The storm is a moment of grace
Published on -8/29/2014, 10:00 AM
The story is told of a preacher who loved to water ski. At every opportunity, he would get his wife to drive the boat, and he would water ski.
One day, the preacher told his wife he was going to preach on water skis. She didn't think it was appropriate and advised against it, but the preacher was intent in going ahead with his plan.
On the Sunday of the sermon, the preacher's wife felt ill and stayed home. The preacher drove to church alone. He thought about his wife's advice as he drove. He decided she was right. Water skiing wasn't a fitting subject for a sermon. He quickly switched topics. He preached a sermon on a familiar text: "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor." He talked about the sin of lying. He did a good job.
After church, one of the ladies in the congregation went over to comfort and cheer the ailing preacher's wife. She arrived before the preacher had a chance to say anything. This lady had been impressed at church and expressed her praise. She said to the preacher's wife, "Your husband preached a fine sermon today."
"I didn't think it was an appropriate topic," replied the preachers' wife, "but he's qualified to speak on the subject. He does it so much, he's an expert. I get tired of it, but I can't get him to stop. He expects me to go along with him, and I do."
Personally, I've never wanted to water ski. I intend no slight to those who do, but I don't find appealing the idea of getting out of a perfectly good boat and being drug behind it at a high rate of speed.
Nevertheless, I think about water skiing when I think about St. Peter getting out of the boat that time. The disciples are in a boat on the Sea of Galilee. A storm hits. The wind is against them. It's the darkest hour of the night. The disciples are in fear of losing their lives. They see Jesus walking toward them on the water.
At Jesus' words of encouragement, St. Peter decides he wants to come to Jesus. At the Lord's invitation, he gets out of the boat and begins walking on water. That takes more courage than water skiing. I admire St. Peter.
Soon, St. Peter gets distracted by the storm and is filled with fear and doubt. He begins to drown. What starts out a miracle at sea in which St. Peter is a participant turns into a rescue at sea in which St. Peter is recipient.
While St. Peter doubts, he doesn't despair. Doubt is not the opposite of faith. Despair is. Faith does not trust in itself. It trusts in God. Faith hopes in God. Despair is hopelessness. St. Peter calls out to Jesus. He has hope Jesus will save him. That hope is not disappointed.
In conclusion, I can't relate to St. Peter getting out of the boat. I don't even water ski. I can, however, relate to St. Peter sinking. I know the feeling of having the wind against me at my darkest hour. I know what it's like when faith is low and doubt is high. I experience frailty and vulnerability. I realize I cannot save myself. I am not God. I need God. The good news is Jesus is right there to save. The storm is a moment of grace.
Deacon Scott Watford is pastoral associate St. Nicholas of Myra Catholic Church.