This Sunday's gospel reading (Matthew 14:22-33) is the familiar story of Jesus walking on the water and Peter jumping out of the boat to join him, getting freaked out and Jesus rescues him.
Since I started to blog the lectionary, I've been reading a lot of commentaries and they almost all focus on Peter (in one way or another) or even the disciples in the boat, but not Jesus.
The miracle of walking on water seems to be off limits. Is it because the divinity shines too bright?
My bible study group recently finished a Mark study written by Marcus Borg. His focus was how Jesus illustrates the Way and how He calls us to follow in that Way.
It's probably a huge mistake to take the theme of one Gospel and apply it to another, but why not?
|somewhere between Carpenteria and Ventura|
If we are called to follow the Way and use Jesus' actions and words as examples, what does this passage tell us? What does Jesus say and do here?
First, that solitary prayer is important, which no doubt delights every introvert I know (including me).
Second, that this alone time with God is transformative, as anyone who was been on a quiet or silent retreat could attest. The time alone gives God space to work on us, free of distractions, like crowds and disciples.
The transformation is illustrated in this passage by Jesus appearing like a ghost to those who knew him.
Imagine yourself in Jesus' place. You've just spent time refilling the well with God in prayer and holy listening. Struggle is followed by epiphany followed by a renewed sense of purpose followed by a deep peace. More or less. You might even receive comments from family, friends or coworkers that you seem a bit different.
Like Moses, like the transfigured Jesus, we too become shining lights. God within us is allowed to shine.
Third, when I imagine this scene I see chaos all around Jesus--in the rough waves and battering wind--but Jesus himself is all calm, an oasis.
When our world is chaotic, don't we, like the disciples, like Peter, want a little bit of that peace and calm that Jesus has in this scene?
Don’t we really want to believe we can have that calm? And yet have that little bit of doubt? “Lord, if that is you…”
Fourth, imagine having that calm and seeing another claim it too, and then start to lose that peaceful center? Wouldn’t you reach out before they were lost to the chaos again? Jesus shows us the way again. We reach out and rescue.
And when Jesus and Peter gets back into the boat, that calm spreads to the disciples, to the entire Sea. All is peace.
Anxiety is contagious. It can spread like wildfire and everything seems out-of-control and chaotic. My Lamentations earlier this week is a good illustration of that. My freaking out about the High Holy Days in 9 weeks would be another. (Despite folks, including my husband, telling me to breathe and that I’ve got this.)
What if the meaning of this passage is that deep peace can be just as contagious? That it can start with one person, maybe you or me, then spread to another?
It might seem perilous to hang onto that calm, but we can encourage each other to keep anxious chaos at bay so that ultimately the entire world would be at peace too, just as the Sea is calmed.