Wednesday, August 6, 2014

If It Is Really You

Since my Transfiguration Day post will come out after I've preached at today's 12:10pm service, this is technically a bonus post even though it's coming out first. I wanted to get this out yesterday, but it didn't make it.

In Sunday's gospel lesson (Matthew 14:22-33), Jesus sees that his disciples are struggling in their boat. Fighting against the wind and the waves but losing, they were in great danger. So Jesus, who, as Seth Olson remarked at yesterday's staff meeting, "made the disciples get into the boat," set out after them. On foot. Across the sea.

Startled by the sight of a figure walking on the sea, the disciples screamed out, "It is a ghost!" But Jesus calmed their nerves--at least a little bit--by saying, "Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid." And that's when Peter sticks his foot into his mouth (a habit of his) and says to Jesus, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water."

If? If? Are you kidding me? If it is you? Seriously, Peter, you're asking the guy who just walked out on the water whether it's really Jesus? Do you really have any doubt? Could it be anyone else?

Fast-forward to the end of the gospel story, when the risen Jesus appears to the disciples. Who is it? Is it a ghost? Is it really him?

Fast-forward another two-thousand years. When we proclaim the risen Jesus, what are we saying? What do we believe--that a ghost came out of the tomb and spoke words of encouragement to the disciples before vanishing into heaven? Or do we believe that the walking, talking, breathing, eating, flesh-and-blood Jesus was back from the dead?

Sometimes you face storms in your life. Sometimes I face them in mine. Although I grew up on the coast and remember having to speed into shore when a thunderstorm popped up, rarely are my crises water-related. Usually, they're problems with people--a child who is struggling, a parent who is struggling, a spouse who is struggling, a friend who is struggling. When we face more than we can handle, what do we believe in? What are we looking for? Do we believe that God himself has shown us that his love for us will transcend any storm that comes up by sending his Son--Lord of heaven and earth--to demonstrate his power over wind and waves and even death itself? Or are we hoping that a ghostly whisper of good cheer will find its way to our ear in a tough time?

I don't know about you, but I need Jesus to be more than a ghost. I need Jesus to be Jesus.

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