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Christ walking on the sea, old illustration. Created by Jalabert, published on L'Illustration, Journal Universel, Paris, 1863

Would you have gotten out of the boat? 19th Sunday Year A

Would YOU have gotten out of the boat?

If humor among the disciples is anything like humor at the seminary, than I can easily imagine the 11 apostle’s teasing Simon about his nickname “Petrus” – rock, because of this story.  “Rock of the church?  Hrrrmmmph.  That is only because you sank like one.”  And, in an attempted retort, Simon comes back with his best defense – the one that silences the rest of the apostles:  “Well, at least I had the courage to get out of the boat.”  At least I got out of the boat.

The older I get, the more I understand the courage that it must have taken Simon Peter to engage in that little “walking on the water gig.”

Even though they had been hard at it rowing for several hours now, at least the boat was something.   They knew its creaking and groaning.  How much water it could take on and still stay afloat.  How it handled when light and when weighed down by the catch.  As seasoned fishermen, they knew what they had to do to survive in the boat.  It was their best chance at arriving safely at the other shore.

So why does Simon make his request: “Lord, if it really is you, tell me to come to you across the water?  It is a crazy request.  Why would ANYONE leave a perfectly good, albeit storm tossed boat, to try to walk on water…  Yet Peter, who gets it wrong about as often as he gets it right, somehow realizes that there is something there for him to express – a belief in his heart that MUST find expression. He has to make is trust in the Lord real.   “If it is you…” and off he sets.

Do we have this trust? I don’t know about you, but too often the storms of life keep me in the boat. Have you ever felt inspired to do something new, a little out of the ordinary? Maybe it’s the Faith in Action opportunities that invite us to volunteer with a population we don’t normally associate with. Maybe we’ve seen a new family at the parish and felt a tug to invite them to dinner but haven’t quite gotten there. Maybe you know you should spend more intentional time with your own storm-tossed teenage child, but they are so resistant. How often do we hear these invitations, but remain in the boat?

The temptation is this: it can feel much safer in the boat, even if it is shipping water.  Because we KNOW this boat, this world inside our comfortable ship.  But we don’t know what it is like when we step out of that comfort zone.

Peter did not know either.  But that did not stop him.  And so OUT he went.  Out into that storm, out in that bold proclamation of trust that he so needed to say to our Lord with his life.  I WILL follow you, Lord.  Just call me.  Just bid me come.  And when he falters, it is still that expression of TRUST that gets him through.  He knows enough to say the one thing that matters.  “Lord, save me.”  Not, Lord, rescue me.  Not Lord, pluck me out of this water – but SAVE me.  Let my expression of love and trust take me closer to you.  Save me, Lord.

And this morning, whether our lives are in a period of relative calm or we are in the middle of the raging of our own seas, our Lord is waiting for us on the waves. He invites us to step forward in faith, to be drawn into new expressions of love, charity, and trust.

For those heading to (or back to college) – Will you take that first step – perhaps like Peter – a faltering, sinking one – but at least a step – to make a difference, to change the world, to be involved in the church/Newman center at your places of study?  Because we need you, the church needs you.  Your gifts, your talents, your energy.  All that is good and human and holy and struggling and growing about you.  Will you get out of the boat and into the life of your campus and community.

For the rest of us, the one question from the Simon Peter, the ROCK who started to sink like one, remains.  Will you get out of the boat?


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