On the last Thanksgiving I spent with my little sister, Linda, she was all smiles. Her son was home from the Marines; her first grandchild was due that summer. Unfortunately, she would not live to see the birth. A brain disease erupted within her. We tried everything to no avail. She died before summer came. We all have been there. We are sailing along the seas of life when, seemingly out of nowhere, a tempest descends. A cancer diagnosis; a vocation terminated; a relationship ruptured; a loved one dies before our eyes. Life brings storms. Sometimes they are brutal.
Today’s story reminds us that within whatever storm we find ourselves, Jesus is with us. He comes as a compassionate companion. He understands our terrors; he grieves for our suffering; he sustains our spirit even as the storm continues to rage.
Peter finds himself within a storm. And, as promised, Jesus comes. But Peter does not trust. “If it is really you,” Peter says, “command me to walk on water” (ap). Peter can’t. He sinks. His lack of faith is exposed. Peter’s lack of faith is not that he cannot walk on water. It is that he does not trust that Jesus is with him in the storm. He demands proof. He demands the extraordinary.
The truth is, oftentimes, the storms endure. Cancer has its way; the relationship dissolves; our loved one succumbs to disease. Our faith cannot prevent it. Jesus does not promise to help us walk on water. He promises to be a compassionate companion within the boat navigating the rough seas. While such compassionate presence may not defy the laws of physics, it has the power to calm the storms of terror and anxiety swirling within us.
When the waves of despair threaten to swallow us, Jesus, be our calm. Amen.
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.
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?
Respond by posting a prayer.