Saturday, November 7, 2009

Fear on the Water

And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” Matthew 14:25-27

I have always been a strong swimmer and was brought up near the ocean. I was taught, at a very young age, how to stay calm and get back to shore if caught up by a rip tide. I have been stung by jelly fish more times than I can count. My mother regularly carried remedies in her beach bag for jelly fish stings and I did also when our girls were young. For me the ocean is an inviting and invigorating place to swim. I also sailed with friends a great deal as a teenager. We would drag our friends sailfish to the edge of the surf and paddle out deep enough so that we could raise her sails. We spend endless days sailing from beach to beach, in and out of the stones jetties, laughing and carrying on as teenagers do. When we got too warm in the sun, we would take the sail down and capsize the little boat. After having a good swim we would right her again and head out for more safe adventures close to the shoreline. We knew our limits and although we pushed the limits as teenagers, we also respected them and were never foolhardy with the ocean or with our physical capacities.

Late at night finds Jesus walking on the water towards the boat the disciples are in. These strong and agile working men, used to being on the water and used to working with their hands are completely terrified. Even though they all were completely comfortable on the water, this scene terrified them. Peter tries to allay his own fears by pushing his own limits -both his physical strength and his faith. He begins to sink and Jesus rescues him. Those in the boat saw something they had never seen and hey were terrified. Peter stepped out in faith and was terrified. And yet in love and faith, Jesus came through for the ones he loves. As always, even when we challenged our own limitations and act as foolhardy children, Jesus cares for us and rescues us from the sinking deep. Even when fear overwhelms us and faith is lost, God intervenes on our behalf and pulls us out of the deep waters.

Today, I want to give thanks for the lessons learned by the ocean. The lessons of limitations, the awesome power of the natural world, and the gifts that the seas give us in abundance. I also want to be grateful for all the people who taught me to survive the harshest challenges and the people who taught me to pray trusting God for the answers. May we all give thanks this day for the graciousness of God who reaches out for us when we are sinking in deep waters.

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