All Bright and Shiny

In the name of the F, S, and HS. Amen.

Have you ever thought you had the correct answer only to find out upon further research that you though you got the correct answer, you really hadn’t the foggiest as the how you reached it?

Last week Peter confessed Jesus as the Christ near the shrine of Pan the God of the lecherous good time and Jesus told him that he did not come to know this by flesh and blood (symbolized by the pagan shrine), but by the Father who is in Heaven.

Jesus’ entire ministry at this point has been leading up to this revelation, and now it will take a dramatic change as he “enfleshes” the Christ, showing what it means to be the Christ. He begins to teach his disciples what it means to be the Christ: “he must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day rise.”

Upon hearing this, Peter—whose ministry begins in fits and starts—says, “Na uh Jesus. Not on my watch you won’t.” Peter has many good qualities going for him, but “listens well” is not one of them at this point. He hears Jesus mention going to Jerusalem and thinks, “Yes of course, just like the messiah is supposed to and then we will bring on the heavenly revolution.”

Then he hears, “…must suffer… “ “Ok maybe a little initially, but these men will realize what is in front on them and then they will join the revolution or get out of the way.”

Then he hears, “…and die…” Full stop. “DIE?! Stop right there Jesus. You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. You cannot die, for just look at the great things that God has already done through you. All the Scriptures point to you and we will be victorious in the revolution.”

Peter obviously doesn’t hear what Jesus said next, and in typical Peter fashion, he doesn’t hang on for the rest, but goes off half-cocked: “Far be it from you Lord! This shall never happen to you!” In fact, Peter doesn’t really get it until it is all finished, for when the guards come to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter whips out his sword and tries to start the revolution of all proper-like by chopping off someone’s head. Peter tries for his own “shot heard round the world.”

Peter had delusions of grandeur, but, in reality, he is a lowly fisherman who knew enough about how to wield a sword to be dangerous, but the well-trained soldier ducks out of the way for a flesh-wound and he and his buddies are about to put their soldier training into full use by cutting down Peter, until Jesus steps in and saves Peter’s life. Through all the time he spent with Jesus, he never got it.

Back at Caesarea Philippi, Jesus turns to Peter, again with that edge that is beginning to heat up: “Get behind me Satan! You are a hindrance—a stumbling block—to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” Jesus then tells his disciples what it will really look like for the followers of the Christ: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it…For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” He said “some” because one of their group will have to watch the coming of the Son of Man from the eternal sidelines—Judas.

That night at camp, Jesus tells the inner circle, Peter, James, and John, “Pack your bags, the four of us are going on a journey.” To the rest, he said, “hang out here and if anything comes along, handle it until we get back.” And off Jesus and the inner circle go six days up to Mount Hermon, to a rough elevation of 10,000 feet covered in snow. I never really thought of the disciples having snow gear, but I guess they did since they go camping in it.

And as they summit the mountain, everyone takes off their packs and finds a comfy place to rest and recoup (even though they were in much better shape, I’m sure they needed a bit of a breather since they are not necessarily used to the lack of air almost 2 miles up). So they are drinking water and waiting to see why in the world Jesus brought them up here, when they turn and look at him and are blinded by the light.

The text here reads that Jesus was transfigured, but this is a vague meaning for us. The Greek word is metamorphosis. Jesus didn’t just suddenly get all bright and shiny, but metamorphosed similar to a caterpillar turning into a butterfly—it was that different; same DNA though much different in appearance. Normally we would say that here Jesus was showing the disciples his divinity, but Dr. Bill Creasy claims we have this wrong. Jesus is not showing his divinity, but rather is showing his perfect humanity.

Back in Genesis we learn that Adam and Eve were made in the image and likeness of God, and we learn from Moses’ encounters with God that it makes one shine. So Adam and Eve must have similarly shone since they were in his immediate presence in the Garden of Eden. But after they ate of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they realized that they were naked. This was not them simply and all of the sudden noticing that they had on no clothes, it was the light going out and them looking at each other and seeing a now marred image of God on each other. It is like the two of them went from butterfly and metamorphosed back into caterpillars—it was that shocking indeed. “What have we done?!”

So Jesus is present in his full humanity—showing the inner three his ultimate goal: restoration of the perfect image of God to humanity by removing the stain of sin—and he is there with Moses and Elijah. Now Deuteronomy states that two people are the minimum standard for a legitimate witness. These two (and who better that Moses and Elijah—the Law and the Prophets) are the witnesses required to substantiate Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah—the Christ.

