8-13-23 “Take Heart, and See God is There!”

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Matthew 14:22-33    

“Take Heart, and See God is There!”


       I want to start with something funny I found on an internet site: Jesus decides to come back to earth. He gets his friend Moses to go with him, and Moses tells him he should warm up doing miracles before he shows anyone. They rent a cabin on a lake out in the middle of nowhere.

      On the first day, Jesus takes a wine glass, fills it with water, and turns it into wine! Moses is suitably impressed. On the second day, they go out on the lake and catch two fish, and Jesus multiplies them so they’ll have plenty. Moses is, again, impressed.

      On the third day, Jesus decides to walk across the lake. He walks out, but the water is up to his knees pretty soon, and he heads back. “Why can’t I walk on water, Moses?” he asked. “I have no idea. Let’s take a break and try again tomorrow.” The next day, Jesus wades out, and again he sinks. “I just can’t understand it!” he cried. “I still can’t figure it out,” said Moses. “We’ll give it one more try tomorrow.” The next day, Jesus walked out into the lake again. “Why can’t I walk on water anymore?” Moses thinks for a moment, then asks, “Well…did you have the holes in your feet last time?”

       Today’s scripture is a famous story about Jesus walking on water. It happened right after Jesus fed five thousand people with five loaves and two fish and got twelve baskets full of leftovers. And then, Jesus immediately made his disciples get into the boat and go on to the other side while he sent all the people. The disciples who left in a hurry met the wind on the boat, and the waves battered the boat. They were still far from the land and afraid of the wind blowing against them. Can you imagine? While they were struggling with the wind in the middle of the lake, they saw someone coming toward them on the water. They were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” and crying out in fear. But Jesus immediately spoke to them, saying, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” And among the twelve disciples, Peter said, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water,” while others were in fear.

       The twelve disciples all experienced Jesus’ miraculous work, and they even saw that Jesus rebuked the winds and waves when they feared the storm and that it was completely calm. Here is the story: Jesus and his disciples got into a boat after they healed many illnesses. As soon as Jesus got on the boat, he fell in sleep. Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. The disciples woke him up, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to go down.!” Jesus got up and rebuked the winds and waves, and it was completely calm. They were amazed that the winds and waves obeyed him (Matthew 8:23-27).

       The Letter of Isaiah says, “It is I who made the earth and created humankind upon it. It was my hands that stretched out the heavens; I commanded all their host” (Isaiah 45:12). Peter might believe that Jesus is the Lord who made all creatures, and rules all universes. Otherwise, how could he say, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water?” It was early morning, which meant they were struggling against the wind and the waves over the night on the lake. While they were struggling with the winds and waves, someone was coming by walking on the water. Moreover, he said, “It’s I. Take heart. Don’t be afraid.” Peter might believe that if it was Jesus, he could also walk on water by Jesus, who could calm winds and waves.

       Does anyone have faith like Peter? While the other disciples still stayed in the boat with fear, he asked Jesus, “Say to me to come out of the boat and walk on the water.” Jesus said, “Come.” So, Peter exited the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. Some people are, perhaps, still suspicious of how someone could walk on water, while others believe we can do it with God’s help. The disciples’ situation was challenging: it was at midnight; the wind and waves coming towards them, and what appeared to be a ghost walked on water toward them. But, remember, Jesus was there with them.

        It is not just a story from the Bible, but it is our story. In our life journey, we often face winds and waves, whether it is a big or small deal. Sometimes in the middle of the night, when we can’t find a way to go forward, somehow, we face the winds and waves, which are the burdens that we have to deal with; somehow, we face the ghost.  We may experience the loss of a loved one unexpectedly. If that happens what do we do? Are we going to stay in the middle of grief, scared, heartbroken and fearful? Remember, when we face difficulties, God is there whether we realize it or not. God may give us a sign as God is there. It is likely as if when the disciples faced difficulties on the lake, Jesus came to them like a ghost. However, a few people realize it was Jesus, while others feared it was a ghost. When you feel lost in the middle of the night in your life journey, take heart, and see God is there with you and for you.

             Right before I got appointed at this parish, I struggled wondering what if God’s answer didn’t come to me. At that time, after I finished my Ph.D. studies, I had also completed a degree of Master of Divinity with God’s strong calling. However, God’s calling made me wait for longer than I expected. While waiting for God’s answer, I worked at a hospital as a chaplain for one and a half years. My plan was I would work at a hospital for six months. Then, I was suspicious if God’s answer was that I was to become a chaplain. Meanwhile, my visa was about to expire, and I had to go back to my country, South Korea. I was confused about God’s calling, which made me study for a Master of Divinity degree after getting a Doctoral degree. I felt that all doors were blocked. Many confusions led me to getting stressed. Should I go back earlier, right after finishing a PhD?

             One day, when I watered my garden, I saw a rainbow in my garden. As soon as I saw it, I recalled God’s promise: “Wherever you go, I will be there.” So, I just kneeled in my garden and prayed, “Lord, if it is a sign, you are here with me; please lead me out of this darkness.” And then, I got an email from the bishop that evening.

            If you feel that you are lost in the middle of the night, could you pray to God? And then, take heart, and see God is there for you. I know sometimes God’s answer comes to us very slowly. However, even if it is slow, keep it going. Even if you go further and face difficulties again, don’t worry because God may hold you. It is like when Peter bravely came out of the boat and walked on the water a little bit, but he fell sooner. However, remember, when Peter fell into the water, he shouted, “Lord, save me!” then, Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him.

           God sometimes makes us wait for a long time, and He sometimes answers us immediately. We don’t know when it will be. But the good thing is that God is with us always. Whenever you have turmoil in your life, take heart, and see God is there. Thanks be to God. Amen!