Reflection on the Lectionary Sunday 13th August (Ordinary 19)

Psalm 105:1 – 6, 16 – 22; Genesis 37:1 – 4, 12 – 28; Romans 10:5 – 15; Matthew 14 : 22 – 33

The reflection for this week is by Local Preacher, Christine Jones (Longwell Green).

After Matthew’s account of the MarvellousPicnic, Jesus sends the disciples back to the other side of the lake while he dismisses the crowd. We join the disciples, now at a considerable distance from land, being buffeted by waves because the wind is against them. Only Matthew includes the story of Peter getting out of the boat.

The Christian community for whom Matthew wrote his gospel were feeling rather like the disciples. They no longer had the physical presence of Jesus. They believed he was alive and they had the Holy Spirit, but it wasn’t same as having him with them, having him ‘in the boat,’ as it were. He had promised that he would come again, but time had passed, decades.  Would he ever return? How long could they manage without him? Like the disciples in the boat they were struggling in the dark, buffeted by waves of doubt and temptation; not actually facing persecution, but fearing it could come. The confidence with which they had started out after Pentecost had ebbed away. After the initial wave of conversions there had been opposition and apathy; under-currents and tensions, pulling them this way and that.

This is the situation for which Matthew includes this story of Peter; Peter the rock, Peter the great Christian leader, Peter the faithful martyr. Matthew deliberately tells this story to encourage his Christian community to exercise their faith amid the chaotic situations around them; to fix their attention on Jesus; to be brave enough to get out of their boat and keep walking towards him; to focus on what he’s doing and where he’s leading; to accept that there will be trouble, opposition and threats around them; there will be distractions, doubts and temptations within them. There will also be the hand of Jesus reaching out to catch them, because truly he is the Son of God. Does any of this sound familiar? Do we ever feel that it has been a long wait for Jesus to return? Not just decades, centuries, millennia. We believe he is risen and we have the Holy Spirit, but it is not the same as having his physical presence, having him ‘in our boat.’ Will he ever return? How long can we manage without him? Do we sometimes, or maybe often, feel we are struggling in the dark, straining at the oars, working our socks off for the church, and getting nowhere? Nothing seems secure anymore. There are forces for change both inside the church and in the wider world. Is the boat sinking under us?Are we brave enough to get out of the boat and walk towards Jesus, or are we so fascinate  by the powers of destruction that we have lost sight of him? If we keep our eyes on him we will stay afloat. If we keep our eyes on other things we will go under. He says to each of us ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid. Come’. So, when we do get out of our boat he reaches out his hand to catch us, for truly he is the Son of God.

Lord Jesus, since it is you, though I am afraid, I will take heart, I will come to you, for truly you are the Son of God, and even my little faith is enough for you to use. Amen.