Monday, August 11, 2008

Responding to Jesus

The gospel reading for Sunday, Aug. 3 was Matthew 14:13-21. In this story, Jesus tells the disciples to feed the crowd that has gathered. The disciples respond with fear, "But we only have 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish." Essentially, the disciples are panicked because they don't have enough. Yet Jesus blesses what they have and gives it to them to distribute. When they are finished, more than 5000 people have been fed and there are 12 baskets of food remaining.

The gospel reading for Sunday, Aug. 10 was Matthew 14:22-33. In this story, Jesus walks on water towards the disciples who are in a boat. Peter, in a bold act of faithfulness, asks Jesus to call him to walk on the water too. Jesus responds, "Come." Peter begins to walk towards Jesus on the water, but suddenly aware of his circumstances (and the wind) becomes frightened and sinks. Jesus catches him and pulls him up.

As I reflect on these stories I see some striking similarities.

1. Jesus commands them to do something impossible:
  • Feed 5000 people with 5 loaves and 2 fish.
  • Walk on water.
2. The disciples respond either with fear or faith:
  • We don't have enough to feed all those people. (fear)
  • Peter says, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water." (faith)
3. The disciples do what Jesus has asked:
  • 5000 men (plus women and children) are fed, with plenty to spare.
  • Peter walks on the water, until he panics and sinks.
What do I gather from this? Maybe a couple of things.

First, it would seem that fear and panic are common responses to what Jesus calls us to do. The disciples panic, sometimes as their initial reaction, sometimes as their subsequent reaction. Panic is not an unusual thing for humans to experience when Jesus calls us.

Secondly, I think that doing what Jesus calls us to do, even when it seems impossible, changes lives. Hungry people are fed. Peter walks towards Jesus on water. Things change when we respond to Jesus' call. In God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).

I'm left pondering what all of this means. It would seem that fear and panic are a natural human response to being called to do the seemingly impossible. But, somehow, if we can believe that Jesus has given us what we need to do what He is calling us to do, things change, the world is changed, lives are transformed. Does this make sense? Do you see the same similarities?

How do you see yourself? Are you the disciple that panics at Jesus' initial request? Or are you the disciple that responds in bold faithfulness at first, and then panics half-way through? (I, by the way, am the one that panics at Jesus' first request and will put off responding for as long as I possibly can. Talk about stuck!)

How do we learn to get past our fears, either initially or in the midst of it all, and allow Jesus to work through us? Is this something that we can practice? Do we learn to be more faithful each time we try?

Let me know what you think.


Weber deVore Jr said...

Hi Rev. Julie,
You have posted a tough question.
I is as though:
IF we have faith-
He will reach out to us & support us.
I have never been tested to walk on water. At this point we do the best we can.
My calling is to help where I am able.

MissAmy said...

I love these two stories. In the first story Peter sees a potential hungry mob and tells Jesus they are hungry, maybe expecting a flashy miracle then, but Jesus says, "Give them something to eat." I believe we often approach Jesus with insurmountable problems and He tells us to take care of it and THEN gives us the resources to do His work.

I read the second story to a group of teenage confirmands and told them to do that, take a risk, step out of the boat. "Who is out there to meet you?" I asked. One replied right away, "God is."

Thank you for starting this blog

Anonymous said...

Welll for a child.. It's a simple answer:

Mr & Mrs God of course. If we are created in gods image then it's pretty simple math to know that god world have
parents. Of course god really never got along with his parents, he stopped talking to them when he went off to
university. I suspect Jesus was forbidden to mention them
At the dinner table. Which is why we hear so little about them in bible.

On a more serious note, it only stands to reason god
had parents.

Allan Roy Andrews said...


Waking before a mist-dimpled dawn,
tending his confused nets,
he remembered his steps
and smiled gently as cocks crowed.
We recall his role in what

we niggardly call Church History.
A man of his ilk we expect
to founder, fail and fall;
to act the buffoon and settle
with age like an old comedian.

But in that storm on Galilee,
time's hourglass spilled in
sand. Jesus beckoned, and
frantic fishermen became aware
of humanity walking on water.