by the Rev’d Dr. Helen Svoboda-Barber
In today’s Gospel story, Jesus walks on the water out to the disciples’s boat, and the disciples are terrified. When they discover that figure is not a ghost but it’s only Jesus, Peter asks to be able to walk on water too. So Jesus tells him to come, and for a few steps, Peter walks on the water.
Then Peter gets distracted by the wind and the storm. He takes his concentration off of Jesus, he becomes fearful, and he begins to sink. In that moment, Peter calls out for Jesus to save him. Jesus catches him and leads him into the boat and calls Peter, “you of little faith.”
Six chapters earlier, Matthew 8 also has a story about Jesus, his disciples, a boat and a storm. In that story, Jesus is with his disciples in a boat on the sea when a huge storm comes up. Jesus is sleeping through it, but the disciples are terrified and wake him up. He calls the disciples “you of little faith” but he calms the storm.
In this week’s Sermon Brainwave podcast, Dr. Joy J. Moore pointed out something and changed my whole understanding of what Jesus meant. In both these stories about Jesus, his disciples, a boat and a storm, Jesus talks about “you of little faith.”
I’ve always heard that phrase as slightly derogatory. But Dr. Moore asks, what if it is just a statement of fact? What if Jesus is not insulting Peter and the disciples, but rather just describing the world as it is.
Well…then…maybe, if that is true, maybe I do not need to be embarrassed or ashamed when I get into moments in my own life where I only have “little faith.”
In both these stories about Jesus, his disciples, a boat and a storm, when the disciples or Peter are fearful and lost without him, Jesus does not ignore them. When they call out to him, Jesus is with them in their fear. Jesus enters into their “little faith,” and it is enough. There is nothing shameful about it. Nothing embarrassing. Peter’s and the disciples’ reaching out to Jesus, with even the littlest bit of faith, allows him to respond by saving them. Jesus calms the sea. Jesus scoops Peter out of the raging storm.
I don’t know about you, but for me the year 2020 has felt an awful lot like being on a small boat in a big storm, with no hope in sight. The year 2020 and all the required pivoting and learning it has required has deeply shaken my self-confidence. This year feels like we are desperately sinking into the confusion and mire of a raging sea.
And, honestly, I only have a little faith that things will get better any time soon.
I have only the smallest amount of faith that people will do what needs to be done to get COVID-19 in check.
I only have the tiniest faith that our society can recover from systemic racism.
I am losing faith in news media and our government and that the future will be better than the past.
Here in the midst of the year 2020, we are in a tiny boat, being tossed in a huge storm, and I do not understand how Jesus can keep quiet. I do not understand why Jesus would call me out onto these waters.
That confidence I once had in the combination of my own ability and God’s call on my life has dried up, and I am sinking.
What I am, and what I think I know, is not enough.
And yet…We have not been overtaken.
We may be wet and shivering and cowering in the corner of our boat, but we are still afloat.
We may be gasping for air between tremendous waves, but we can still be seen.
We “of little faith”…may be exactly where we need to be.
Because perhaps these stories of Jesus and his disciples and a boat and a storm are reminders to us that we do not have to be fearless. Maybe they are reminders that we do not have to always have superior self-confidence. Maybe they are reminders to us that it is not always up to *us* individually to fix the world, or our society, or even our own family or self.
Maybe these stories of Jesus and his disciples and a boat and a storm are a reminder to us, in the midst of the chaos that is the year 2020, maybe they are a reminder that having just a “little faith” is enough for now.
All we need is just enough faith to be able to call out to Jesus.
All we need is just enough faith to give up being brave.
All we need is just enough faith to give up the belief that by sheer will we can fix the world or walk on water.
All we need is just enough faith to call out to Jesus, “Save me.”
All we need is just enough faith to allow Jesus to scoop us up, and bring us to a place where we can rest and recharge and continue to nurture the “little faith” that is within us.
May God have mercy on your soul.
May you hold on to your “little faith.”
May you have the courage to call out to Jesus, “save me.”
And may you rest in the enough-ness of your little faith.
I speak in the name of the Holy Undivided Trinity, One God. Amen.
Listen to the sermon here.