For Sunday, August 10, 2014 – Matthew 14:22-33
Down the trail of years, we hear him still, Jesus calling again and again, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” Whatever the circumstance of our own dark nights, however the waves of chaos threaten to drown us—overwhelming us with bitterness or remorse, disappointment or hate, addiction or isolation—whatever might be our current stunned state, Jesus has one message: “Take heart. Do not be afraid.” What would it mean if we could truly hear him and begin to believe?
I grew up in Iowa and then lived a number of years in Oklahoma. One thing I learned is that storms come, they simply do. Despite my forethought and planning, my preference for calm, I could never create a stormless life. When the winds hit, we did not need to be told to crouch in fear. Fear was the easy part. Taking heart was the challenge. Believing that all would be well and even fierce storms could not rob us of our peace was the challenge. The disciples had just witnessed the mass feeding of thousands of hungry people; surely they would never doubt Providence again. Surely peace would now come easily, having seen everyone return home satisfied. Surely the winds of fear and doubt would remain calm, at least for tonight.
But peace, they learn, is not the absence of wind. Peace is not even the absence of fear. Only when the seas of our lives are rough, only when we are being knocked about, misunderstood and judged, fearing for our safety, do we discover our inner condition. The waves inevitably come, again and again they come. Taking heart can come, too, when we remember we are not alone. So Jesus reminds us, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” We have been given everything we need. We can step bravely into these wild and chaotic days; peace can be the condition of our inner land. Great is the calm we can contribute when violent gusts threaten. We can leave the refuge of our little boats, and rise up and follow.