Jesus then tells Peter, James, and John, not to tell anyone until after the Son of Man is raised. Why? Because the people would try to do exactly what Peter tried to do and turn him into an earthly messiah and complicate the entire thing. They would create and insurrection and there would be a whole lot of unnecessary blood spilt simply because the people believed him to be something that he was not. We can see in the Triumphal Entry that it was close, but luckily Jesus was able to take the situation into his own hands and dictate the terms rather than be forced to be something he is not.

As they are heading down, the pieces begin to click into the minds of the inner circle and they connect the dots of John the Baptist being the Elijah everyone was looking for prior to the coming of the Messiah. But when they reach camp back in Caesarea Philippi, Jesus realizes how much further everyone still has to go.
The remaining disciples are found unable to cast out a demon from a boy with epilepsy. Jesus chastises his disciples for their lack of faith: “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” And he casts out the demon. They have a little bit of faith, but it is not yet sufficient to accomplish greatness. Were they to believe fully or even, he says, as much as a tiny grain of mustard,(in him as the true messiah and what that means) they could say to this mountain (Mt. Hermon where they just left) “move from here to there” and it will move and nothing will be impossible for you. And so he, again, teaches them about what the Messiah must do for the redemption of the world.

Beloved, we are called to believe in God and believe that he is who he is and does what he does. We are also called to understand, but as St. Augustine tells us, understanding is based first on believing. “I believe that I may understand.” If we approach the greatness to which we are called saying “I will not believe it possible until I understand,” we will never achieve belief—we cannot do it ourselves. But if we approach this greatness saying “I believe though I don’t fully understand,” God can do great things to open our eyes and unlock the mysteries.

The disciples are a great example for us. Look what happens when the disciples finally get it: the great works they accomplish in the Acts of the Apostles. They finally get it because they came to believe a little: “you are the Christ, the Son of the living God” and with that God shows them great things indeed. If we are willing, Beloved, God can do great things through us as well.

In the name of the F, S, and HS. Amen.

Advertisements

The Correct Answer

In the name of the F, S, and HS. Amen
Who do you say that I am?

Last week, Jesus was upset with the Pharisees and scribes and their attitude, so upset that after his encounter with them, he just starts walking until he comes to Tyre and Sidon. There he met a woman who refreshed him with her attitude. Jesus has now returned and he has calmed down. He comes back to Capernaum and resumes his ministry.

Jesus heads up to his favorite teaching spot, the Mount of Beatitude, his favorite because it is close to Peter’s house and it is a natural amphitheater, and there begins to heal the crowds. We should note here that Isaiah says that when the messiah comes, we will know it is him because the blind will see, the deaf will hear, the lame will leap and the dead will be raised, and this is exactly what Jesus is doing here on the Mountain.

Jesus has renewed vigor because we see him back to his old self: “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat.” Jesus dives in, and apparently, three days later takes a breath.

So the disciples do a head count and find that there are 4,000 men this time plus women and children, and while they are no longer in the area where all they can get is a good pulled-pork sandwich, the disciples note that they are on a mountain and there are not even any good taco stands nearby, so again, they can’t feed them here either. But the disciples have learned their lesson from last time and they brought more food with them, and luckily Jesus multiplies the food again, and everyone eats.

Then Jesus heads down to Magadan (roughly 5miles, so Las Colinas if Capernaum is in Farmers Branch). There he meets more Pharisees and Sadducees who demand a sign from him that he may prove to them that he is the messiah sent from God. (Remember what happened on the Mount of Beatitude? That should have been enough.) Again Jesus gets upset with these people and their density. “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.”

This begs the question: what is the sign of Jonah? Jonah was swallowed by a great fish and was down in the depths of the ocean in the belly of that fish until it vomited him out three days later. Now I always envisioned Jonah in a Pinocchio scenario with a raft and Figaro and a candle, hanging out there for three days. But what sort of a sign would this be (Pinocchio wasn’t written until 1883 after all)?

No, Pinocchio got it wrong, Jonah died in the belly of that fish, and three days later he was brought back to life. Food coming back to life would naturally cause the fish to want to regurgitate and then spit him out on the nearest beach. This is the sign of Jonah to which Jesus refers: resurrection. The Pharisees and Sadducees will know that Jesus truly is the messiah sent from God on Easter Sunday when he is raised from the dead. Until then, they will have to take his word and believe their eyes.

