What is it that creates your faith in God or in scripture? It certainly isn’t facts, since hardly any of the stories in scripture can be proven by facts. The bible is full of stories and myths, all of which are there to tell us truth. Truth is the object of our bible. I don’t know which stories are true and which ones are only there to help us understand the truth, but they are all helpful in giving all of us a sincere faith in our God who created and sustains this world.
The story that we have in the Gospel about the disciples out on the lake in a boat while a storm surges around them while their Lord was off somewhere in prayer is there to help us understand what it means to have faith. A terrible storm had brewed up on the lake the disciples were terrified by their situation and all of a sudden, Jesus comes to them walking toward their boat on the water. They were amazed by this and also fearful. Some of them said, it is a ghost! But it wasn’t a ghost, it was Jesus. Peter called out to him and said, Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water. Jesus replied, Come! Peter got out of the boat and walked toward Jesus on the water. It wasn’t very long before he began to sink, and he cried out and asked Jesus to save him. Jesus came and took his arm and helped him to walk. Jesus said to Peter, you of little faith, why did you doubt? That’s why this is a story about faith. There were certainly no facts to prove to Peter that he could walk on the water; only Jesus’ example. But because of what he saw Jesus do, he was convinced that he could do it himself. That is the lesson for all of us in this story.
What I know about faith is that it can conquer fear. Fear is something that can devastate us. When we are afraid, we are very much alone and sometimes have very little expectation of help. There was Peter walking on the water, very much aware of what an impossible thing that he was doing. The minute that fear took hold of him, he began to sink. Jesus came to him and asked him why he was doubting. Sounds a bit like a ridiculous question to me, but Peter had asked Jesus to call to him to come and walk on the water. It was his own self and his ability that he was doubting.
Fear can take hold of us in amazing ways. In this world today there are a lot of things that we can be afraid of. That was a terrible riot in Charlottesville, VA this weekend with white supremacists and members of the Ku Klux Klan fighting with black people and others who were trying to support the city’s desire to take down a Robert E. Lee statue. This was an eruption of hate that we don’t need in this country. And we also have all of this talk about a nuclear North Korea, which can make anyone very nervous. I certainly don’t want us in the middle of a terrible nuclear war. Outside of reasonable political help, the only thing that can protect us from such a catastrophe is faith. Faith that our God loves us absolutely and will do everything possible to keep us safe and well. Economic devastation is another source of fear. When we are afraid that we can’t pay our bills or won’t have food on our table or medical care for ourselves and our loved ones, fear can take over. This is when faith is very helpful in understanding that our God loves us and can be our source of help.
The thing that attracts me to this story of the disciples on the lake is the way that Jesus responded to Peter’s cry for help when he was sinking. He immediately went to him, took him by the arm and lifted him up. Yes, he commented also about Peter’s lack of faith and the presence of doubt, but in the end, he lifted him from the depths of the water and helped him to continue to walk. That, for me, is a lesson in how our Lord hopes that we will respond to each other in this world.
There are a lot of people in trouble out there. Yes, they doubt and have no faith in themselves. When we listen to their cry for help and respond to it, we are doing God’s will in this world. It is God’s hope that everyone will live in peace and harmony. In the turbulence that there is in this world, that just isn’t possible. That is why so many people live lives of hopeless misery. Helping and caring is the work of the church. I know that you see it all the time. The solution is to care and with compassion to react to the pain that you see and do what you can to lift the person up so that they are back in this world and the misery is lessened. That is why we have a church. This is a place where we can gather and care and sometimes share stories of what we see in the world. It is also a place where we can gather resources to help us to make lives better. God bless us in this incredibly important work. It is what our Lord wants us to do.