I feel like a little bit of context might be helpful here because the pericope (a set of verses that forms one coherent unit or thought) that we hear this evening sounds like the disciples are just out on a little boat ride when the waters get rough. In fact a whole lot of things have gone on just before and not unlike our own lives which are full and crazy, so were theirs.
John the Baptist has been beheaded. Jesus was told about this and he went out to have some time by himself, presumably to mourn the death of his cousin. So he got into a boat and went to find a quiet place, but the crowds followed him and they stayed with him until night fall and then they get hungry, so Jesus tells his disciples to feed them – and they do – with loaves of bread and fishes, baskets full.
The people are fed and just as I imagine everyone is resting, full and exhausted – Jesus looks at his disciples and says, “OK let’s go.” He gets them back in the boat, says goodbye to the crowds – or dismisses them – and then he heads off to a mountain by himself. Finally some time alone with God.
That all happened just before get to the part that we hear tonight.
We begin just as the wind kicks up and churns up the waters around the boat and I guess Jesus figured it was time to check on the disciples because they look out across the water and see Jesus coming towards them.
On the water – not in a boat.
Peter says to Jesus: ‘If this is really you let me come out with you.”, so Jesus says, ‘Come’. And he does. As soon as Peter gets out into the water, he becomes afraid and as soon as he becomes afraid, he begins to sink.
And Jesus says to Peter, ‘Why did you doubt?’ And then they all get back into the boat and the waters calm and they all give thanks and worship Jesus.
‘Why did you doubt?’ That is what Jesus asks Peter. Why do we doubt? Jesus was right there with Peter, and still he doubts. It’s left me wondering the same thing. Why do I doubt? Because doubt I surely do.
The waters get rough in my life and I step out and this is where the bargaining begins.
If you’re here with me Jesus, just let me get through this. If you’re with me Jesus, help me with whatever.
Have you ever had this conversation? The, if you’re here with me Jesus then could you just do X.
You can fill in the rest from your own experience.
‘Why do you doubt?’, Jesus asks.
When Andrew and I started this ministry, it was in response to what we heard as a call and through prayer, but I doubted.
I knew Andrew had the chops but was not at all convinced that I had the gifts, that I wouldn’t drive Andrew crazy, that people would come. But here you are, and we are making connections to amazing people like you.
Our Bishop is supportive, the Dean is behind us and I just spent two fabulous weeks away with my family the first of which was at Sorrento Centre where I attended worship daily led by a woman very skilled in leading the kind of music that we are working with here. The very thing I need the most help with.
And I missed being here which is crazy to me, because I haven’t missed church in a very long time.
‘Why do you doubt?’, Jesus asks. I am right here.
If we are following though prayer, if we are in relationship with Jesus and responding to where we are being called to go, why do we doubt?
Well I doubt, because I know I have an ego and sometimes I think I can be forceful with the thing that I want, rather than the thing that I am being called to do.
I know that I have an agenda too and I know it doesn’t always line up with God’s plan. I doubt because I am not sure I trust the world around me all the time. I doubt because I think I might have a better plan, I doubt because I’m busy and I just want to get things done – not feeding the five thousand busy – but busy all the same. I doubt because the world disappoints and crappy things can happen and sometimes I’m tired of being disappointed and I don’t want to take anymore chances. I doubt because I forget that I am not alone…
But I think that when we do something in faith. When the thing we are doing is about more than ourselves but about connection and building God’s Kingdom, when we remember that we are all beloved children of God, Jesus is right there with us. And rather than doubt we are invited to have faith in God, in Christ and in ourselves. Even when the waves get high, Jesus says, I am right here with you. Even when the world is disappointing – especially when the world is disappointing – I am with you.
There are all of these moments in life when we feel tired or burnt out or alone – and even in the midst of that, we often have opportunities to risk something of ourselves for another – or for God. The Bible is such a funny book because it is so laden with truth – even when I want it to just be a good story with a nice moral ending and a little bow to tie it all up – it isn’t .
The Gospels are about life. Here. Now. Always.
Life amid death and grieving and hard, exhausting work and really rough seas. And in all of it, Jesus says I am with you – do not be afraid, ‘Why do you doubt?’
But I do – more and less depending on the day – and it’s not Jesus or God that I doubt – it’s always myself. Always my own ability to live into my call, or trust my response or allow myself to trust others.
Peter doesn’t doubt that it’s Jesus – or I cannot imagine why on earth he would have gotten out of the boat – but he does look down.
I imagine him doubting his own ability to be out there. And this’s exactly what Jesus is speaking to: don’t doubt yourself or your own ability to respond to my call or your willingness to step out – just do it because I am with you.