Forgetting How the World is Supposed to Work

Starting today, I will be posting a weekly reflection on one of the lectionary passages for the forthcoming Sunday. The plan right now is to post them on Thursday. I have stolen this idea from many, many people. Today’s passage is Matthew 14:22-33.

I can’t tell you how many times that I have stood at the edge of a pool and slowly lowered my foot down on the blue surface of the water. Maybe, just maybe this will be the time it becomes something on which I can walk. Maybe if I believe just a little bit more. Instead: kersploosh.

It hasn’t happened yet. I just can’t get over what happens in this scene. How can anyone walk on the water? It boggles the mind. It just is not in the realm of human experience. Jesus and Peter might as well have been flying or being pulled in chariots by fire-breathing dragons.

And what was Peter thinking? He was a fisherman. He knew how water worked. Is this just an instance—one of seemingly many—in which he did not think? Or was he just so overtaken with what Jesus was doing that everything he knew about how the world is supposed to work vanished? Maybe Peter was so dumbstruck by Jesus strolling on the sea that he forgot water is a terrible walking surface.

It’s funny how being so consumed with one thing causes us to do things that should’t be possible. We’ve all heard the stories of mothers lifting cars as if they were from Krypton in an effort to rescue children.

That is undoubtedly one of the takeaways from this story. When we focus intently on Jesus then perhaps we will forget about how the world is “supposed” to work. Instead of skeptically remarking “What the heck?” we might have the courage to spring upon the sea: to love God fully, to love our neighbors truly, to embrace the outcast, to help the needy, to risk looking like a fool.

It is not easy. The passage demonstrates that. Peter remembers how the world is “supposed” to work and water does what water normally does. Yet Jesus rescues his friend and asks him why he doubted? I have always wondered what Jesus’ tone was when he said that. Disappointed? Exasperated? A tone that I can only describe as “Dude, you almost had it. What happened?” (“dude” appears in the original Greek far more than you would think…not really).

Regardless, that ending steels us from making those naive proclamations that we’re going to follow Jesus and change the world and everything is going to be awesome. Yet it should not stop us from taking the risk, of getting out of the boat, of imaging that perhaps the world can work in ways of which we never dreamed, of fixing our eyes on the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.

Blessed are the Guardians of the Galaxy

Nine Years