“Do not be afraid.”-Jesus, in Matthew 14:27
In Matthew’s account of Jesus’ walking on water during a storm (Matt 14:22-33), Peter models courage when he asks Jesus to summon him to walk on water toward him. When Jesus complies by calling Peter to come, he courageously starts walking on water. But midway, he turns his attention from Jesus to the storm raging around him. He falters. He sinks into the sea. Then Jesus takes him by the hand and prevents him from drowning.
This remarkable story should challenge us to take bold steps in a new direction and sometimesuncharted waters, making changes to assure survival, growth, and continued viability of a congregation.
Although this story is often used as a model of failure, it is far from that. Peter demonstrates that he is willing to try something new that requires a lot of courage. Jesus encourages him to take a chance. As a result, he experiences something that the other disciples do not. Like Jesus, Peter walks on water.
When a year-old child stands erect and takes her first tentative steps, we do not ridicule her for her failure to cross a room. We praise her for her new accomplishment. She will fall many times before she masters the technique. But she would not walk at all if she were afraid to take the first steps.
As long as Peter keeps his eyes on Jesus, his steps are sure. But when he becomes distracted by the storm, he starts to sink. Jesus rescues him. This demonstrates that Jesus is concerned about the safety, health, and well-being of Peter’s physical body, not just his spiritual state. So Jesus saves him by grabbing hold of him and preventing him from drowning. Here Peter has another experience that the other disciples do not. He feels the touch of Jesus.
Jesus affirms that Peter has faith. He just does not have enough faith. This is a growth area for him. But Peter’s little bit of faith was enough to give him the courage to step into uncertain territory and transform the disciples’ theology. According to Matthew, they proclaim Jesus to be the Son of God. Would they have received this insight without Peter’s courageous step onto the raging waters and then Jesus’ rescue?
Congregational and committee meetings in the church are often routine. There are approvals to be made, reports to be heard, and questions to be asked and answered. But every congregation comes to a point where it has to make significant changes, and every significant change is a step into the unknown. Perhaps it has to choose new leaders. Perhaps it has to make difficult financial decisions. Perhaps it has to say yes or no to new or old programs.
The coronavirus caused us to step into the unknown and with those steps, our ministry changed. How we worship together has changed. How we meet has changed. How we provide care to one another and our community has changed. As we endure this season, more change will most likely need to occur. As a community, we are not what we were at the beginning of this pandemic. We have changed, and with that change comes uncertainty.
All institutions change to grow and remain viable because the world around them is in a constant state of flux. Change always brings with it uncertainties. Change often makes us uncomfortable. It is easy to become distracted by the “What ifs…?” Change is always accompanied by uncertainty until the new structure, people, or programs are in place and functioning. Christ Lutheran is a means by which God’s will is actualized, but only if we keep our eyes on our divine purpose and calling.
Grace and Peace,
Pastor Jay Eckman