To our readers:
Prize Fighters have a saying: “The fight is won in the gym.” pastors have a similar attitude about fall programs all the way to Advent: they are made a success in the summer right about now. We are no different. Also in the summer our children are idle and we can have time with them. It is called vacation. In my case, it is called Band Camp with #1 Daughter. It is a time out for me as much as vacation. St. Peter got called out of daily living to walk on water, we are called out of daily routine to play with children and plot the overthrow of the reign of death and evil.
You might have noticed that our posts are . . well . . lacking right now. We are in the tail edge of summer. That is why. But as you came looking, here is a Matthew 14 inspired nuggets for you. Please enjoy it.
A short Meditation on the walking on the sea.
St. Peter was in his element. He loved the sea. No, not the high seas but his little sea of Galilee. He had known her all his life. He had grown up on her shores. His father, his uncles, his brother, all the men in his family knew this little sea very well. He was in his element whenever Jesus made them set out to cross the sea.
When Simon was not even able to speak and walk all that well he already knew how to mend and clean the great fishing net that his father Jonah used every evening and morning to go and make a catch for the family and the family business. Simon had sailed and fished on this sea since, well he could not really remember a time that he had not been in a boat and gone to do the work with the men.
At first he had been more than a nuisance to the men. Jonah’s nets were heavy even they were dry. They were even heavier when they came up even when they were empty. They were almost impossible to lift out of the water when they full. Simon’s little boy arms would strain as he tried to help. His father and uncles would laugh as his face grimaced under the strain.
Most of the time his job on board was to sort fish. He was a little boy and sat at the bottom of the boat up to his waist in flopping fish as he went about his task. Early on he learned what was good fish and needed keeping and what was bad fish that no one would buy at market. He knew what was big enough to keep and what he better get out of the boat quickly so it could swim away and grow before being caught and kept again.
He spent his early youth that way. Like any young boy he was given to daydream. When he did Jonah would get quite upset at him: “Simon, you are throwing away good fish. What are you thinking. Pay attention!” Simon was very happy when his little brother Andrew was finally given the sorting job. Well, the sorting job never really left him. When they were waiting for the net to fill, everyone on board joined in the sorting.
Yes, when he had become a young man, he had also become strong. Strong as any man on board and he got to pull net. It made him feel important. There was a downside as well. If you are strong you get to man the oars while the old men tend the rudder and sail. But as any young lad will, Simon dropped the oar now and then when he thought the sail was out of control. Jonah did not take that lightly. He would yell: “Simon! We all have our job on this boat! You do yours and I will tend mine! If we don’t neither will get actually done! Sit down and row!”
Soon Simon had his own boat. His own nets. He was on the rudder and the rail. He flew the sail. He knew his little sea like the back of his hand. He knew what she would do next. What winds would follow what clouds. Where the fish were hiding. He knew when to go out and when to stay on shore and wait it out till better weather. He was in his prime and this little sea was his home. She was his element.
Little brother Andrew had gotten him involved with the man from Nazareth: Jesus. Andrew had come to his house and announced that he had found the messiah. Simon had followed Andrew and now he was a disciple of Jesus. He did not go fishing that often any longer. He mainly walked the dusty back roads of Galilee these days. But now and then Jesus would come to the lake shore and even set out across the lake. And whenever that happened, Peter was sure to take charge of rudder and sail.
Only, Jesus seemed to have no knack for knowing when to set out. Once he set out at night and they had ended up sailing right into a storm. It had been a disaster. With all his skill and all his strength at oar, yes, he had dropped the sail and taken to the oars with all his might, but it was useless, he could not save the boat. And Jesus slept through it all. Until John woke him up because he was afraid. Well, actually they all had been afraid, but only little John had had the guts to admit it at first. He had woken Jesus up and Jesus had done something that still stuck with Peter because he had never seen it. With a wave of his had and a word he had stopped the wind.
It stuck with Simon Peter. They had gotten out of that storm with their lives and a flooded boat. Now Jesus was again making them sail the sea at the wrong time of day. It was that stormy night all over again, only this time Jesus stayed behind and made them go it by themselves. They had sailed this sea enough. They would make it. But they were uneasy.
