Monday, August 7, 2017

Up And Down Faith

Because of the lectionary jumping around that the Transfiguration provided yesterday, we have two weeks in a row to shine a spotlight on Peter. This Sunday, we will return to Matthew and will read the story of Jesus walking on the water and calling Peter to come out on the water to him. It's the kind of story we remember from Sunday school even if we've forgotten several of the important details.

Three of the gospel accounts include this passage: Matthew, Mark, and John. But Matthew is the only one who includes the part about Peter walking on the water, too. That gives the preacher a chance to focus on Peter and let this story be as much about the disciples' faith (and our faith) as it is about Jesus' ability to walk on the water. Given that the disciples were terrified to see Jesus upon the water in all three accounts, perhaps that was Mark and John's intent anyway.

After startling the disciples and then reassuring them with the theologically laden "It is I," which likely makes another blog post this week, Peter says to Jesus, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water." Then, when Jesus said, "Come," Peter got out of the boat and started walking to Jesus on top of the waves. But, when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, began to sink, and cried out, "Lord, save me!" It's hard to tell a stronger story of fear and faith and fear and faith in a more compact space.

At first, he was terrified because he thought Jesus was a ghost. Then, he had the confidence that Jesus could enable him to walk on the water. Then, he saw the wind and his fears began to erode the buoyancy that Jesus had given him. Immediately, Jesus reached out and caught him, and, when they had gotten back into the boat, Peter and the other disciples worshipped him in another sign of faith.

Here are some questions I'm asking as I think about a sermon for this week:

1. To what extent did Peter's faith enable him to walk on the water? To what extent was it a miracle of Jesus?

2. When God enables miracle in our lives, how much of it depends on our faith and how much of it comes straight from God?

3. To what extent is faith a product of our own doing and to what extent does it come to us as a gift from God?

4. Have we begun to think of faith as a work that has made grace even harder to grasp?

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