Crossing Over (Pentecost 10A – Matthew 14:22-33)

For Sunday, August 13, 2017

Contents:

  1. Scripture Readings
  2. The Text
  3. Call to Worship
  4. Opening Prayer

SCRIPTURE READINGS

Romans 10:5-15
Matthew 14:22-33

THE TEXT

In our passage from Matthew this week, we see Jesus commanding the crowds and the disciples to go away so he can spend some alone time on the mountainside. Like before, when Jesus gave orders for his disciples to cross over to the other side (Matthew 8:18-34), the sea serves as a place of challenge and liminality.

The boat is a liminal space, a space of in-betweeness, a place of crossing over. In it, the disciples are on a sea (really, its a big lake). He has just left a crowd that is well fed, still mourning from the loss of John the Baptist. The disciples find themselves being “battered by the waves…far from the land, for the wind was against them” (14:24). The word battered evokes a sense of oppression. In the gospels, the sea is a place of tyranny, distress, and torture. It brings to mind the dangers of the world that threaten to crush the disciples. For the authorial audience, this is the Roman Empire. For us today, it could be any number of challenges–not least of which would be the destruction our current planet is suffering due to unfettered capitalism.

As a liminal space, the sea serves as a place of transition. It is noisy, stormy, and chaotic. Jesus, who had journeyed off to pray, comes to the disciples in a time of desperation.

The challenge in this passage is to see Peter join Jesus as they relate to the waters in ways that seem to be beyond natural. Jesus is the “Lord over Nature,” and so Peter is encouraged to do the same. But this is a disposition exactly opposite to that which Jesus has been teaching them and would later give them specific instructions about: “You know that the rulers of the nations lord it over them…But it should not be so with you” (Matthew 20:25).

Reading this passage against the grain, we might ask if the desire to be “lords over nature” is in line with what we have learned thus far from the teachings of Jesus. Perhaps it is better to be like-God than to strive to be god-like. Perhaps the challenge for us today is not to learn how to walk on the water, but how to protect and care for it. Perhaps, in this liminal time of transformation, when we are learning what it means to be truly human, following Jesus will not lead to the call of being lords over nature, but lead us to learn from creation and to be mutual caretakers with it.

One place to start learning how to become caretakers of the water rather than lords over the water, is to begin practicing Watershed Discipleship. Our watersheds have everything to teach us about interrelatedness and resiliency. As Todd Wynward puts it, we need to become disciples of our watersheds. In this liminal moment in which we find ourselves–when the glaciers are melting, the coral reefs are dying, the storms are becoming ever more disastrous, and our governments and economies are becoming more and more destructive–perhaps we can follow Peter’s lead, grab the extended hand of Jesus, and let the waters remind us who we are.

CALL TO WORSHIP

Leader:   The waves are beating; the wind is against us.
People:   Come! Let us walk with Jesus.
Leader:   The storms are furious; the waters are rising.
People:   Come! Let us walk with Jesus.
Leader:   The chaos is dreadful; the tempest is raging.
People:   Come! Let us walk with Jesus.
All:           For salvation and joy and abundance are here. Heaven has arrived here among us!

OPENING PRAYER

Creator God, over stormy waters you spoke words of life calling creation into existence. In Jesus, you have shown us a new way to live. Let your presence guide us from the banks of false security to the shores of fullness and life. Empower us to journey beyond our doubts and challenge us with a hope that leads us forward. In the name of Christ, the Light of the World that guides us, we pray. Amen.

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