There is something restorative about the water. My soul feels most at ease when I am around water. I grew up on the water, so being around water reminds me of my childhood. I like to look at the water, crashing on the shore, or just sitting still; however, I am not a big fan of being in the water. It sounds strange, but I would rather sit and watch then be part of it.
My wife, daughter, and I took a couple of days off and drove to the Lakes Region of New Hampshire for a little rest and restoration. I usually say rest and relaxation, but people need time to restore their souls and their minds under “normal” circumstances even more so under the stress we have all been living under these last few months. There is a little stress here due to COVID, but for the most part, there is rest and restoration.
Very often, Jesus would sneak away for some quiet prayer time and, I would imagine, a little restoration for his soul. These times usually came after a rather exasperating day with his Apostles, but the point is, he got away even for a few moments.
Water plays a role in Scripture, as well. “In the Beginning,” the earth was covered with water until God created the land. The Psalms talk about water as the place where Leviathan dwells. God sent the rain to cover the earth and wipe out people who had gone off the rails, except for Noah and his family. But after the destruction of the waters, God entered a covenant with humanity and said he would never again destroy humanity. The rainbow is a constant reminder of that promise of God.
Jesus was no stranger to water. Most of his Apostles made their living on the water as fishermen. His first miracle was to turn water into wine at a wedding feast. He calmed the seas during a storm and, John baptized him in Jordan at the start of his public ministry.
The Gospel reading for the 10th Sunday after Pentecost is taken from Matthew chapter 14, and it is the story of Jesus walking on water. When I have preached using this passage in the past, my focus had always been on Peter. I would speak of the courage of Peter or the “hold my beer and watch this” of Peter or Peter’s lack of faith, and mine.
In my reading this week, I came upon another way of looking at this story, and t comes from the perspective of Jesus. Sure, it took a lot of faith for Peter to step over the side of that boat and put his feet in that water, but that is not the main point of the story, the main point of the story is what Jesus does for Peter when he begins to sink. Jesus very calmly takes Peter’s hand and brings him back to the safety of the boat. Jesus does not deride Peter for his lack of faith. Jesus does not make Peter get on his knees and recite the “sinners’ prayer” no, Jesus calmly takes Peter by the hand, lifts his out of his despair, and restores his soul.
We all need a rest, and we all need restoration. I find peace along the water. It does not matter where we find peace as long as we can find it.
Friends, the storm is all around us. Maybe the waves are crashing over the side of your boat, and you have had enough, I get it, and so does Jesus. Peter needed a little help, and he reached out his hands, and Jesus lifted him and gave him rest, and Jesus can and will do the same for you.