Jesus then turns to the disciples and tells them: “Get your purse; we are leaving,” and they all pile into the boat and head back to Capernaum. As they are going Jesus is just livid again, replaying the scene with the religious leaders over and over. Meanwhile, the bible points out that the disciples forgot to replenish their food supplies in Magadan, having depleted them in Capernuam. So here is Jesus stewing over the whole thing, and the disciples hear him mention bread (feeding of the 4,000).

“Uh Oh. Do you think he is so upset because we forgot to bring more bread?” This fairly understandable because earlier we had the second feeding story in two chapters, so it seems that Jesus would be telling them to have a stock of bread to feed people when Jesus is teaching. It is possible that they think Jesus has found his go-to trick that convinces people and wants to repeat it and here they have none.
But Jesus slaps his head and says, “Are you kidding me? Do you think this is about bread? Beware the leaven of the Pharisee and Sadducees.” The religious leaders are so stuck in the mud that they cannot see the Messiah when he is right in front of their face ad doing the things that the Messiah is supposed to do. Beware of squinting so long to see something that you are blind when it comes.

When they reach Peter’s house, Jesus takes them north Caesarea Philippi to do a vision check. In Caesarea Philippi (about Prosper, TX), there is a cave that was apparently quite a sight in Jesus’ day. There was a waterfall that came right through it and it was just awe-inspiring (this is no longer as in the Middle ages there was an earthquake that cracked this cave and now it bubbles up from the ground—less impressive). Here was also the shrine of Pan—god of the drunken lecherous good time (and that was exactly how you worshipped him).

So Jesus takes his band of 12 to this spot and asks them a question: “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” His disciples give him the spattering of answers, all the aspects of which do a fairly good job of getting the picture correct. Then he asks them again, though more pointedly, “But who do You say that I am?”

They have been with him, they can see what he does and they get to sit with him late at night after the crowds have gone to bed and ask questions of him. Jesus is making sure they are not like the Pharisees and Sadducees, blind to what is right in from of them. And Peter answers, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”
Jesus is so happy at this statement. “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the Keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Jesus is so happy because the disciples have passed their vision test. They have proved themselves willing to listen to the spirit, and with such character Jesus can accomplish great things. This man, Peter, and what he has just said (for from a close reading one can either see that this rock is Peter or his confession and both are a correct reading grammatically) has shown Jesus that with this group of men he can and will storm the gates of hell and kick them in to free the captives and bring new life to them, and these men will continue after he is gone.

Peter and the rest will be given the ability to proclaim the good news with authority to the people. They will be given the ability to tell the people-yet-to-come the things that have already been decided in heaven. “Whatever you bind in heaven shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” This means they can proclaim what God has already done, they don’t have to make it up. These men will be opening the gates of heaven.

Now it is important that they come here to have their vision test because of whose temple is present. Pan is seen in Greek mythology as a man with a goat’s body with horns on his head and a pointy beard. In short, this is a vision of Satan, but it represents a worldly view. Who do people (the world) say that I am? They then give him bits and pieces that together may add up to the whole, but separately they are only one aspect. Then Jesus gives them a chance and they give the complete picture which is at odds with what the world (influenced by Satan) would claim. To limit Jesus to a miracle worker or a great teacher or anything like that is to miss the whole picture and to limit Christ by not opening ourselves to him completely.

So Beloved, Jesus asks each of us the very same question: “Who do you say that I am?” Examine this. Sit down and think about who Christ is to you. Next week we will learn that we can say with our lips who Jesus Christ is even though our minds haven’t quite caught up to the fuller knowledge our lips so easily proclaim. But here, Peter (and the rest) are saying who Jesus is and admitting an openness to submit to what that means. Jesus can do a lot with a person who is willing to follow and one who is open to what he has to say.
In the name of the F, S, and HS. Amen.

A Tale of Two Cities

In the name of the F, S, and HS. Amen.
Have you ever met someone that instantly both changed your perspective and refreshed your soul?

Last week we witnessed a very human reaction in Jesus, we saw Jesus annoyed with his people such that he felt the only way to give himself a moment’s peace is to walk across the Sea of Galilee—a very human emotion, but a very divine reaction. Then Jesus meets up with his buddies, scares them half to death, calls Peter out on the water, saves him after Paul’s very short prayer, and then they all head over to Peter’s house in Capernaum.

