Our scriptures are rooted in chaos and fear, which is seemingly appropriate for 2020. But, our scriptures also communicate the presence of God and community.
Elijah can be overly dramatic and apparently unaware of consequences for his actions. Elijah opposed Ahab, the Israelite King, and his Phoenician Queen, Jezebel. Elijah stood against their national institution of the worship of Baal and he defeated the prophets of Baal in a battle of “my God is better than your God”. Afterwards, Elijah had the prophets of Baal captured and he murdered them.
Jezebel was clearly not pleased and threatened his life. Thus, he fled to the wilderness. Chaos and Fear.
God promises to ‘pass before’ Elijah, in order that he may experience that intimate presence of God.
- There was a violent wind, a traditional sign of God…
but God was not in the breeze.
- There was an earthquake, another traditional sign of God…
but God was not in the trembles.
- There was a fire burning, again a traditional sign of God…
but God was not in the flames.
Afterwards, a deafening, unsettling, and terrifying silence fell upon that place. There was no noise from humans or critters of any size. There was no rustling of leaves in a breeze. And yet, God was present within that silent stillness. The presence of God.
Elijah, the drama-llama, laments to God that he is the ONLY faithful person remaining. However, God informs and reminds him that he is not alone and God has preserved a remnant. Community.
Returning to our Gospel, let us pause and review for a moment.
John the Baptist has been murdered by beheading.
Jesus was weary, perhaps from the demands of earthly ministry AND the need to grieve his friend, partner in the Kingdom to Come, and cousin (Luke 1; Luke 3). However, Jesus encountered the crowd of 5,000 men and an unknown number of women and children. Jesus witnessed the abundance of their need and was moved by compassion to heal them in body and mind, to teach them, and to feed them with those two fish and five loaves of bread.
Jesus must have been EXHAUSTED.
Jesus sends his inter-most circle of disciples ahead of himself.
Jesus dismisses that multitude of men, women, and children.
Jesus finds that much desired, needed, and well-deserved restful solitude.
Meanwhile, Peter and the disciples are within a boat together in the middle of stormy waters and with increasing frustration that the wind was against them. It was probably chaos.
In the distance, Peter and the disciples notice a man walking on the water. This is not normal. Thus, Peter and the disciples in fear determined it must be a ghost, but it was Jesus catching up with them.
Peter, the rock, can be as dense as a rock.
Peter demanded proof it was Jesus and sought to prove his own faith, or trust, in Christ. How? He wanted to walk on the water alone to Christ.
Christ does invite Peter on to the water, but I envision Jesus thinking ‘why? I am on my way to you. Fine, if you insist.’
Peter, stepping out alone on to the stormy waters, realizes that the chaos of the sea is ten-fold without the boat and begins to sink… well, like a rock. Again, Chaos and Fear.
Jesus, God in human flesh and bone, reaches a hand out to rescue Peter from drowning in the stormy waters. The presence of God, in Christ, is among the chaos of the stormy sea. The presence of God.
Jesus brings Peter safely to the awe-struck disciples within the boat. Community.
Jesus did not need to prove anything to Peter.
Peter did not need to prove his faith, or trust, to Christ, the disciples, or himself… well, maybe his ego. Peter, unnecessarily, ditched the disciples who were literally in the same boat as him.
We, like Peter, can be as dense as rocks. Have you ever tried to walk on water?
I have AND I have video. (Click here to watch).
It was amusing, but I failed miserably.
I was secure in a plastic bubble on a small amount of water and still failed.
Chaos. Fear. Presence of God. Community.
Our world, our lives, and our very being exists within chaos, which 2020 is providing in abundance with a health pandemic and economic crisis paired with social unrest. These stormy waters can easily overwhelm us while within the boat that is our families, friends, fur-babies, and faith communities who encourage, support, and lean upon one another through the storm.
Chaos always incites anxiety, fear, and at times irrational action.
Elijah, at the least, fueled the chaos that led to him fleeing for his life in fear.
Peter seeks to conquer the chaos, but the accompanying fear causes him to drop down into the sea like a rock.
Presence of God.
God is always and forever present, whether within silent stillness or chaotic storms.
We have been given community as a gift, although at times we may wish to return it.
Elijah was alone and lonely. He thought he was a lone-wolf, but he was not. God reminds him of a faithful remnant preserved by God, who will be his co-partners and community in prophetic ministry.
Peter was determined to prove himself as THE leader by virtue of faith, or trust, in Christ on display. Thus, Peter essentially ditched his brothers in faith who were with him. These are the brothers who will support and lean upon one another through Jesus’ arrest, passion, crucifixion, death, and the earliest days of the church universal.
Chaos. Fear. Presence of God. Community.
May the chaos and fear never sweep us away.
May we be ever aware of the presence of God,
whether in the silence or the storms.
May we always encourage, support, and
stand with our siblings in our baptismal vocations:
- to proclaim Christ in word and deed;
- to seek justice;
- to act with compassion and mercy; and
- to love and serve all persons, but especially the vulnerable. Amen.