Emmitsburg Council of Churches

 

The Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew 14:22-36

Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 14:23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 14:24 but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. 14:25 And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. 14:26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, "It is a ghost!" And they cried out in fear. 14:27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, "Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid." 14:28 Peter answered him, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water." 14:29 He said, "Come." So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. 14:30 But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, "Lord, save me!" 14:31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?" 14:32 When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 14:33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God." 14:34 When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret. 14:35 After the people of that place recognized him, they sent word throughout the region and brought all who were sick to him, 14:36 and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.

This is the Gospel of the Lord


Storm Stories!!

PETROPAVLOVSK-KAMCHATSKY, Russia - Seven people on board a submarine trapped for nearly three days under the Pacific Ocean were rescued Sunday after a British remote-controlled vehicle cut away the undersea cables that had snarled their vessel, allowing it to surface.

The seven, whose oxygen supplies had been dwindling amid underwater temperatures in the mid-40s, appeared to be in satisfactory condition, naval spokesman Capt. Igor Dygalo said. They were examined in the clinic of a naval ship, then transferred to a larger vessel to return to the mainland.

"The crew opened the hatch themselves, exited the vessel and climbed aboard a speedboat," said Rear Adm. Vladimir Pepelyayev, deputy head of the naval general staff.

"I can only thank our English colleagues for their joint work and the help they gave in order to complete this operation within the time we had available that is, before the oxygen reserves ran out," he said.

The sub surfaced at 4:26 p.m. local time Sunday, some three days after becoming entangled in 600 feet of water off the Pacific Coast on Thursday and after a series of failed attempts to drag it closer to shore or haul it closer to the surface. It was carrying six sailors and a representative of the company that manufactured it.

The men aboard waited through grinding hours of uncertainty. Officials said they were wearing thermal suits to warm them against temperatures of about 40 F inside the sub. In order to conserve electricity, they used communications equipment only sporadically to contact with the surface. They tried to stay to stay calm, among other reasons, to conserve oxygen.

"The crew were steadfast, very professional," Pepelyayev said on Channel One television. "Their self-possession allowed them to conserve the air and wait for the rescue operation."

Yelena Milashevskaya, the wife of crew member Lt. Vyacheslav Milashevsky, told Channel One television that when she got the call saying her husband was alive, "My feelings danced. I was happy, I cried."

In this real life news story you have just read, the Russian Sailors had to keep their mind about them, staying calm both physically and emotionally if they were going to survive the freightening ordeal. Their lives were on the line. To become hysterical or to become too aggressive with the situation or with one another could have meant a quick death or to simply run out of oxygen and die of asphyxiation. From the Gospel reading, we could envision Peter as he stepped out of the boat in order to walk with Jesus on the water.

At first, Peter has placed all of his fears and anxiety at rest in the eyes of Jesus. It is apparent that Peter is walking on the water, step by step, being supported by a genuine and true faith. This he can maintain as long as he maintains his focus on the Lord Jesus. As soon as Peter allows the peripheral distractions (fears) of wind and waves to enter into his vision and thinking, then he begins to sink.

In our lives, we can also experience times of steadfast faith and times when the peripheral vision completely takes over . . . in which case, we "lose it!!" Losing it is never a pretty sight!!! If you have seen someone completely fall apart emotionally and for good reason, or if you yourself have experienced the rug of life being pulled out from under you . . . then you know what it's like to sink down. It is a feeling of dread. A feeling of hopelessness, a feeling of helplessness.

Indeed, if you are facing the fears of a storm that has blown into your life, then perhaps you can relate to the fear that has welled up for the disciples. . . . Like a severe thunderstorm that looms overhead and when the waves become chaotic . . . a Bad Storm can be ALL ENCOMPASSING . . . CAUGHT IN A STORM AT SEA WITH NO MEANS OF ESCAPE OR SHELTER . . . EVERY CONCEIVABLE HUMAN FEAR IS PLAYED UPON . . . . PHYSICAL EXHAUSTION IS PITTED AGAINST NATURE'S FURY IN WIND AND WAVES . . . THE FEAR OF DROWNING IS AN IMMENSE INSECURITY for the human psyche:

THE SIGHT OF HUGE WAVES . . . THE FORMS OF FROTHING SEA SWELLS and the RELENTLES and unmerciful BATTERing of the sea against YOUR BOAT . . . CAN leave EVEN THE STRONGEST AMONG US TO GIVE Up HOPE. To Give in to HOPELESSNESS AND become overwhelmed by the SENSE OF PANIC and FOREBODING. In the midst of life's worst storms -- FALSE OPTIMISM is stripped away. No humor no sarcasm will suffice to OUTWIT such DARKNESS.

