Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28; Psalm 105:1-6, 16-22, 45b; (or 1 Kings 19:9-18; Psalm 85:8-13); Romans 10:5-15; Matthew 14:22-33
“The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth, dwelling deeply in the present moment and feeling truly alive.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
In this week’s Gospel story Jesus walks on water, and so does Peter for a moment or two. To walk on water for even a few seconds, as Peter did, seems like a spectacular feat. However, Thich Nhat Hanh in the above quote says that walking on water is not the miracle. Matthew, in telling us this story, is not in contradiction with the above quote. Towards the finale of Matthew’s account, after Jesus gives Peter a hand, it is clear that it is all about faith, not about walking on water. Sometimes we just have to move beyond the metaphor. Faith just might have a lot to do with walking “on the green earth, dwelling deeply in the present moment and feeling truly alive.” Peter was full of doubt and was afraid. That’s our own story right here and now. We are full of doubt and afraid when the storms of life stir us up, shake our confidence and comfort zones. (See Greek below) Whether it is a divorce, loss of a job, a disgrace, a rejection, a death, an embarrassment, or anything that stops us short in our carefully planned life route, we all at once seem not to be able to walk on. When Jesus tells us to have faith, he is saying that indeed we can walk on in spite of these difficulties. There is a similar example in our reading from 1 Kings. Elijah fears for his life and is hiding out in a mountain cave. He is calling it quits. But God asks him a question: “What are you doing here?” (1 Kings 19:9) Ditto when we want to call it quits. We hear Jesus say to us “What are you doing here?” We can walk out of our cave to a new green earth. Life may be different because of the changes and chances of life, but it is not over. When we fear, like Peter we can call out “Lord, save me.” (Matthew 14:30) And he will.
Almost all translations of Matthew 14:26 say that the disciples were “terrified” when they see Jesus walking on the sea. However, the Greek literally says they were “stirred up” or “shaken.” The Greek word does not necessarily have emotional overtones. It is more neutral like James Bond’s martini, shaken not stirred. Matthew had other more direct emotionally charged words he could have used, rather than this neutral word, if he wanted to communicate fear. The emotion may follow the stirring, but first comes the life changing, life shaking event.
Battered my stormed life.
Yet squalls clear new green pathways.
Shaken and stirred on.