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Sunday, November 10, 2013
Today’s Reading | Matthew 14:22–36
Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”
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, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret. After the people of that place recognized him, they sent word throughout the region and brought all who were sick to him, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed. (NRSV)
If you’re like most people (and statistically, you probably are) you don’t exactly relish the challenge of public speaking. Even people who do it all the time are not immune to a touch of glossophobia, which is not the fear of shiny surfaces but rather the fear of public speaking. Some of the most famous actors in history—Laurence Olivier, Helen Hayes—eventually succumbed to the “stage fright” manifestation of this condition.
If there is one major risk factor for this fear, it is simple self-consciousness. When someone stops thinking about what they are doing and starts thinking about how they look and how they sound and whether people like them—well, that just feeds all the fears. Once someone feeds their fears instead of their intentions, they are pretty much sunk.
This account is a literal example. Peter—good old “lead-with-his-mouth” Peter—says he wants to walk on water too. Jesus says, “Come on,” and what do you know? It works. He can—at least until he stops thinking about walking and starts looking at the waves and thinking he might sink. Once he loses focus on what he’s doing and starts to think about himself, he’s done.
That lesson is the whole point of walking on water, which you’ve got to admit is about as showy as anything Jesus ever does (I mean, aside from the transfiguration and resurrection). He’s showing them the importance of focusing on what they are doing and not on themselves. He knows what kind of storm is coming for them and is giving them a practical reminder that if they don’t keep their focus on him, they’re sunk.
There’s a challenge in this for us, too. Can we keep our focus, our commitment, our intention on the work we have in front of us, or will we let our attention go to our self-interest? Move or sink: it’s that simple.
Lord, remind us that our work is the world outside of ourselves. Helps us move forward, and in our moving forward, keep us from sinking. Amen.
Written by Rob Koon, Coordinator of Fine Arts
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