Friday, June 8, 2012

Do not be afraid

Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. 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.”
And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
And when they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret. And when the men of that place recognized him, they sent around to all that region and brought to him all who were sick and implored him that they might only touch the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.
Matthew 14:22-36

When I was in college I worked in a daycare. It was the first to take two year olds (the laws were very different back then) and was always full to capacity. The center was in Govans in Baltimore City, so we had a wide range of children from many different racial and socioeconomic backgrounds. I loved reading to the kids before nap time. One of our favorite books was called "Don't Be Scared!" and it featured situations where children might be scared - monsters under the bed, shadows, dark of night etc- and shed light on the situation, making it silly and more bearable. At the beginning and end of each chapter it was written "don't be scared!" and the kids loved to scram the words when I got to that part. When Mark and I got married that spring, the kids had made us a big poster that said "don't be scared!"

Jesus walking on the water is so familiar to us that we talk about amazing people as being able to walk on water. It is one of the high bars for phenomenal people. But in truth, none of us walks on water, and Peter, who attempted to walk on water in the presence of the divine, stumbled and sunk in the process. We are all fearful. It is part of human nature, and we are hardwired to be fearful out of self-protection. No one is fearless and those who say they are live in a state of denial. God is the source of miracles and love (which I consider the greatest miracle- love) and we have so much to gain by admitting our need and our fears and offering them to God. None of us wants to sink like a stone, and none of us wants to be swept away in a violent storm. Our story reminds us that God comes to us in the midst of our worst storms, when we are paralyzed by fear and feeling so abandoned and alone, and takes charge of the winds and the waves and love brings us safely home. God reminds us this day, " Don't be scared!"

Today I ask God to help us admit our fears and our needs and expect miracles. We have lived to long trying to go it on our own, trying to walk on water, trying to calm all the storms. We are invited today to cry out for help, to pray, to acknowledge our need and seek love at every turn. There are storms ahead and storms behind, and there is much good reason to be afraid when we rely on ourselves alone. God promises to come to us and bring us safely home. May be fearless as we bring God's love and promise to those who are most vulnerable today.

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