Safe and Sound Aboard the Good Old Gospel Ship

Jesus has his disciples get into their boat and head for the other side why he dismisses the crowds. I would have liked to have been here and see how He handles the crowds. Obviously, he feels that he has a better handle on that than his disciples. Crowd control is an art.

Jesus handles crowds differently depending on the situation. A couple times he is out in the middle of nowhere, and his disciples approach him saying: “Jesus these people need to be dismissed and go into a nearby village or community so they can get something to eat.” Jesus says to them: “Let’s show them some hospitality. Let’s organize them into groups and feed them”. So he organizes the crowds and sits them in groups, and then blesses the fish and bread and feeds them. We seem to always accentuate the feeding, but do not notice the art of organizing the crowds’ of people.

I worked at the largest soup kitchen, Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen, a ministry of Holy Apostles Episcopal Church in NYC, the second largest in the nation, (the largest is Glide Memorial Soup Kitchen, under the umbrella of Glide United Methodist Church in San Francisco). The security team at Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen is wonderful at crowd control. They have to be. Crowd Control training is a requirement. They can get a trouble-maker out of the building and out onto the street in a matter of seconds without laying a hand on them.

In fact it happened to me on my first day as the summer Director of Volunteers, staff and operations for three months why the Director was away on sabbatical. I confronted someone that was causing a disturbance in the cafeteria, and he took exception and reacted in a negative and threatening way. One of the security staff  gave a code number into his walkie-talkie and within seconds there were a number of security guards separating the two of us and escorting us outdoors in separate places. When they realized that I was the new acting director they were embarrassed and apologized, but I was glad I was able to see and be a part of that exercise. It was really quite impressive.

So, Jesus takes on the responsibility of dismissing the crowds, and that is not an easy chore. They tend to follow Jesus everywhere, even figuring out where he is going and arriving early to wait for him. The crowds did not want to be dismissed. When the disciples get to the other side of the lake, and after Jesus joins them, a crowd is already there. They do not want to leave Jesus. Who would? Who would want to leave Jesus, this man with unbelievable wisdom, this dynamic Rabbi with the message about the Kingdom of God?

After he dismisses the crowd, Jesus goes up to the mountain by himself to pray. Jesus did that quite often. It appears to be his custom, his habit. “When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind is against them. And early in the morning he comes walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples see him walking on the sea, they are terrified, saying, It is a ghost! And they cry out in fear. But immediately Jesus speaks to them and says, Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”

At times in our troubled lives, Jesus will appear, and we may not recognize him at first. And, then he will remind us who he is, and that God is with us. When God reminds us that we are not alone, it is a calming presence, a sustaining peace.

All of us, especially those that have been walking with Jesus for a long time on this journey toward heaven, have experienced this calming presence that goes deeper than the fear and embraces our very soul with calmness, a peaceful stillness. There is a calming presence when God comes to you. In the midst of the troubled waters and the stormy sea, God is there.

Peter answers him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” Peter always wants attention. Last week we talked about Peter, James and John joining Jesus on the mountain to pray the mountain experience that we call the Mount of Transfiguration. Peter says to Jesus: “You know Jesus; it is good that we are here. Let us build 3 tents, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah”.  This was Peter’s time to shine, his big opportunity for importance, and a way to be remembered. And, now he has another big opportunity, his time to shine. He can say that He walks on the water, just like Jesus. And, in all honesty, he wants to experience this for himself. And, Jesus says, “Come.”

So Peter gets out of the boat, starts walking on the water, and comes toward Jesus. But when he notices the strong wind, he becomes frightened, and beginning to sink, he cries out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reaches out his hand and catches him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they get into the boat, the wind ceases. And those in the boat worship him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

When we are experiencing chaos in our lives and we say, “Jesus, I want to walk with you on these troubled waters”, but then, we look around, we notice the strong wind, and we begin to sink. It is at these times that we realize that we cannot make it on our own, and we reach out to Jesus, saying “Lord, save me! Help me from sinking in these turbulent waters”. Jesus immediately reaches out his hand and catches us, saying: “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when the winds of our trials are over, we will sit secure in the gospel boat next to Jesus and our brothers and sisters, and the wind is gone, and all is calm. And, we will exclaim with everyone else in the boat: “Surely, you are the Son of God!”

Let us take this good news. Let us be the preachers. How will they hear if there is no preacher, and how will they hear if those preachers are not sent? “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news”. Jesus is with us in troubled times. When we feel like we are following Jesus on the waters, but the winds of this world, our trials, troubles and tribulations, are just too great for us to bear, and they are blowing against us violently, and we begin to sink. We cry out to Jesus and say: “Jesus save me for I am sinking”. He will reach out and take your hand, and say: “You of little faith, why do you doubt? I am with you through the troubled waters”. And, when we are safe and sound in that good old gospel ship we will exclaim with everyone else, “Truly, you are the Son of God”.