Preacher Revd David Gardiner
May the words of my lips and the meditations of all our hearts be forever pleasing in your sight O God, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
Have you ever been in a place where everything seems to be set against you? Have you ever experienced what it’s like when you’re doing what you know is right, and the world hates you for it? Or perhaps you’ve been minding your own business, not troubling the world and certainly doing nothing wrong, when suddenly everything you know starts crashing down around your ears?
I think that’s what’s going on in our Gospel today. I think what we have here is a lesson in crisis management.
I wonder if there’s anyone you can identify with in our Gospel? Perhaps you identify with Peter, who went where Jesus told him to go, a simple boat journey across the Sea of Galilee, and ended up spending the night in a small boat, tossed by wind and waves, unable to sleep, threatened by forces that came on him randomly, not as a result of any of his actions. He did not embarrass a king. He did not anger a Queen. Yet there he was, cold and miserable, when dawn broke and there was Jesus, walking over the water to their boat.
The disciples are all afraid, as I think I would be, seeing a figure come out of the mist, walking on the water. They must have wondered whether their eyes were deceiving them after their night in the boat. But it is Peter who responds to Jesus’ assertion that he is himself and asks for an order to come to Jesus on the water to prove he is who he says he is. The order is given, and it is Peter, in an act of great faith, who gets out of the boat and comes to Jesus.
Yet as he is crossing the water, he realises what he is doing. The wind and waves remind him that he is not usually able to walk on water, and he panics. He starts to sink, and in that moment he cries out: “Lord, save me!”
Jesus immediately reaches out and catches him. Jesus’ question to Peter “why did you doubt?” is a question of faith; a question of the difficulty of managing to live without doubt as a human.
Paul said the law was too hard for us to follow, and that’s why God provided salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. the fact is it’s still hard to maintain such a faith in hard times and when facing fear.
We can all be ironic at Peter’s lack of faith in his failing to get all the way to Jesus Christ, but we also need to remember he was the only one to leave the boat. The others all stayed where they were. Peter may have had a crisis of faith as he walked on the water, but at least he did actually follow God’s directions and got out of the boat.
The question for us is not just how we will maintain our faith in the face of adversity, as sometimes that is beyond our limited capacity. It’s also a question of what we do when we are faced with such a crisis of faith. Peter turned to God in his fear and panic. And when Peter cried out, Jesus Christ reached out and caught him ‘immediately’.
The help we get when we are in trouble may not be the same every time or for everyone. it also may not be what we’re expecting. But it will always come. We need to be ready to ask for it.
But there’s another side to all this, a side that’s brought up by Paul. We, like Peter, have come to know Christ. We know we have this source of help available to us in times of trouble, even if, like Peter, we struggle in how much confidence and faith we have from day to day.
But there are plenty of people out there who don’t.
There are many people out there in the world we live in who don’t know these things, or only really catch a hint of the grace and hope available. It is our job to show it to them, our task to be God’s ambassadors. Daunting?
I want to finish with these other words from Paul, from his letter to the Ephesians. Let it be our prayer for ourselves and our church in times of ease and in times of trouble:
“Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.”