Called to Faith

  Carl Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist, hung a sign above his office door, which read, “Called or not, God is present.”  That one sentence incorporated, in a few words, what the two Testaments of the Bible have proclaimed to us for centuries using hundreds of thousands of words.  It is a prime belief of our faith that the almighty God, the creator of the universe chooses to be with us, to communicate with us, to love us, to move among us, to be near, and to be present in our lives, whether he is called or not.   His presence occurs in times of peace as well as in times of panic.  God is near, waiting to be found, and longing to be welcomed.  All we need to do is to be surprised by the intimacy and intensity of the experience.

 Today’s Gospel speaks a language of strength and courage.  Jesus confronted the apostles telling them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”…. Come.”  In Greek, “It is I” is ego eime, which means “I am,” the same divine name Moses encountered at the burning bush on Mount Horeb.  Jesus’ invitation is offered despite their lack of faith and their great fear.  His promise then and now is to be with us, and to stretch out his hand and catch us before we are overwhelmed.  Today, our challenge is to respond with unfaltering and fearless faith, and refocus our vision to see all, love all and cherish all as God sees, loves and cherishes.  

 Reflecting on this Gospel story, spiritual writers have given Peter much praise.  He is scared.  But unlike the others, he has the courage to address the Lord, and the guts to scramble out of the boat and walk on water.  He is the only one who acts, who indeed was the faithful one to whom Jesus delivers the keys to the kingdom.  Jesus could see past Peter’s impetuous blunderings to his eager heart.     

German theologian, Dietrich Bonhoffer, heard that same invitation more than seventy years ago as he followed Jesus to his death.  While in prison, Bonhoffer wrote, The Cost of Discipleship, reflecting on the meaning of today’s Gospel miracle: “Peter had to leave the ship and risk his life on the sea in order to learn both his own weakness and the almighty power of his Lord.  If Peter had not taken the risk, he would never have learned the meaning of faith… “The road to faith passes through obedience to the call of Jesus.  Unless a definite step is demanded, the call vanishes into thin air, and if people imagine that they can follow Jesus without taking this step, they are deluding themselves….”

 The message for us today is still the same as it was for Peter, for Bonhoffer and for so many others.  Discipleship in this life is always a matter of being caught between faith and doubt.  We live a lifetime struggling against our little faith.  We too hear the words addressed to Peter, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”  We are reminded that whether called or not, Jesus is always present, in our brothers and sisters, in the gathered community---in times of peace and in times of panic.  

Whenever we encounter troubled waters, we can take courage because the Lord is near always sharing the troubles that sink us.  We remember that it takes faith to do what Peter did.  When the Lord calls, “Come,” any of us might step from the safety of our boat and confront our storms.  The Jesus who controlled the wind and seas will not allow us to sink.  If we don’t respond to the invitation, it will be offered again and again, because Jesus moves toward us during those times when we are too timid to respond.                          

----Deacon Wilson Shierk