Holding Hands in the Wind- Matthew 14:22-33
When the kids were small, we used to let them wear water wings in the pool.
The inflatable arm bands allowed the kids to float and paddle around, even before they knew how to swim. The water wings worked great, until--- until somebody forgot to put on the water wings. More than once I saw one of my children venturing into the pool without them on, Confidently stepping off the ledge and into the deep water, fully expecting to float
When instead they sank like a stone. As the parent on duty, it was my job to pull them out of the water to safety.
In today’s gospel lesson, it is Jesus who was in the parent role-
He reached out his hand and pulled Peter out of the water to safety.
Perhaps Peter was like a pre-schooler, overly confident and a bit naïve, suddenly getting in over his head. I have preached about Peter many times in this story.
But I have to say, I am captivated this time by Jesus—by his hand reaching out, the way he catches Peter. I guess it’s because I identify with Peter It’s easy these days to feel overwhelmed, buffeted by the winds of change. We know already that sinking feeling that this is going to get worse before it gets better. If a worldwide pandemic and a cultural awakening weren’t enough, now we are struggling with the aftermath of a major storm.
It is as if we have been in the perfect storm for months now, and it’s still raging
We are out in the middle of it, out away from the safety of the boat and the helping hands of community We feel all alone, like we are gonna drown. And so when I hear that Jesus reaches out his hand and catches Peter—
Well, I imagine him catching me.
Holding onto me.
Bringing me back to safety, giving me my water wings to put on.
I look to him, and he calms the storm.
Isn’t that what we are all longing for?
For Jesus’ hand to reach out and catch us?
The truth is this storm is going last awhile.
We are challenged to live by our mission statement:
In Christ, we are digging deep, reaching out and changing lives.
We really DO need to dig deep into our faith right now.
So the first place to dig deep is our relationship with Jesus.
When have you felt his hand reach out to you?
When has his hand guided you, rescued you, touched you with gentleness and acceptance?
What is it like to take the hand of Jesus?
Can you feel it now, in the middle of this storm?
The first part of our mission statement, Dig deep, leads to the second: Reach out.
When Jesus reaches out to us in love and care, bringing us to safety,
We are compelled to reach out to others who are still battling the waves.
And the deal is, when we reach out with the love and mercy that Jesus has shown us,
it does change lives. It changes us as much as it changes those to whom we reach.
We had an amazing example of this life changing reaching out in life of Congressman John Lewis, who passed away last month. Rev Lewis was a luminary of the civil rights movement—
He was the youngest speaker at the March on Washington
He was beaten at the Edmund Pettis Bridge as he marched for voting rights for Black Americans
He served in Congress for over 30 years, championing the rights of those who too often are pushed aside.
In his memoir, “Walking With The Wind,” Lewis told an illuminating story to explain the title of his book. He said it came from a time as a young child when he was at his aunt’s house, playing with cousins When suddenly a storm came up out of nowhere.
His aunt ushered all the kids inside the house to safety, But the storm was so fierce that the wind began to lift the small house off its foundation.
That was when Aunt Seneva told us to clasp hands. Line up and hold hands, she said, and we did as we were told. Then she had us walk as a group toward the corner of the room that was rising. From the kitchen to the front of the house we walked, the wind screaming outside, sheets of rain beating on the tin roof. Then we walked back in the other direction, as another end of the house began to lift.
And so it went, back and forth, fifteen children walking with the wind, holding that trembling house down with the weight of our small bodies.
More than half a century has passed since that day, and it has struck me more than once over those many years that our society is not unlike the children in that house, rocked again and again by the winds of one storm or another, the walls around us seeming at times as if they might fly apart. It seemed that way in the 1960s, at the height of the civil rights movement, when America itself felt as if it might burst at the seams—so much tension, so many storms. But the people of conscience never left the house. They never ran away. They stayed, they came together and they did the best they could, clasping hands and moving toward the corner of the house that was the weakest. And then another corner would lift, and we would go there. And eventually, inevitably, the storm would settle, and the house would still stand. But we knew another storm would come, and we would have to do it all over again. And we did. And we still do, all of us. You and I.
Children holding hands, walking with the wind. . . . "- John Lewis
Brothers and Sisters, these are unusual and difficult times.
And yet they are such an opportunity for us to live into our mission in Christ.
To cling to the hand of Jesus, who has reached beyond the wind and waves
Through our storms to rescue us;
And also to reach out and hold hands with others
Who are vulnerable, like we are.
We are stronger when we hold each others’ hands in the wind.
I would like to close today with a prayer from our hymnal, found in the evening prayer service, which is commonly known as The Prayer for Good Courage:
you have called your servants
to ventures of which we cannot see the ending,
by paths as yet untrodden,
through perils unknown.
Give us faith to go out with good courage,
not knowing where we go,
but only that your hand is leading us
and your love supporting us;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.