Sometimes it seems hard to believe that we are strong enough to withstand the difficulties that plague us. I’m thinking this morning of the raging fires in California as well as all the people I know who are suffering from trauma or illness from which there seems to be no way out. At these times we might be challenged to go on by sayings like “Cast your cares upon the Lord for he cares for you.” Once in awhile, however, when everything seems so dire, it feels as if God is on vacation, and we wonder if we will survive.
In the gospel this morning (MT 14:22-36) Jesus has sent his disciples to the other side of the Sea of Galilee at the end of a session with a large crowd. He stays behind for some alone time with God up on a mountain. His prayer is interrupted when a storm comes up and he knows that the disciples are in trouble because the wind is against the boat so they can’t go forward. Rather they’re being tossed around and in danger of capsizing. So that they may believe in his power to save them, he appears walking on the water toward the boat. (Stop for a moment and think how you would react to seeing him coming at a time like that.) They thought he was a ghost so he announced himself and told them not to be afraid. Peter wants to be sure so he says, “Lord, if it is really you, command me to come to you on the water.” (Be careful what you ask for!) Jesus says, simply, “Come.” Peter gets out of the boat and starts walking but when his rational mind kicks in he begins to sink and cries out, “Lord, save me!” Of course, Jesus stretches out his hand, catches Peter and they both get into the boat as the wind dies down. “Why did you doubt?” Jesus asks.
When our particular crisis passes, or when the fires die down and neighbor appears to help neighbor, we often wonder why we doubted God’s presence, God’s mercy. But here we are, just simple (or maybe sort of complex) human beings, struggling to make sense of things that sometimes seem too great to shoulder. My sense is that God knows that and loves us all the more for our willingness to call out, “Save me, Lord! I’m drowning!”