Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came towards Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’ (Matthew 14:28-33)
Peter is a wonderful character who has much to teach us. As a disciple of Jesus Christ, Peter tried so hard, but often failed to fully grasp who Jesus was and what he taught. He was loyal, he was willing, he was devoted, yet he was also a bit thick and often confused. Time after time, Peter meant well, he would speak out with passion, and he would say the wrong thing. Yet, in time, Peter became the “rock” upon which the early Christian church was built.
I love the story of Peter asking to walk on the water with Jesus. It reveals Peter’s innocent faith – he has no doubt that if Jesus approves it, it can happen. He steps out boldly, and indeed he walks on the water, but then he got distracted. His faith in Jesus gave way to his doubts. Fear displaced faith, and Peter began sinking. The gospel doesn’t say it, but I imagine Jesus shaking his head, but with a patient smile on his face.
I often imagine Jesus uses that patient smile with us as well. There is a bit of Peter in all of us (some more than others) and we find ourselves wanting to believe, but having doubts, getting distracted, and allowing fear to push faith out of the way. The current coronavirus pandemic is a good example. Indeed, it is a choppy sea, a stormy time, and big test of our faith. We want to walk through it strong and confident, but it is hard. So, let us learn from Peter.
Yes, we are doing something difficult – some might even say impossible – by keeping a strong faith and a positive attitude through COVID-19, but it is critically important that we acknowledge that Jesus is standing close by. Jesus knows our faith fails us from time to time. Jesus knows we get distracted. Jesus knows that we struggle with our fears. And Jesus knows that we are growing in our faith each and every step, and that we can be building blocks for a strong and vital church. Jesus watches, Jesus shakes his head and smiles, and Jesus reaches out to us to lift us up and get us started again.
Let us pray: Lord and master of every storm, be patient with us. As we walk on the heaving waves of the current global crisis, help us to keep our eyes on you. Assure us that when we start to sink, you will lift us up. Forgive us for our lack of faith, but build upon that which we have, that as we grow through this time, we become the disciples you need us to be. Bless us, O Lord. Amen.
May this devotion provide you with a moment of faithful reflection and care. You are involved in ministries of justice and witness, in ministries of standing up and standing with people working to create better systems and communities, in ministries of learning and searching and researching to become more aware and awakened, more technologically savvy and proficient, more virtually and personally present in your churches and communities and world. Each of us who serve as members of your Wisconsin Cabinet write these devotions in grateful prayer for you – for sustenance and buoyancy, for strength and courage, for safety and just actions, and for faith and love to be full and fulfilled in your daily lives. God’s grace and blessings, God’s challenge and healthy discomfort, God’s Spirit and energy be with you, in the hope Christ offers us all.
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung has served as resident bishop of the Wisconsin Annual Conference since September of 2012. Prior to leading the Wisconsin Conference UMC, Bishop Jung served eight years as bishop of the Northern Illinois Conference (Chicago area).