Rev. Heather J. Blais Matthew 14:22-33
How did your parents respond when you lost your way?
Were they angry? Yelling their point at you until they felt their words had finally penetrated your skull and sunk into your brain. Were they a bit passive aggressive? Using body language with their eyes and sighs as a means to control your life as they saw fit?
Were they silent? Did it feel as though you were invisible to them, and like they barely noticed you, let alone noticed that you lost your way. Were they disappointed? Sometimes unintentionally shaming you and making you feel about an inch tall?
Were they compassionate? Did they help you to grow and learn from the experience? The way we experience our parents emotions towards us can have a big impact on how we see and understand God as our parent.
Take for example today’s gospel lesson. Jesus has just finished caring for a crowd of 5,000, first by healing the unwell members of the crowd, and then by feeding them all until they were full with just two fish and five loaves of bread. Immediately after Jesus made the disciples get into a boat, while he went up a nearby mountain to pray. By early evening, the wind had moved the boat into the middle of the lake. When Jesus had finished praying early the next morning, he began to walk on water towards the battered boat.
As this figure approached the disciples, they became terrified, crying out, “It’s a ghost!”
Immediately, Jesus spoke to them, saying “Take heart; it is I, do not be afraid.”
Peter says, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”
He said, “Come”.
Before Peter can even begin to realize what is happening, he finds himself getting up, and walking towards Jesus. He looks around, a bit astounded, half smiling at the disciples, as if to say, “Look at me! I’m walking on water!” And then, it’s as though this information begins to slowly register in his brain as the strong wind blew against him, “I’m walking on water...I’m WALKING on WATER…I’M WALKING ON WATER?!?!?!”
At this climactic moment, he becomes terrified, and begins to sink. He cries out to Jesus, “Lord, save me!”
Jesus reached out his hand, caught Peter, and brought him into the boat. When they sit down in the boat, Jesus turns to Peter and says, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” The wind ceased, and the disciples began to worship Jesus as the Son of God.
While walking on water is miraculous, it’s Jesus’ words to Peter that stand out for me. You of little faith, why did you doubt. Do we hear that coming from an angry parent? You of little faith, why did you doubt? Or do we hear it from a passive aggressive parent? You of little faith, why did you doubt? Do we hear it from a disappointed parent? You of little faith, why did you doubt? Or do we hear it from a compassionate parent? You of little faith, why did you doubt?
We bring our own life story to the text and it can dominate the narrative if we let it. No matter how our earthly parents guided and raised us, whether it be in anger, passive aggressive tendencies, disappointment and shame, or love, most of them were simply doing the best they could based on how their parents had raised them. And because like us, our parents are also broken human beings, they are not going to be able to love us perfectly in just the ways we need them to all the time. It’s unrealistic for us to expect our earthly parents to love us exactly as we need and want them to our entire lives.
Yet in God, we all have a parent that loves us in every way we need to be loved at every moment of our lives. So often we look to our earthly parents, expecting or wishing for perfection, when in reality, they are just like us, needing the very same thing as us. Together, we are broken, vulnerable, and in need of God’s endless love and compassion. When we are awake to this, we can become awake to the compassionate God waiting for us in scripture, in every story, and in every real moment of our lives. Jesus speaks to Peter as his beloved and cherished follower. No matter how much we may lose our way, God will always speak to us as his beloved and cherished children. God will support us and help us to grow into the persons God has called us each to be.
This week, I would invite you to do two things: First, I invite you to examine how you relate to God. How do you hear God’s voice speak to you? Is it still your parents voice? Is it the tone of a parent speaking to their beloved child? Second, help the children that attend Vacation Bible School to know how beloved they are by God. If you are here serving a meal, leading a group or activity, speak to the kids and fellow adults as beloved children of God. Even, or especially if they are not acting particularly lovely! Everyone else, please pray for the volunteers, that they can do this, and pray for the kids to be open to receiving this kind of agape love. Twenty years from now, we want them to remember the fun they had this week, but more importantly we want them to take with them an overwhelming sense of being beloved by God just because they are who God made them to be. Amen.