After a brief foray into Luke’s Gospel to celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration, we return to our regularly scheduled program in Matthew. This week, we are gifted with one of Christianity’s favorite stories, the one that has made its way into pop culture more than any other, Jesus (and Peter, for a minute) walking on water.
At Christ Church, we are using Old Testament Track Two, which, at least in theory, is supposed to offer thematic lessons in line with the Gospel. Some Sundays, this is more true than others, but this week, the common thread seems rather obvious, even if it is undesirable. Just as Peter causes himself to sink though doubt, Elijah crawls into a cave sure that he is the only faithful Jew remaining. Both, it would seem, are their own worst enemies.
As much as I hate to admit it, I know this problem to be true in my own life as well. Whether it is Peter’s sin of initially trusting myself too much, taking on too many tasks, and ultimately failing under the weight of my own hubris, or Elijah’s sin of frustration and lament over a situation that really wasn’t as bad as it seemed, I’m guilty, more often than I’d like to think, of placing too much trust in human beings and not enough in the power of the living God.
What are we to do in those circumstances? Well, for both Elijah and Peter, salvation comes from God’s intervention. The first thing to note in both stories is that the divine power of God is present, no matter what. The voice asks Elijah, “what are you doing here?” because God is right there alongside him. Jesus reaches out to catch Peter because he won’t let him go too far astray. So often, when we think we’ve gone out on our own, we assume that in so doing, we have left God behind. Sometimes, it might even seem like we have gone too far; that this time, God couldn’t possible save us. And yet, there is no place too far from the love of God. No matter who many times we set out on our own, no matter how far down the path we might go, no matter how close the water might be to overtaking us, God is there, ready for us to call out for help. As Paul tells the Christians in Rome, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”