They all get a good night’s sleep, the disciples because they have just worked very hard rowing across the lake all night, and Jesus because he was given no other time than the middle of the night to grieve for John the Baptist, and he has finally done that and can get some rest. When Jesus wakes up, Peter hands him a cup of coffee, and says, “Jesus when you are ready, they are starting to line up outside.”

Now some Pharisees and scribes came from Jerusalem to confront Jesus about his teaching. To get the mileage right in your head, if Jerusalem is set in Waco (Baylor is known as Jerusalem on the Brazos), Peter’s house in Capernaum is just about in Farmer’s Branch, just over 100 miles away. These men come at Jesus in a very nasty way. At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry there were niceties, but Jesus was a bit snappy with them last time and so this time, there are no “Hey Jesus, how are you doing?” or even “Wise Teacher…” They just jump in: “Hey Jerk, why do your disciples break the traditions of the elders? For they do not wash their hands before they eat?”

This hand washing is less hands dirty from being outside, more ceremonial washing to set the meal apart for God—essentially these men are getting on to Jesus for his disciples not saying grace before meals. Jesus gets a little offended here because he just lays into them. This is kind of like: “Ok, you didn’t learn your lesson last time, so we will pick up there.”

“And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?” Now he has their attention. “For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and ‘Whoever reviles father and mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites.”

What he is talking about here is someone deciding that looking after parents is not sexy. If you look after your parents in their old age, who knows it, just a handful. What is the use of doing a good deed if no one can see you doing it? How is anyone going to find out what a good person you are if it is only a few people, most of whom, are people to whom you are related? Wouldn’t it be easier to get the word out if you took all that money and donated it to the church for a new wing in my name?

My sister just got back from a conference in San Francisco. My grandmother (my mom’s mom) and my aunt live there so my sister went to go see them because we never get to because of the distance. My grandmother has Alzheimer’s essentially and she is in a very nice facility, one that my sister found out costs $6,000 a month. Now in pulling up some numbers of the internet, I found that the minimum that it costs in California is $987 for care. So, I we were to say, “Sorry Nana, you have to move here to this facility because the other $5,000 of the tuition has been set aside for the church to make the Fr. Stubbs wing of the Church and this is all you can afford now.” This is what Jesus is talking about—neglecting care for parents (grandparents) for the “greater glory” of public displays of your piety. Jesus rightly uses his worst insult on these people: “You hypocrites.”

Hypocrite refers to the Greek actors who would wear the mask of comedy or tragedy when playing the part, yet the person playing the role was unaffected and separate from the role played.
Peter comes over with a refill for his coffee and speaks in his ear, “Jesus, don’t you know you just insulted them?” Jesus says, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both fall into a pit.” Peter says, “I don’t get it…Explain this parable to us.”

So Jesus raises his voice to answer Peter and to direct the interpretation: “Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled?” (This is a nice way of describing how the natural digestive system works, food goes in and then it goes out into the sewage pipes.) “But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.” Jesus is saying that only saying grace over the meal does not a pious person make. Food and meals, yes can be set aside for God, but if this does not penetrate the heart then what is the use of setting it apart because if it doesn’t change your heart, you are more defile eating with clean hands than dirty.

Jesus then works himself into a nice froth and lets the leaders have it, then he turns on the spot and heads out the door to Tyre and Sidon or almost Denton (Tyre) and almost Whitesboro (Sidon) in Texas. Jesus was so mad that it took him (65 miles-ish) to calm down and he finds himself in Gentile country where he meets a woman whose child is possessed by demons.

She runs up to him and throws herself at his feet crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” Jesus is still a little upset by his last encounter, and so he doesn’t even address her. His disciples say, “Jesus if you aren’t going to do anything, we should probably run her off, she is making a bit of a scene.” Jesus: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” Jesus probably isn’t even looking at her right now. He is probably so used to things like this happening that he can tune it out when he needs to.

