19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, August 6th, 2017

The word “ghosting” is used today when someone abruptly cuts off contact with you.  I had not heard of this until I read about it in a column in the Seattle Times.

In the gospel this 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Matthew 14: 22-33), the disciples are in the boat; tossed by the waves, with the wind against them.  Jesus made them get into the boat without him and after he had fed the crowd.  Then, abruptly, he heads for the hills to pray.  Was he ‘ghosting’ them?

It was during the fourth watch—deep into the night and just before dawn—when they see Jesus walking toward the boat and in the midst of the storm.  Terrified, they believe it’s a ghost.

It can seem that Jesus is ‘ghosting’ us sometimes.  Spiritually, we can find ourselves calm, assured, fed by our faith; the mystery of God apparent and very real to us.  Peter must have felt that way on the mountain and as Jesus was transfigured.  Basking in such light he wanted to pitch three tents on the spot.  He wanted it to last.  At such times, life is good; faith in God pegged and steadfast.

Then, abruptly, the wind shifts and everything changes.  Jesus seems more a figment of my imagination and what I believe in unreal; a phantasm.  At such times, belief becomes a great struggle; with much working against it.  It’s then I find myself in the deepest darkness.  Like Peter in today’s gospel, we ache for a sign, riddled as we are with doubt.

And Jesus says, “Come”.   What does this mean for Peter; for us?  It means that are to find the courage to step beyond the doubt—as Peter steps out of the boat and into the storm.  For me, this is what it means to step out in faith: to act “as if” it is all true when faced with the winds of change and undertow of fear that try to undermine my trust in God.

And Peter walks, despite the storm.  He finds the footings of faith and as he makes his way toward Jesus.  Peter draws close to the dawn of Christ’s presence; where darkness gives way to the light.  Peter teaches us what it means to follow; like a small child learning to walk.  The child must first let go of what’s holding it back from taking that first step.  Only then, will it learn to walk and so discover a new-found freedom.

Yet abruptly, Peter begins to sink.  He began to sink when he “saw how strong the wind was.”  In other words, he focused more on the storm than Jesus.  In that moment the storm becomes more real than Christ and he loses faith.  How often we let the ‘storm’ inside instead of Christ.  Too often, we obsess on what’s wrong rather than the good before us.  We focus on what undermines trust.  We hold on to a way of seeing that erodes the good there and capacity to believe.  It is then we turn into cynics if we let such disbelief take hold of us for good. It is then we begin to sink and loose our foothold; where we feel ghosted by God.

Years ago and while praying with scripture, I happened upon these words in the Letter to the Hebrews:  “Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus who inspires and perfects our faith”.  (Hebrews 12:2)  To me, this is the lesson in today’s gospel.  Where we focus and what we focus upon will either save or sink us.  In this walk of faith, may we learn the lesson Peter did and as Jesus grasped his hand, pulling him back into faith.   There is One with us always to help us weather everything we face in this life.

Father Tim Clark, pastor

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