In life's worst storms Every human security and handhold is eventually washed away. HUMAN FRAILTY EVENTUALLY DISSUADES US FROM OPTIMISM TO FEAR.

BUT ALL OF THIS DISCOURAGEMENT AND GLOOM IS OVERCOME WHEN WE MAINTAIN THE VIGIL OF WATCH . . . . KEEPING OUR EYES FOCUSED ON JESUS.

In the story we learn that Jesus makes (Greek: enankasen -- compels) the disciples get into the boat and go to the other side. They are not being rebellious or foolhardy, but obedient. The difficulties that they experienced on the sea WERE not of their own making, but CAME AS A RESULT OF Their compliance with Jesus' command. Here is a difficult revelation for the Christian. Can one trust God's command? Will you remain faithful when Jesus asks you to launch your boat into stormy seas?? Will you see misfortune, illness, calamity as the work of the devil or God?? And is their a difference? This is really hard stuff!!

Cranfield, A BIBLICAL SCHOLAR, writes in his commentary:

"If it is a result of obedience to Christ's command that the church or the individual Christian is in a situation of danger or distress, then there is no need to fear" (quoted in Blomberg).

I would like to add: WHEN WE SET OUT TO DO THE WILL OF GOD, THEN THERE WILL MOST CERTAINLY BE STORM CLOUDS GATHERING AND CHAOTIC SEAS TO THWART OUR EFFORTS FOR GOD. Our role to a certain degree is blind faith. W eather the misfortunes that befall us our God's will or God's allowance is not for us to concern ourselves with, but what matters the most is how we conduct ourselves in the midst of these times. I think that questioning God is in fine order maybe even railing at God is fine many of the prophets did! But doing our best to remain calm and get focused needs to be the highest order of the moment. Focus on Jesus who walks on the water before you.

Hear what Jesus says to the disciples: Take Heart, it is I; do not be afraid."

-- Jesus uses the first phrase, "Take heart" (Greek: tharseite -- have courage -- be of good cheer) elsewhere in this Gospel to hearten a paralytic (9:2) and a woman with a hemorrhage (9:22). Jesus words do not come as a rebuke but an encouragement to his disciples. He does not wish to cause them more fear or panic. But that they focus on the Lord's presence. All will be ok in the Realization that we are not alone, but Jesus goes before us and is with us.

-- In the second phrase, "it is I" (Greek: ego eimi -- literally "I am") is God's name (Exod 3:14). We are reminded of what the disciples heard Jesus say about himself. "I AM!" God is in their midst. God is walking on the water. Jesus is God in Human flesh and therefore in the midst of this worst possible of fears drowning Christ is there God is there!! Jesus is Emmanuel -- God with us (1:23).

-- And finally Jesus words in the third phrase, "do not be afraid" (Greek: me phobeisthe) tell the disciples not to fear anymore. There worst fears need not be totally dominating there lives. Jesus is present. Things are going to be ok. God is near, no need to fear anymore. Rest assured, God knows the pain we bear. God's presence is the presence of eternity. Allow God to bear your fears with you and then carry them away to leave you reassured, it will be well with you. Again, it is an encouragement rather than a rebuke.

When you and I are going to cross the lake of Christian service and obedience, the storms are going to rage around us, just like those cables and nets tangled around the Russian submarine disabling its ability to carry out a mission. In fact, without the aid of the British recovery vehichle, the Scorpian, the men in the submarine would not have survived. We hear about tradgedies every day. But Christ promises to be near. We must pray and cry out to God . . . even as the Russians, thankfully, acted quickly and contacted both the American and British Navy for help. So it is that God, through Jesus the Lord, seeks to draw near to us and Save us in our moment of need. Peter Cried out, "Save me Lord!" And Jesus immediately reached down to rescue Peter. We may not always understand why or how life can become so frightening or challenging, but we serve a God who is merciful and who loves us. Jesus is the promise of that love. Remember these words from our Lord,

"Take Heart, I Am, Do not be afraid."

Let us pray:

Dear Lord, Let us go to serve and do all that you have instructed us to do. And give us your calm in the midst of the raging storms. For we pray these things in your name.

Amen

Read more writings of Pastor Jon