Matthew's telling of Jesus walking on the water and the stilling of the storm. Traditionally I have heard this passage talked about either as a way to show us how we lack faith (Peter sinking in the waves) or as a comforting story of how God is always with us, even when life sucks. But while these two things are undeniably there this week I am being drawn toward the storm.
Any world-wise boat person would know when it was a bad time to go out on the water. But the disciples still manage to get caught in a storm (although the Sea of Galilee is reputed to be prone to sudden storms). In fact the passage says thta Jesus sent them out on the water. Sent them out into the storm as it were.
Emergency management people always tell us to seek cover when storms approach. Common sense says the same thing. But this week I am drawn to Peter. Peter, who not only is caught out in a storm but chooses to leave the relative safety of the boat and put himself at the mercy of the waves. I wonder what that says. If the church is the boat (a common interpretation) then maybe Peter understands that there are times when you have to leave what is safe. I have been known to stand in front of our picture window and watch golf-ball sixed hail bounce off of it (Patty was less than impressed with me that day). I think that sometimes we are only faithful when we dare to walk through the storm. I think that there are many many storms around us and part of our job is to stand out there and bear the elements. If we try to build refuges and hide from the storm then we can get stuck, we can stop growing.
What do we need to do to gain the courage to take the risk of going out into the storm? What does it mean to brave the storm of social change, or the storm of economic strife, or the storm of a faith reworking itself for a new world? More and more I applaud Peter's act of getting out of the boat. We may flail around in the water at times but risking is an important part of growing.
Two songs have been weaving through my thoughts this week. One is "Never Walk Alone" from the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical Carousel. The other is an old hymn (that I have never sung but have read the lyrics to somewhere) called "Stand By Me".
Now just to make a sermon out of all these thoughts...