My son lives on a boat. He says that a storm at sea—the world pitch-black, the rudder a plaything, crashing waves tossing the boat at will—can drive him below deck balled up and crying out for relief.

Biblical scholars understand Matthew’s story as a word of encouragement for the early church. As it was written in the years after Jesus’ death and ascension into heaven, the earliest hearers would certainly have recognized the themes. Jesus sends the disciples out into the waters of the world without him. After all the transformative teaching, the miraculous healings, the inspired proclamation of the reign of God, Jesus is no longer with them. He has sent them, commissioned them, but he has stayed back. The church—the disciples in the boat—are out at sea alone.

They know what it is like to be battered by the waves, to lose one’s bearings far from land, to have headwinds constantly against them. They must feel terrified. They must feel abandoned. Perhaps they feel abandoned by Jesus himself.

But Jesus has not abandoned them. Amid the soul-numbing tempest, defying all odds, Jesus walks into the storm to be with them. He echoes the self-authenticating words of Yahweh to Moses. “It is I,” Jesus says. “Be not afraid.”

We too are in the boat with the disciples. We seek to be faithful followers; we strive to live the gospel; we give ourselves to love and good works. Sometimes the storm batters us as well. But Jesus is in the center of the storm. No matter how thrashing the waves, how ferocious the winds, Jesus walks through them. He meets us, even if we are cowering in the cabin below deck. “Take heart,” he says. “I am with you.”

Help us remember the truth, Jesus: No matter how stormy the sea, you are—and always will be—with us. Amen.

Pray the Scriptures Using Audio Lectio
Read Matthew 14:22-33

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Lectionary Week
August 3–9, 2020
Scripture Overview

The strange dynamics in the history of Abraham’s family continue in Genesis. This week his great-grandson Joseph is sold into slavery by his jealous brothers. God will ultimately use this for good, as we read in Psalm 105, but in Joseph’s time there clearly is significant dysfunction. Perhaps the story brings encouragement to those of us who also have challenging family dynamics. Paul emphasizes in Romans that every person is welcome to call on the name of the Lord and be saved, but it falls to us to offer them the good news. How can they believe if they never hear? In the Gospel reading, Peter learns a valuable lesson about trust. He initially shows great faith, but he falters when he allows himself to be distracted by the waves.

Questions and Suggestions for Reflection

Read Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28. In the face of cruelty, how do you continue to believe in God’s dream of unity for us all?
Read Psalm 105:1-6, 16-22, 45b. When has a glimpse of God absorbed your pain?
Read Romans 10:5-15. When have you witnessed Christian violence against persons of other faiths? How does your faith compel you to proclaim God’s love for all—“no exceptions”? What does this look like for you?
Read Matthew 14:22-33. When have you struggled to trust Jesus through life’s trials? How has Jesus revealed his presence and companionship anyway?

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