I believe in miracles but, I also believe in ordinaries too.
I suppose, what brought this thought on was the reading for my current sermon series. The particular passage was about Peter walking on water. If you want to read it for yourself, you can find it in Matthew 14 vs. 22 – 33.
It’s a powerful story.
Jesus tells the disciples he is going by himself to pray and they should sail to the other side of the lake. He will see them later. As they are doing the very thing Jesus has told them to do, a storm blows in.
Just as they think that things cannot possibly get any more terrifying, Jesus walks on the water toward them. Peter is desperate to get out of the boat and walk with Jesus, which he does for a while until he starts sinking. Jesus words to him are one’s that, I think, all of us fear hearing at times;
“You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
(Matthew 14 vs. 31)
I suppose, if we look at Peter, we can say “at least say he had the courage to get out of the boat and walk on the water. The other disciples stayed in the boat”
This is a passage that I have preached on many times before. I have found hope and encouragement in its words. It is a passage full of miracles. I believe in miracles
As I read and re-read the passage, I found myself thinking more about the disciples in the boat. I began to consider something I had not considered before. The disciples in the boat.
Storms strike in many different ways. Coronavirus has been a storm like no other I have seen in my lifetime. It’s a storm that has often left me confused, angry and frustrated. I know many have felt the emotional turmoil of these challenging times.
But, coronavirus is not the only storm we have faced. We have all got stories to tell of those occasions when a storm of life has blown in and blown our lives off course.
Whenever the storms of life arise so does the question of faith.
That’s why Jesus’ question to Peter is one that often haunts us as we cross the sea of life.
“You of little faith; why did you doubt?”
There’s something about that question that makes quick answers, the platitudes, so hurtful. “You just need more faith.”
There is a real danger in this kind of theology and understanding of faith. There have been those, during the coronavirus crisis who have taught that, somehow faith will exempt us from having to take the same measures as everybody else. If we have enough faith, they say, then we can ignore the medical advice.
Let me state categorically now. Christians are not exempt from the laws of nature and biology!
Regardless of how much faith we have disease takes a toll on our body. Accidents happen. Loved ones die.
Despite our faith life is difficult, and we (quoting Mick Jagger) “can’t always get what we want”
The thought occurred to me; Maybe faith is not about walking on water through the storms of life but about staying in the boat.
“You of little faith; why did you doubt?”
Maybe Jesus is asking why Peter got out of the boat. After all Jesus is the one who “made the disciples get into the boat.” Jesus is the one who told them to “go to the other side.” Jesus is the one who prayed during their night voyage. Jesus is the one who came to them in the midst of the storm. Jesus is the one who reassured them saying,
“Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”
(Matthew 14 vs. 27)
It is Peter who wanted to get out of the boat. Peter wanted to try and prove something to the others. Is Peter, perhaps, expressing something about escaping from the storm?
Faith is not a way to escape the storms of life. It is the way through the storms of life.
Sometimes, being faithful means staying in the boat and simply rowing. This kind of faith knows that Christ is always coming to us. This kind of faith knows we are not abandoned. This is the kind of faith that seeks God in the ordinary, not just in the miraculous.
I believe in miracles but, I also believe in the ordinaries. Sometimes God works through miracles but, in my experience, God works more frequently in the ordinary. May he give us the eyes to see him, the ears to hear his reassurance, and the courage to stay in the boat and keep rowing!