When the Waves Seem Too High

Have you ever noticed that it's often in the most challenging times of life that we sense God's presence most clearly?  The gospel lesson for this Sunday, August 10th, is a story that certainly demonstrates this.  It's the familiar story of Jesus walking on the angry sea to comfort his scared disciples after they have spent the better part of an anxious night navigating the waves.  The disciples don't see the comfort easily, however.  Mistaking Jesus for a wave-walking ghost, they grow even more alarmed as he draws near. In response, Jesus reassures them that it is he who is coming to them. His encouragement works…and then some, as Peter is brave enough to ask if he might join Jesus out on the water.  He steps out of the boat, but soon remembers the height of the waves and depth of the sea and loses heart, whereupon Jesus reaches out and grabs him. While Jesus remarks on his lack of faith, it's at this moment that the disciples see Jesus as if for the first time, confessing, "Truly you are the Son of God." Despite knowing Jesus well prior to this moment - his teachings, the healings, the miracles - it's here, at this time of extreme calamity and chaos, when the disciples perceive most clearly who Jesus is.

We're all guilty of overlooking God's presence in the peaceful and pleasant portions of life, yet we call out in earnest when things take a difficult turn. I'm not totally sure why this is, but I think part of it is that we spend a fair amount of our time and energy trying to establish a stable, safe, and secure life, both for us and those we love. There's nothing wrong with that on one level. From the beginning God desires that we flourish, and stability promotes growth. But all too often we note our modest success and assume we no longer need God, or at least forget how much a part of our lives God is and desires to be. Or perhaps we confuse safety and stability with abundant life. Either way, we may forget how much we depend on God. Until calamity strikes in the form of illness and job loss or the end of a relationship or some grave mistake we've made - or at the time of great change and transformation in our church life, and suddenly our ongoing need for God becomes painfully clear.

No matter what it is that reminds us of our need for God, still God responds. Just as Jesus reassures the disciples and reaches out to grab hold of Peter, God also responds to us with compassion and support. And God not only responds to our need, but actually desires that we seek to live lives of abundance and courage. Jesus calls to Peter, and Peter takes the risk to get out of the boat and trust.

And I think this is still God's desire for us - that we trust that God is with us and for us and thereby live with courage and hope, taking chances to become the people that God has created us to be, risking ourselves in relationship, seeking the welfare of the individuals and community around us, all the while remembering that even when we overlook God's presence - God is always there, sometimes to encourage us to overcome our fears, sometimes to coax us to try something new, and sometimes reaching out to grab hold of us in forgiveness, mercy, comfort, and grace.

We might feel that the challenges in front of First Lutheran are great, no doubt about it. Collaborating and working with others is hard, arduous work. But the opportunities abound. And no matter where our relationship with Our Savior's goes - whether we keep collaborating or consolidate, leave this building or build anew… God is with us, responding to our fears and cries for help with the promise of God's presence and comfort. But we sometimes get preoccupied with the immediacy of the story that is right now - right in front of us - and while that is important, it is only part of the larger story that God has for us.  Imagine the hopes and dreams God desires for us - both as individuals and as a community of faith. God is eager to respond to our deepest needs, yet God also invites us to more adventuresome lives of faith as well. God wants more for us, frankly, than simply safety and stability, and therefore God calls us to stretch, grow, step out of the boat in faith, and live into the abundant life God has promised us, trusting that we aren't alone…God is always with us. 

In this time of exploring our relationship with Our Savior's, the waves may seem to be too high for some.  And I continue to invite you into conversation about all that is on your hearts and minds - all concerns and questions need to be heard. But I also encourage all of us to be in constant prayer as we seek God's future for us and as we are held by God's promises.