Walking on water

Rarely are we given a glimpse of Jesus as divine? Normally he is presented to us as just like us, though special. The most spectacular glimpse is on Mount Tabor where the disciples are dazzled by his glory.

But there is one other instance where his friends are dumbfounded; when he walks on the water. Peter tries it but is overcome by his own daring and sinks. When Jesus says, ‘follow me’, this is not what he has in mind.

Karl Barth tells of a man, possibly drunk, going home at night walking through an unusually flat piece of country, for Switzerland, the scene of the story is known for its mountains and snow.  It was icy weather and when the man had crossed the flat land he was greeted by a stranger who said, ‘do you realise you have just walked across a frozen lake?’ The man was shocked, overcome by this information. Ice can be thick and you can walk or play on it without fear. But it can also be thin and break and you can fall through and that is the end of you. The man had escaped and he was numbed by his brush with death. For Barth, it is a parable of salvation.

We have no idea how close we have been to infection and possible death over these months.  We carry on hopefully, taking the precautions we are advised to take, but we can’t be sure. Maybe we were on thin ice without knowing it. Our modern culture prompts us to spend on surrounding ourselves with insurance but it cannot guarantee our lives. Everything is fragile. An accident, an illness, a job loss – there are all sorts of ways in which we are reminded of our fragility.

Global warming has been warning us for a long time and yet we have not been serious about it. It does not have an immediate impact so we postpone worrying. But this arrival from the east, this virus, demands attention now. Governments are scrambling to protect their citizens and their economies. And this invisible – to the naked eye – unwanted guest is claiming hundreds of thousands of lives in all five continents.

This bleak guest’s gift to us is to help know our fragile nature. We are earthen vessels easily dropped and broken. We are each called to live our days to the full and with compassion for one another. We may not be here tomorrow. There is nothing permanent and solid. Everything is in flux as the ancient Greeks recognised. We cannot insure our lives. The beauty of the seasons and the joys of the earth are here today but tomorrow is another story.

Yet we have nothing to fear.  Our faith tells us so. If we are looking for something sure and permanent, it is on the way – but not now.

9 August 2020             Sunday 19 A                1 Kgs 19:9-13  Rom 9:1-5      Mt 14:22-33

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