|Like Peter, a lot of us lose our faith and question God at times. But stay strong and put all of your trust in Him. He will protect you.|
August 10, 2014
HOMILY FOR THE NINTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, 2014
Today’s Gospel reading is a continuation of last week’s. Jesus and his disciples have finished feeding the multitude, and now Jesus sends his disciples away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee while he sends the crowds home. Finally Jesus is alone and can pray on the mountain for John the Baptist, for his own mission, and for the strength to see his mission through. In his reflections perhaps he thought not only of John, with whom he was close, but also reflected on Elijah, who in Jewish belief is to be the forerunner of the coming of the Messiah.
The work of prophets is often solitary and dangerous. Look at the ending of John’s ministry. Look at the predicament that Elijah is in, described in this morning’s Old Testament lesson. All the prophets of God have been slain by the worshippers of Baal, god of the Canaanites. Under the influence of Queen Jezebel, King Ahab has turned his back on God. Only Elijah is left of his prophets, and he is hiding in a cave on Mount Horeb, the Mountain of God, because his life is sought also.
God comes to Elijah, not as wind, not as earthquake, not as fire, but as sheer silence. Elijah wraps his cloak around his face so as to not look upon the Lord, and is given the next part of his task. There is no question of his quibbling about what he is instructed to do. He knows his calling and accepts his next tasks without question. He is a paradigm of faith and faithfulness. Faith in God is what sees him through the perils of his lonely mission. His relationship with God spares him from death. So great is his faith and his faithfulness that he is taken up to heaven in a whirlwind.
Faith in God and faithfulness to God is what makes it possible for Jesus to feed the multitude and walk on the waters. Just as he fed those who came to listen to him, he feeds our spirits, and heals our troubled minds. While Jesus is praying alone on the mountain, the disciples are carried by wind and waves away from the shore. They are alone in the middle of the sea. The wind is against them. They cannot get to the opposite shore-they cannot get back to the shore they set out from. There are large waves. Isn’t their situation ours as well? Isn´t our journey through life like a boat trip in which we strive to reach the other side? Aren’t we often afraid? Don´t we feel alone and abandoned at times? Aren’t the wind and waves metaphors for the problems we face in our lives? Isn´t that longed for other side the place where we will find love, safety and comfort-is it not like the heavenly shore we want to reach someday? And aren´t we frightened at times, and don´t we feel abandoned, so alone?
When Jesus comes to his disciples walking on the sea they are terrified. If you were far out on Lake Atitlán and someone came walking to your boat when the Xocomil was blowing wouldn’t you be frightened? Jesus immediately seeks to reassure his disciples “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” Jesus is with them, as he is with us, when we are in trouble. His first message is “do not be afraid”. Fear is the enemy of faith, because it marches hand in hand with doubt.
Peter asks for proof that it is Jesus-he asks to be commanded to come to Jesus, on the water. Jesus says to him very simply “Come”. Peter gets out of the boat and begins to walk towards Jesus. Everything is fine, but then Peter notices the wind and becomes frightened. When he does this, he begins to sink. “Lord save me”, he cries and indeed Jesus reaches out and prevents him from sinking. “Do not be afraid”, Jesus has told the disciples. After all he is with them. Despite this assurance, Peter gives in to fear, which is doubt-doubt that he can do what he is doing. When that doubt takes hold, he begins to sink. Doesn’t the same happen to us? When we do not trust in God to see us through, don’t we begin to sink in the sea of our troubles? And when this happens, shouldn’t we, don’t we, also cry out “Lord save me?” Peter does, and he is saved from drowning. Aren’t we saved also from drowning in our trouble, in our weakness, when we cry out to Jesus?
That we can call on Jesus to save us is central to our faith. When we call on him he hears us. This is the message we have heard this morning in our reading from Romans, Chapter 10: “‘Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame’”. If we believe in our hearts that Jesus was raised from the dead, and if we confess with our lips that he is Lord, we will be saved. The disciples who have witnessed the walking on the water and the rescue of Peter do as Paul says-they confess him: “And those in the boat worshipped him, saying ‘Truly you are the Son of God’”. What they have witnessed leads them to confess that he is Lord.
Now, I ask you, do you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord, and do you believe this in your hearts? You do, I am sure, but Paul raises an important question. How are those who have not heard of Jesus to believe in him? How are they going to hear about him, if there is no one to proclaim him? The Good News of Jesus Christ is not just about salvation for you or for me as individuals. The news is so important that it needs to be proclaimed. This is where you and I, as followers of the risen Christ, have an obligation to reach out to those who are at sea, adrift in this world in rudderless boats, storm tossed and in danger of drowning spiritually. We need to reach out to them, and tell them to call upon the Lord Jesus, so that they too can be rescued.
I will close with Paul’s quotation from Isaiah 52:7, expanding it to encompass the entire verse:
“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns”. We need to rejoice in our salvation, but we also need to proclaim that good news.
The Rev. Ricardo Frohmader, Associate Minister, St. Alban Mission, Antigua