But the lady is persistent and comes and makes herself seen and kneels in front on him: “Lord help me.” Jesus: “It is not right to take the children’s bread (pointing at the disciples) and throw it to dogs (as he points to her).” Now many people would try to soft-play this line and say that Jesus is testing her, but think about his last encounter and his mindset right now, he probably is insulting her to get her to go away. “Yes Lord, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”
Compare this insistence on the part of this Canaanite dog of a woman to that of his previous encounter. Jesus is taken aback by this woman and her insistence because it is so different from what he just left. They approached him demanding an account for shoddy practices, she approached him on her knees. This insistence shows Jesus her heart, and it is like a refreshing cool dip on a hot and muggy Texas summer day. “Ahhhhhhh,” and Jesus’ mood is instantly changed. Jesus doesn’t even need to see the girl and her demon, she is instantly healed.

Last week we jokingly discovered that Jesus likes short prayers, today we discover that Jesus likes when we approach in humility and sincerity. This woman had no right to approach Jesus and she knew it, yet she did so, not because she felt slighted by this and was out to set him right, but because she recognized who Jesus was. “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David.”

Beloved, how much we can learn from this woman! She approached knowing she was not worthy to ask, yet she knew where the fount was to gain living water. She also approached with sincerity not trying to have Jesus view her through the mask she wished people to see; rather she approached him and bore her soul to him by showing her heart. “What proceeds from the heart” this is what determines the cleanliness of the person. She is the perfect response that Jesus needed both personally at that moment, and as an example to the parable that confused poor Peter.

God knows the person you are, and he loves you for it. Now the task is emulating this woman and showing this side first and leaving the hypocrite’s mask for the theater where it belongs, because reality is a much better witness of the Faith and who we are.

In the name of the F, S, and HS. Amen.

Peter Learns a Lesson

In the name of the F, S, and HS. Amen.
Have you ever had that sinking feeling? (I couldn’t resist.)

Last week Jesus was devastated to learn of the death of his friend and relative John the Baptist. Since John’s father Zechariah was a priest, they lived close to the Temple since that is where he worked. The Jewish calendar had three major feasts which Jews were supposed to come to Jerusalem to the Temple to worship: Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph would probably stay at the house of Zechariah, Elizabeth, and John since they were family and at the time of these festivals, the population of Jerusalem was about 80,000 people (give or take about 20,000) during the normal times, but it would swell to roughly a million people during these feasts. And just as today, with the arrival of more people, the price of hotels in Jerusalem sky-rockets (even in Jesus’ day they understood supply and demand). So Jesus probably grew up with John.

So when Jesus gets news of his death, he, understandably, is upset. So he tells the disciples, “Let’s with draw from all these people for a little bit so I can get my mind right.” So in the boat they go and over to the Golan Heights side of the Sea of Galilee (side with huge cliffs) which is, as we learned last week deserted except for a bunch of pigs. But the people do not accept Jesus’ vacation and follow him to the other side (roughly a two-hour journey for them). So when Jesus steps off the boat, he is greeted by 15,000 of his closest buddies.

Jesus being the ultimate pastor that he is, had compassion on them, and even though he needs some time, he heals their sick all day. Then it gets late and Jesus miraculously feeds them. Immediately after this, Jesus still needing some time to himself, tells the disciples to hop in the boat and head back so the crowds will get the hint and head home themselves. So off the disciples go, and up the cliffs Jesus goes to pray—he will catch up to them back at Peter’s house.

Now, one thing we should note about the Sea of Galilee: every day the winds build up on the Mediterranean Sea and the topography of the land is such that the winds are funneled around Mount Carmel across the Jezreel Valley and then are further funneled in such a way that they blow across the Sea of Galilee from about 10:00 on the sea to 2:00, which gives it a west to east pattern. And this causes the sea to become super-rough in the evening, but tends to blow itself out by morning.

This little piece of knowledge is important because it explains why the disciples are still headed across the lake (it is also called Lake Gennesaret) when Jesus finishes praying late in the night. They are having to row and fight the strong wind the entire way. So while it would only take about two hours to walk home, it is going to take the disciples all night to get home in the boat as they row roughly seven hard miles.

So while they are doing this, Jesus prays and takes all the time he needs because he can leave whenever he wants and still probably beat them back. But when he is finished and heads down the hill, he sees people—about 5,000 men not including women and children. These people from the feeding never left! They didn’t get the hint. Jesus is still not ready to deal with people, and he is still up high enough that he can survey the Sea of Galilee and can see how much progress the disciples have made.

