This morning, rather than a traditional sermon, I offered a guided meditation because the scripture we just heard lends itself so well to this form of spiritual practice. Forms of guided meditation are part of many of the world’s religious traditions, including Tibetan Buddhism and Christianity. For example, in the spiritual practices of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits with whom I studied, you are placed in a scene with Jesus so that you can use your imagination to grow in relationship with God.
Please close your eyes and begin to breathe slowly and deeply…
Imagine it is the end of a hot summer day. You are resting by the sea with the other eleven apostles. You can’t believe what just happened. There were five thousand families gathered to hear Jesus speak. As one of his disciples, you’ve been traveling with him, watching all that he has been doing. And then, came the horrible news of John’s murder, his beheading, by Herod. The crowds around you were grieving and in distress. You had never seen Jesus quite so tired and in anguish. You feel exhausted, too.
Earlier in the day, you and the other disciples thought it was a good idea for the crowds to leave – so that they could get some food. You were also hoping for some rest.
But, that Jesus! He turned to you and said, “You feed them.” At first, you couldn’t believe what he was saying. Yet somehow by his prayers and your actions you made it happen. Five loaves and two fish became so much more. Everyone felt satisfied. It really was a miracle.
Now Jesus is finally ready to call it a day. While he dismisses the crowds, he tells you and the other disciples to get in the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side. You are hoping that at last, soon you will get some rest.
You and the eleven others get into the boat. The fishermen know how to handle the boat, even when the waves are rough, like they are today. As you set out on the water, you notice that the skies are growing darker and the waves growing larger. You feel a bit uneasy. The boat is beginning to get tossed about. Your stomach feels unsettled.
As you look around, you realize that your boat is now far from land. The wind is stiff against you.
In your life right now, what winds do you sense are against you?
In what ways do you feel that you are in the midst of rugged seas?
As the boat keels, you are starting to lose confidence in the fishermen at the helm. The sky and the sea look ominous. Your senses are on high alert. You begin to second guess this voyage. Why did you ever get in this boat? You could have stayed right where you were to camp and rest. You begin to second guess Jesus. What made him think you would make it safely to the other side?
In your life right now, how are you on high alert? When you think about the world, what looks ominous to you? What makes you feel uncertain? What worries you? In what ways might you lack confidence in fulfilling your mission, the mission as best you understand it, that God has given you? In what ways might you lack confidence in God?
Just as panic begins to set in and you feel that things could not get any worse, you and the other disciples think you see Jesus coming to you on the water. Now you all are terrified. Could this be some kind of a ghost?
Looking at you with love, Jesus says, “Take heart, It is I; do not be afraid.”
It is I. The same words used by God at the beginning of creation to announce the Divine Presence, to announce the Divine Name – I am who I am. This God now revealed in Jesus comes to you. How are you feeling now? At the terrifying moments of your life, when have you noticed God’s reassuring presence, God coming to you?
Plucky Peter tests this ghost “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”
Do you ever test God?
Without hesitation, Jesus replies “Come.” And Peter does! He actually starts walking on the water towards Jesus. What is going on here?
A blast of wind distracts Peter and fear overtakes him. Suddenly he is sinking, crying out for Jesus to help him.
How do you take your eyes off of God? What causes you to be distracted and falter from your focus on God? What undermines your faith and trust in God?
Just as Peter cries, “Save me,” you see Jesus’ hand reaching out.
Do you remember to turn to God when you are in need of help? What help do you need from God now? Take this moment to silently ask God for the help you need.
As Jesus and Peter get into the boat, you see Jesus question Peter, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
Why do you doubt? What keeps you from a stronger faith in God?
Finally the wind has ceased. Jesus is in the boat with you. (pause)
Jesus is in your life with you.
Together, you will make it safely to the other side. God will always show God’s self to you in the midst of chaos and trouble. God will always show God’s self to us in times like these. Amen.
POEM: “It is I” by Steve Garnaas-Holmes (adapted)
Jesus reminds us today
“It is I”
The Serene One,
When the wind is against us, battering,
it is Jesus who walks towards us on the sea of our troubles.
When we are panicked – each and every time –
Jesus says “Do not be afraid. It is I.”
When we are in distress, when the waves of our hearts are unsettled
Jesus calms them with his presence. “It is I.”
When waters rage with suffering and injustice,
Jesus invites us to meet him right in the midst of the chaos,
Holding out his hand, “It is I.”
When we are sinking,
When we can not calm the waves of our uncertainty and distress by ourselves,
Jesus allows us to hold tight to him. “It is I.”
It is Jesus who holds us up,
who is steady when we fear,
who heals the turbulence.
From the very beginning, over the waters of chaos,
even before ”Let there be light,” God says, “It is I.”
And God will say it again and again and again
Until we all make it safely to the other side. Amen.