For Sunday, August 10, 2008
Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28
Psalm 105:1-6, 16-22, 45b
This Sunday’s lectionary passages bring, in Genesis, the favored Joseph being sold into slavery by his jealous brothers.
Does God play favorites? Do we?
The Psalm recounts some of the amazing things God has done and calls us to tell people about them.
How do we tell people about God?
In the letter to the Romans, Paul exegetes Moses and Isaiah (or tries to exegete), and concludes, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!"
What is beauty?
And then in Matthew, Peter tries to walk on water.
I’ve heard and I’ve preached more than one sermon about the importance of stepping out on faith. But is that really what this text is telling us?
Consider this. Jesus never called for Peter to get out of the boat. Walking on the water was Peter’s own desire, born of his doubt that Jesus was who he said he was.
“Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’”
As their boat is being battered by the waves, Jesus calls to the disciples and tells them not to be afraid. Peter’s response is to 1) to test Jesus. 2) Leave the other disciples and the boat.
Peter’s departure from the boat is not an act of faith, it is a decision which reveals the depth of his own neediness. A decision which did not consider the welfare of his group. The last thing the disciples needed was to have one of their own floundering in the water, forcing them to navigate the stormy waves in order to retrieve a sinking soul.
When Jesus asks, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” maybe he is not chastising Peter for sinking, maybe he is asking Peter why he did not trust God when Peter was commanded to let go of his fear.
When they all gather in the boat, we hear no more from Peter and are only told that “those in the boat worshiped him[Jesus], saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Are Peter’s actions bold or destructive? Was he brave or selfishly trying to be a hero? In the context of community, what do Peter’s actions mean?
Jean Varnier, founder of the L’Arche communities:
“It is quite easy to found a community. There are always plenty of courageous people who want to be heroes…. The problem is not in getting the community started- there’s always enough energy to take-off. The problem comes when we are in orbit and going round and round the same circuit. The problem is in living with brothers and sisters whom we have not chosen but who have been given to us, and in working ever more truthfully towards the goals of the community. A community which is just an explosion of heroism is not a true community. True community implies a way of living and seeing reality; it implies above all fidelity in the daily round. And this is made up of simple things—getting meals, using and washing the dishes and using them again, going to meetings- as well as gifts, joy, and celebration. A community is only being created when its members accept that they are not going to achieve great things, that they are not going to be heroes, but simply live each day with new hope, like children, in wonderment as the sun rises and in thanksgiving as it sets.”
Jean Varnier. Community and Growth. Darton, Longman, & Todd, 1979. Pages 10 – 11.
Found in The Westminster Collection of Christian Meditations, Hannah Ward and Jennifer Wild, eds.
How often, in community, do we leave when the waters get rough? How often do we stay and trust in the connections given to us by God in Baptism?
When do the rough waters become safer than the boat community?
(A good resource for this reading of the text: Boring, M. Eugene. “Matthew.” New Interpreter’s Bible, vol. VIII. Leander Keck, et al. editors. (Nashville, Abingdon Press, 1995). pages 326-330.)
So. What are you thinking this week?