’s Mark Kurowski reflects on how we can have courage in the midst of the storms of life.   Please read Matthew 14:22-33., this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 8/7/2011The 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read Matthew 14.22-33.
They left their homes and families.  They left their jobs and their financial security, little as it may have been.  They left everything to follow him.  Now, they find themselves sitting without Jesus in their presence, in a boat at three in the morning, and on a rough sea.  The wind is not just blowing, it is tormenting them.  Off in the distance, the disciples see something that looks like Jesus walking upon the water.  I don’t know about you, but that just might make me row a little faster.
If Jesus were there bodily, sitting next to me, I would feel a lot more relaxed, wouldn’t you?  So, it must have been a huge relief when Jesus said to them, “Have courage, it is I; stop being afraid.”  It was these words that prompted the response from Peter.  If you think about it, it is a great trust to be daring and bold enough to step out of a boat on billowing waves in a stiff “tormenting” wind.  Looking away from Jesus, noticing the waves and the wind, Peter begins to sink.  Even then, Jesus is there left to lift him out of the water, put him in the boat and stop the wind and the waves.
The church throughout history has seen itself as a boat on a missionary journey.  Like the disciples, we too are alone on the missionary journey, that is, without Christ bodily next to us.  We watch the news and read the newspapers and shudder at the world around us.  We are like a boat that is being tossed to and fro on endless waves of assaults on our safety; endless waves of alcohol abuse, drug abuse, child abuse and spousal abuse; endless waves of educational decay, spiritual decay, and moral decay.  We are a boat which I in the midst of heavy winds of New Ageism, positivism, secularism, humanism and a whole chasm of “isms” that blow this mighty Leviathan off course.  We could look out at the troubled sea of a world tossing us to and fro and we could possibly see Jesus as a ghost of a figure in the past who is not really relevant to our current situation.
If we keep our eyes on Jesus in this, the fourth watch of the night, and listen to his words, we can continue this missionary journey until the day he returns and calms the waves of fear and stops the winds of idolatry.  “…he will wipe every tear from [our] eyes.  Death will be no more, mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things will have passed away.” (Rev. 21.4).  Until then, the Holy Spirit is with us and he whispers the words of Jesus, he says, “Have courage, it is I; stop being afraid.”  When we listen, when we stop flapping our lips and listen, for Jesus we can hear him coming across the stormy waters.  We can hear him through the strong whistling winds, and we can know that he is with us.  He says, “Have courage.”
I am not talking about any old courage.  I’m not talking about some reassurance from within.  I’m talking about the gift of the Holy Spirit to trust Jesus and to be bold and daring in our faith like Peter who got out of the boat and stood on the raging sea with the wind smacking him in the face.  I’m talking about the courage that fears him who can kill both the body and the soul.  The type of courage that makes us want to be on the waves, but not in the waves.  Just like Peter, we must keep our eyes fixed on Jesus or our courage will falter and our ship will sink.
We are alone in the missionary journey because we have been tormented by every wind of doctrine that has rained endlessly on our understanding of salvation and the putting to death of the sin that remains in our flesh.  We have been tossed to and fro by every wind of controversy which has blown this great ship off course.
Why have we been blown by every wind of doctrine? Why have we been tossed by every wave of controversy?  It is because we have shrunk at the challenge of the world which demands we believe that God is NOT powerful enough to work through water, bread, wine, the spoken word, and loving caring relationships.  It is because we are afraid of offending some who live in sin.  We think we are showing love by accepting any unholiness, any ungodliness, and anybody’s version of self adulating love.  Because we have looked down at the waves and winds of the world and have taken our eyes off of Jesus we are afraid to evangelize.  This is why we are afraid to be challenged to step out of the seemingly save boat and walk on the troubled water of life.
But to this church I have one thing to say, “Have courage.” Once again, have the courage that comes from looking Jesus in the face.  Have the courage which trusts him enough to step daringly out of the boat onto the waves of life and we will walk on the troubled sea of the world.
Some may say that have trouble in their own personal lives.  They are too consumed right now with their own troubles to be on a mission from God.  They are like Peter, wanting to step out of the boat away from the rest of the disciples.  They want to walk on the water alone to Jesus, but they cannot see anything but the waves and the wine.  To you, I say, “Have courage.”
In the times when you don’t know that Jesus is there as you feel like you are sinking in the waves, “Have courage.”
In the times when your morality slips and you start to sink, “Have courage.”
In the times when you are the oppressor and dominator of peoples, “Have courage.”
In the times when you are the oppressed and dominated by people, “Have courage.”
In the times when we are tormented by illness, tossed by depression, tormented by bankruptcy, tossed by a troubled marriage, tormented by a nasty divorce, tossed by a boss who just won’t let up, tormented by our inability to be good parents and tossed by our inability to be good to our parents, no matter what troubled sea in which we sink, we need to take Jesus’ hand and climb in this church-boat.  Have courage, be not afraid, it is Jesus who stills the storm, who feeds the more than five thousand, who walks on water, who is calming the stormy sea of life, who will bring us peace.
When you see Jesus, you will have his courage. When we have his courage he will make the course straight and the rough waves plain.  He will guide us on an incredible missionary journey out into the world.  When we return to our heritage of salvation and sanctification through Jesus, then we will have a word to speak to people which will calm the stormy sea of their lives.  Then, not just we disciples in the boat, but all peoples will say, “Truly he is the Son of God.” Amen?  Amen.
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