And So We Begin Again – With Hope Before Us and Storms Around Us!
Spirit Soundings, Rev Ruth Santana-Grace
September 15, 2015
Peter answered Jesus, “Lord, if it is you,
command me to come to you on the water.”
Jesus said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat,
started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus.
But when Peter noticed the strong wind, he became frightened,
and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”
It happens every year – the summer months with their invitation to recreate our spirits are suddenly behind us while we look to the multiple colors of the fall foliage. With this transition of seasons also comes a shift in our rhythms of life – our children are back at school and our churches are gearing up for a new program year. It is a time of great hope as our ministries, congregations, and our presbytery renew our commitment to continue to find ways to be a relevant presence of Gospel hope in this world.
But as we have been so often reminded, being a people of hope can be challenging. I write this Spirit Soundings mindful you will be reading it on September 11th – a quiet morning in 2001 when in many ways, our nation lost its innocence. Most of us can distinctly remember where we were when the two planes flew into the Twin Towers in NYC, followed by the planes at the Pentagon and in the field in Pennsylvania. I will always remember the sense of terror that overcame us – as many of us desperately tried to contact family and friends working in the towers or in that neighborhood. I will forever remember how our churches gathered on that night in silence and prayer – echoing the words of Habakkuk – “How long Lord?” (1:2).
Fast forward to 2015 – the challenge to being a people of hope is alive and well. The words of Habakkuk continue to echo – How long Lord? How long Lord – as we are saturated by images of violence on our streets; as we confront a racism – conscious and unconscious – that plagues us; as we are reminded that hate honors no place as sacred while nine are massacred while studying the bible and welcoming the stranger; as bodies of children wash up on shores; as the brokenness of our systems of education, health care and immigration threaten future generations. The truth is that this list can go on and on – reflecting the winds of storms that blow upon the church as it seeks to be a voice of hope. Even we as Christians wrestle to get along while disagreeing over theological understandings – impacting how we engage one another; threatening a primary distinction of our identity as a people of faith – to love one another.
I’ve been thinking hard these past few weeks about what it means to do ministry in the midst of this reality. I found myself in Matthew 15 – watching the disciples express their fear when they think they see a ghost as Jesus is walking toward them on the sea. The truth is, although frightened, they are nice and cozy in that boat. They are dry and they are safe.
And then there’s Peter – honest, unpredictable, impetuous Peter. He can’t contain himself – and so he challenges Jesus – “If it is really you Jesus, then command me to come to you on the water.” I often wonder if Peter really understood what he was asking. Whatever he may have been thinking, when Jesus said, “Come,” – Peter got out of the safety of that boat and “started walking on the water.” And while Peter was focused on Jesus, for a brief moment in time… he did the impossible. It was only when he shifted his focus from Jesus to the strong wind that Peter began to sink – giving way for fear and panic to set in. And in that fear he cries out, “Lord, save me,” to the one who makes the impossible possible.
And we – you and I – we are a people of the impossible. We are a people of resurrection hope. Throughout human history, people of faith have always witnessed to this hope in the midst of the storms reflected by the real and present challenges around us. It is in the midst of the ugly, the uncertain, the unjust that we are called to witness. Frankly the alternative – the sitting safely on the boat is neither life-giving nor life-changing. More importantly, it is not faithfulness.
So as we begin this new season, as our churches celebrate our homecoming Sundays, may we be more like Peter – challenging ourselves to step out of the boats of our comfort zones. May we risk walking on water, allowing for the power of the Holy Spirit to prompt us together into possibilities of new life and transformation in our communities and in the world. May we focus our trust on Jesus and do something remarkable – knowing that our Lord will indeed save us.
Please click here for a downloadable PDF to share with your congregation: SantanaGraceSpiritSoundings11SEPT2015