Jesus continues his quest for solitude. See what this quest reveals about us and the God who loves us. Preached @ St. Peter’s Comox August 13, 2017.
The Gospel lesson last week and this week kind of flow together so it may be useful to try and remember what was happening last week. To recap: Jesus goes to his home town and is rejected by all these people he’s known for a very long time. Then John the Baptist’s disciples show up and deliver the message that “hey, by the way, your cousin was just killed for telling the truth.” Understandably after this Jesus sets out on a quest you might be able to relate to, overwhelmed he goes seeking some alone time.
Leaving his hometown Jesus crosses the sea of Galilee. Does he find his alone time? No instead he encounters five-thousand people, has compassion on them, heals their sick, and feeds them because that’s who God is, the bread of life. After this miracle though, even moreso perhaps, Jesus needs this time to himself and in seeking it he brings that desire of ours, that need to take time apart and recharge up into the reality of his divine life.
And so at last in the evening of this very long day Jesus has had enough. “That’s it! You, disciples: boat, go. And you! Massive crowds, you are dismissed. Bye now” And then he does something I can definitely adore, he goes for a hike, he climbs to the top of the mountain to pray.
Why might the Son of God going to the top of a mountain in Galilee to pray be significant? To answer that question we might want to check in on the reading from Kings we heard this morning. Elijah is on the run when he has this amazing, tender, powerful encounter with God. But why is Elijah on the run? Elijah is on the run because he is protesting the religious chaos that has happened to God’s people. They are not being faithful to the temple worship that God had established. Some of them are worshiping other gods and some are saying that the temple is not where you worship God, we should do that in the hills. Elijah’s ministry is God’s vindication against those who seek after other gods and those who claiming to seek after God ignore his invitation to meet him in the place of His presence. Those who worshiped in the hills sought God after their own hearts and desire not His revelation.
And yet Jesus worships in the hills. This truly is a sign of the age that is breaking forth for as much as Jesus is in the hills, he is in the temple, for the temple is the place of God’s presence and Jesus is God, therefore where his presence is becomes the temple. His alone time brings the hills out of their former shame and into the glory of God’s love. What’s more than that our hope is that filled with the Holy Spirit each of us becomes a place of the presence of the living God meaning that those quiet moments in our bedrooms, or on a bench, or on a hilltop become beautiful times of praise and prayer and intimacy because they are hallowed by God’s presence active in us. This is a beginning of that glorious possibility.
While Jesus is busy transforming the fabric of reality in his solitude, our solitude, the apostles are up to their usual shennanigans – that is to say getting themselves in a bind. Out on the sea they find themselves trapped in a storm and afraid crying out for help. Its now the middle of the night. This isn’t the first time the apostles found themselves in a storm, though last time Jesus was sleeping and they woke him up and he calmed it. This time however Jesus is not in the boat. He walks on the stormy sea towards them to meet them in their distress. Our God is greater than any storm.
The apostles of course freak out, they’re afraid of the storm, they’re afraid of this thing walking on the water towards them mistaking Jesus for a ghost. And I mean fair enough, people don’t normally go around walking on water, something outside of the ordinary is going on. Jesus’s words invite them to turn away from their fear and receive him. Peter, eager to meet his Lord asks to be able to come into the presence of Jesus. And Jesus knowing this promise and hope is the will of God that brings creation into being and is thus greater than Creation invites him above the stormy seas, above nature to come and enter into his presence. So long as Peter’s was walking to Jesus, coming into His presence he was able to walk on water. But then his attention was drawn to the wind and to his fear not to the promise and he falls into the sea.
I think it matters that Jesus didn’t let Peter you know just drown, He reached out and caught him when the fear and the chaos stopped him from coming to Him. I find hope in that.
Taking up our sense of being overwhelmed into himself, having compassion on those who come to Him, giving food and life to those who hunger, bringing all places into his worship and glory, overcoming the turbulent seas and vicious fear to invite his beloved into his presence, and catching them when they fall having witnessed all this who could help but fall to their knees and gratefully proclaim: Truly you are the Son of the Living God.