Jesus then says to himself, “Am I God or am I God? I don’t have to deal with these people right now” and off he goes taking the shortest path from point A to point B—over the water. Now most of his miracles are done for one of two reasons, either to demonstrate a teaching point, or to have compassion on the people. But this miracle—why does Jesus perform this miracle? Because he needs time to himself and this is the easiest way to get there. If he was demonstrating a point for the people, he would have done it during the day, but he does so for himself, to join up with his friends.
So let’s set the scene here: the disciples are steady on their way; the wind is beginning to blow itself out—it is the 4th watch or between 3 and 6 am, so everything is calming down; the moon is probably out; the disciples are facing back toward the way they came since they are rowing, so they could see the huge cliffs of the Golan Heights towering over them as they went along. And out in the distance whichever disciples is in the rear of the boat sees something coming in a straight line across the water. Up the boat went on a wave, and he could see the figure, and down over the other side it would disappear.

The first couple of times, it must be my mind playing tricks on me. But after repeated times, once they are again on the down-side on the wave: “Hey Phillip, do you see that?”
“What?”
“Wait ‘til we come back up over the wave…that. What is that thing coming toward us?”

Now imagine it from their point of view: waters calming, but wind still blowing a little bit so they can relax and take things in. The moon is out so they can see, but they are looking back at the great cliffs, so I can imagine it can being to take a pensive feel, maybe even an eerie vibe on the way back. Then they begin to see this white, gleaming figure coming at them across the water, robes billowing in the dying wind. Is it any wonder what they thought it was: a ghost!

And as he gets closer, Jesus can tell they are afraid, so he calls out, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” So Peter, open mouth insert foot, speaks for the group, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come out on the water to you.” So Jesus, probably backlit at this point so they can’t see his face, probably cracks a smile and says, “Ok, come on.” So out Peter comes.

Now the Sea of Galilee is 138 feet deep. Peter, with no God-like powers that his buddy Jesus has, knows that if something happens, it is a long way down to the bottom of this lake. But he is concentrating on Jesus, and if someone walking on water tells you its ok to come out, you think they are able to give you this power as well.

So Peter is walking on the water, just like Jesus. Man this is pretty cool, and he reaches Jesus and then the moon comes out from behind a cloud and maybe a fish comes and nips him on the foot, and the Bible tells us that a strong gust comes and wakes Peter out of his stupor.

“What the? Oh my gosh, I’m standing on the water with Jesus.” Peter realizes that what he is doing is impossible. And so he begins to sink. Now this is what the Bible tells us, that Peter began to sink. I always pictured him slowly sliding down like in quicksand. But have you ever tried to stand on water? Do you sink slowly into the water? No, water is water and Peter, being the rock, sank like one.

Then Peter utters the shortest prayer in the whole Bible: “Lord save me.” And immediately Jesus bent down and picked him up. So this tells me that Jesus likes short prayers. This is the shortest prayer in the Bible and the one that is answered the fastest. Peter called out and immediately Jesus answered and saved him, therefore, Jesus likes short prayers. Then, with Peter sputtering, Jesus says to Peter, smiling, “What were you thinking, why did you doubt? Get back in the boat.” And the disciples said, “That was pretty cool.”

Peter learned his lesson that day, and the next time something miraculous happened around him, he just went with it. When he was in prison in Acts and the angel told him to follow him and the chains binding him fell off and the doors opened, Peter just went with it.

So Beloved, the moral of the story here is that God does call us to do things that seem impossible at the time, but rather than pausing and focusing on the fact that this should not be happening, finish the task, because God is giving you the ability to do the work that he has called you to do. Reflect on the awesome thing that God did through you after the fact, because Peter shows us today that if you lose focus, you may just sink 138 feet to the bottom of the lake. And if you do find yourself sinking, call out to God in prayer, but make it a short one—because Peter also shows us that those are the most effective in times of need.
In the name of the F, S, and HS. Amen.

Blessings in Six Minutes

In the name of the F, S, and HS. Amen.
Have you ever needed to take some time to yourself but instead found other people much more in need of your time? Today Jesus has just learned of the sudden demise of his friend and relative John the Baptist.

John was in jail because Herod Antipas (son of Herod the Great who was the murderous king of Judah during Jesus’ birth) had seized him and thrown him in jail because John spoke against Herod’s taking up with his brother Philip’s wife Herodias. Herod is more of a chicken than his father because, rather than kill John the Baptist immediately for badmouthing him, he simply threw him in jail. Herod was afraid of the people’s reaction since they held John in such high regard as a prophet. But when Herodias’ daughter Salome danced for the assembled crowd at a party, Herod made an oath that resulted in John the Baptist’s beheading.