It was a rotten night for crossing the sea. The wind was against them and they had to take to those dreaded oars again, and still their progress was slow. Actually, it was not just slow, they were going nowhere at a great expense of energy. As far as Peter could tell they were just plain stuck dead in place just struggling to just stay even with the wind and waves.
The sea plays tricks with you now and then. At the third watch they saw something that looked very much like a man walking on the waters. At first they thought in the night their eye were playing tricks. Then they became frightened. The water at night is not a safe place, this had to be a ghost or worse, the angel of death.
Some laid into the oars, some tried to hoist the sail, dropping their oar duties as they did so. Peter noticed that nobody was rowing on starboard. He dropped the rudder and laid into one of the starboard oars. But that made the situation even more confused since now the rudder was unmanned. Before long all of them were trying to do what each thought was the best to do right then. You should have seen the confusion! Oars thrashing, sails whipping across the deck, disciples falling all over themselves, little John hanging on for dear life to the mast.
Jesus saw this little mess and called to them: “It is I! Don’t be afraid!” They knew his voice. Simon was embarrassed. Embarrassment was a common state for Simon Peter, at least in the way I tell his stories. He knew wind, water, and sail but just look at the state his boat had gotten into. It is true, when you are messing up the whole world is watching; do something brilliant, no one is around. What was worse, this was Jesus, whom Simon Peter wanted to impress. He did not want to have the Lord see him mess up this way.
Equally strong as his state of embarrassment was Peter’s curiosity. Jesus was out on the lake at night. WITHOUT A BOAT! Now, that is just not normal. This was his sea and if someone had a new trick with her waves he wanted to know. “Lord, if that is you, command me to come to you over the waves.” Simon yelled. “Very well, come Simon.” Jesus answered. Simon got out of the boat and onto the waves.
To his surprise, he did not sink. He was walking on water! This is just not natural, but he made his way toward the Lord. He had no idea what he would do when he got there, but he walked on nonetheless, wind, waves, and all. Wind and waves. Wind and waves! He belonged in that boat over there, not out on the water. He turned to catch glimpse of a little boat in a perfect state of chaos. Nobody was doing what they were supposed to. The sail was half up, it needed to be down, it flapped around untrimmed, it needed to be under control; the oars were manned only on one side so it was going in a circle, the thing was listing heavily and taking water, no one was paying attention to where anyone was, they were shouting at each other about what each thought the other should do, and no one was on the rudder where he, Simon, should be right about now. With that realization in his mind he sank. Immediately Jesus grabbed him and dragged him to the boat. They got in.
The wind stopped. The Waves stopped. “Now I could do it,” Peter thought, but did not say anything. Anyone can sit in a boat on a glassy sea. It is not trick. It is when the winds blow and the sea turns on you that you are found to be a sailor. Peter realized that night that he had failed. Not at walking on water, he had done that at least for a moment. No, he had failed at guiding his boat, something he should actually have been good at.
In his 1st letter that he would write many years later, he comforted the church telling them that it was not a strange thing that they were suffering under the evil that lived next door as if it had been sown there just to make their life difficult. He advised them not to worry about it but instead to pay attention to their own life. If the world was to see Christ, then someone would have to live like a child of the new creation. It was not about making everyone around you change so you like them. It was about bearing the fruits of Jesus resurrection in your own life. That, and nothing else, is your oar to pull. Rejoice and do it well.
In writing this Peter had taken to heart the story of the wheat and the tares that Jesus had told only days before the incident at sea. Life is a storm sometimes. Sometimes, weeds move in next to you and assail you. Sometimes Herod kills John. But the Lord is the master. Master of sea and field. He sowed you, he send you out to sea; to bear fruit or to make a catch, not to fight the weeds or walk on water. You are to do good instead of evil - to bless instead of curse - to praise instead of criticize - to help instead of stand off - to love instead of hate - to forgive instead of resent - to tell truth instead of lies. Now and again you will eat manna as a foretaste of heaven. But normally it will be the day after Sabbath and work will demanded of you. Your work. It is yours and not anyone else’s. Manna has its time and God ordains that moment. Work has its time and God rains there as well. And even now he takes embarrassed old fishermen who try to walk on the sea back to the boat to tend their rudders, where in the end they do the good they were meant to.