Testing the waters of faith
Testing the waters of faith. Amen.
As the lockdown is beginning to open up, many of us are beginning to test the water. No longer just to buy food, but to venture into garden centres, DIY stores or to come to church and quietly sit and pray. We are beginning to exercise confidence, belief, trust and faith.
Some years ago now, there was a young girl that I trained with who was born with no real sight, just a vague sense of light and dark. She lived in Southgate and travelled on the tube every day to work in Oxford Street in the heart of London’s West End. A very risky manoeuvre these days. She once told me that every step was an act of confidence in her training, daily testing the water. Having confidence that the curb was not a cliff, or that the pavement would not open up a sinkhole, and being confident that her fellow travellers would help if needed.
We heard this morning about the young boy Joseph, a favoured youngest son, and of his reputation within the family as a dreamer who didn’t pull his weight in the family business. Favouritism and sibling rivalry caused Joseph to be sold into slavery for twenty pieces of silver. An echo of the price Judas was paid.
In a time when Jewish people had the belief that they were a chosen race. That they had a special relationship with Yahweh; we can only imagine the upheaval and changes in relationships within Jacob’s family afterwards and how they viewed the covenantal relationship with their God.
Moving forward in time and to the gospel reading, the disciples were literally in upheaval, on a boat in a storm, and far from land. As the dawn broke and Jesus walked towards them it was no wonder they thought he was a ghost floating above the water. In answer to their cries of terror Jesus identified himself and reassured them things would be well if they had trust in him.
Peter, who was always testing the water, challenged the apparition, ‘Come on then, if it is you, command me to come’. In response to Jesus’ command, Peter did get out of the boat and step out onto the water. Was it fear, a sudden doubt or a momentary lack of faith, whatever it was he began to sink? Jesus reached out and caught him in the same way that Jesus reaches out to us if we only call out to him in faith.
In writing to the embryo church in Rome, Paul explained that God’s relationship, the old covenant with Abraham, Jacob and Moses had been based on the Law; if you did what is right God kept his promise and took care of you. But now the new covenant had arrived; by the death and resurrection of Jesus, God’s promise was now open to everyone, Jew and Gentile alike, everyone who believed and trusted in him were included.
You may by now have caught on to the count down of those four words I began with, Confidence, Belief, Trust and Faith. But what of faith, this thing we call faith, are we confident, do we believe and trust any more than Peter did that God is ready and willing to help us overcome our fears.
I don’t for a moment believe Jesus would be encouraging us to take risks with our lives, laying ourselves open to catching the corona virus. I do believe that he doesn’t want us to be so paralysed by fear that we forget his promise to be with us always.
Each of those words has something in common. Confidence, Belief, Trust and Faith are all undermined by ‘Fear’. We sometimes forget that the most often quoted command from God in His word is “Do not be afraid” and the most often promise is, “I am with you”. As Jesus put it so well to Peter “you of little faith, why did you doubt?” He could just as easily have said ‘you who allowed fear to undo your belief, confidence, and trust in me, where is your faith, I am right here with you?’
And that is what we might say is the bottom line; seeing with the eyes of faith really is believing, if we call out in faith, our Lord God is always there, arms outstretched, ready to enfold each and everyone of us. Not because we first believed, had confidence, trust or faith, but simply because he loved us enough to come down and save us from ourselves. So when at any time or in any circumstance we hear Christ’s call to come, let us step out of the boat in faith, wearing our face masks and test the water. Indeed, how beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news! Amen.
The Rev'd Maureen Lunn, St Mary Magdalene, Enfield, 09/08/2020