Courage to step out
By Scott Baker
When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind,] he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:23b-31)
The story of Jesus and Peter walking on water is as much about courage as it is faith. And if you really think about it, they go hand in glove just as faith and risk do. The higher the risk the greater the faith, the more courage it takes the greater the faith. I think this is even more poignant when we consider the story. First of all, we have to remember Peter’s profession. He was a fisherman. Do you think he, of all people, might perhaps know a little bit about the power of water and the sea? So, the fact that he, is willing to step over the gunwale and get his feet wet might have meant something? Considering that just two chapters later this is the same person who Jesus calls “Rocky” makes it even more ironic. Now, I don’t know about you, but in my experience, rocks on water don’t work out so great. Jesus tells Peter and his disciples, “You of little faith, why did you doubt.” I think he could have just as easily said, “You of great courage, God bless you for taking the first step out of the boat.”
What kind of faith is Jesus looking for? Little faith; mustard-seed-sized-faith. A little faith may be all that is needed to transform a story that starts in terror into a story that ends in worship. We could look at this story and extrapolate that it could represent certain times of our lives when courage and faith are required. Times like retirement; illness; divorce; job change; relocation/move. Each of these takes courage and faith. In each of these we are tossed to and fro by the waves of life and it is easy to become distracted and even falter and begin to sink.
We are amid the COVID Storm. Collectively, we have stepped out of the boat and into the waves that have tossed our world and our lives. It is easy to lose heart. It is easy to become distracted. It is enough to erode our faith as surely as waves eat away the rocky coastline. With no foreseeable end in sight, now, perhaps more than ever, it is so important to us to keep our eyes on Christ and know that he has the power to save. It is Jesus who empowers us to walk when the footing is most uncertain. It is Jesus that reassures us that no matter how big and powerful the waves, he can calm the storms of our lives and our hearts. What we have to remind ourselves is to stop looking at the waves and look to him who saves us from them. Make no mistake about it, we are out on the stormy waters right now, with no letting up in sight. However, if we are going take anything away from this story let it be that if we, even with our mustard-seed-sized-faith keep our eyes on Jesus we can rest assured safe harbor awaits us because we always remember, Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things unseen.
THE REV. SCOTT BAKER is the rector at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Franklin. Contact him at 562-4542.