Jesus just hears about this incident needs to go to a secluded place that he may properly grieve this passing. He needs to process it, pray with the Father, receive consolation from his friends the disciples—he needs some time. So Jesus and the disciples hop in their boat and head over to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. They are currently at about 11:00 on the lake and they proceed over to about 3:00. They go over there because it is very hilly—think Gerasene demoniac and the pigs that ran off the cliff—that was this side of the lake, there is nothing over here but farm land—apparently pig farmland—and not much else. It is a very lonely place.

But as they set sail, the crowds have decided that they are not through with Jesus and so they see which way he is headed and they set off for it (the Sea of Galilee is only 7 miles wide at its widest). These people are the last thing Jesus wanted to see at this point. Jesus went here to be alone to get his mind right, but when the boat hits the shore and he sees the people he has compassion on them. You can almost see him: “(heavy sigh) Ok here we go.” And Jesus begins to heal their sick.

Then we read this: “And when it was evening…” Jesus has been healing these people ALL DAY!!! So when it was evening, the disciples come up to him and tell him, “Jesus, you need to send these people away. We are in pig-land, and while I’m sure we can get a killer pulled pork sandwich, these people can’t eat pork. There is nothing for them. They don’t have far to walk, but it will take them hours to do it, and children don’t do well marching the hours it will take to get home on an empty stomach.”

Jesus tells them, “You give them something to eat.” “…Uh Jesus, we only brought enough food for us to eat.” (They were apparently having fish sandwiches that evening.) We learn from the end of our story that the Feeding of the 5,000 does not include women and children, so let’s give everyone a wife and a kid at least (not everyone was married and had children, but there were single women there too and some people had multiple children so it balances out).

I used to have a great analogy for this. I used to say it was like being asked to feed all of Baylor stadium with the current contents of your wallet. This was in the days when Baylor was bad at football (really bad in fact), and we had the “tarp of shame” over the seats behind the goal post so that when the Longhorns came to town we wouldn’t be too embarrassed on television by the lack of fans wearing green and gold in the home end zone. The scoreboard was embarrassment enough and we didn’t need to add to the pain that was football season in Waco. So there were roughly 15,000 people present (mostly wearing the opponent’s colors). Now that Baylor has gotten much, much better, thankfully I have to explain the lean years.

There are some commentators (mostly whose books find their way to the round file in my office) who would say that this feeding miracle was that the generosity of the disciples in giving all their food rations inspired all those in the crowd to give everything they have as well and the miracle was getting selfish people to share with the crowd. Granted, especially in today’s society, this would be a great miracle, however, if we start relegating extraordinary miracles to the mundane, the bible is soon gutted and Jesus is left as a “great” teacher and we are left in our sins (as St. Paul tells us: “For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied.”)

No, to say sharing is the miracle is to miss the point. The miracle really did happen. 15,000 really did eat and were filled that day. But since Jesus really didn’t take much stock in the faith provided by miracles, what was he trying to teach the disciples? What is the take away?

Jesus takes what they had and multiplies it greatly. He actually demonstrates this way before the disciples even look at how much food they have with them. Jesus, running on empty, emotionally, maybe even spiritually, was in major need of a pick-me-up. He needed to convene with the Father and lament in his soul the early demise of John the Baptist. But the people needed him. He gave what he had to God and he was able to provide for all the people, as many as were there. The Feeding of the 5,000 was a miraculous demonstration of what Jesus had been doing all day.

Jesus is saying, “Give me what you have—all of it. Give me all of it that I may give it back to you in abundance.” This goes for your money: “Give me 10% to show me that you would give me all of it, and I will give you back in abundance.” Now he isn’t saying, “Give me pennies and I will make you a millionaire.” But he is saying, “Give me what I ask for that I may provide for you all that you need.”

The same thing goes for time: “Give me your time and I will give you back more.” I love a Martin Luther quote where he says, “I have so much to do today that I must first spend three hours in prayer.” A little eye-opener: there are roughly 8700 hours in a month and most people give maybe 3, let’s be generous, 4 hours of that entire time to God. 2 or 3 Sundays and random prayer time throughout the month. 4 out of 8700.

Things need to get done and life is super-busy. But if we boil it down to 10%, it is 2.4 hours a day, or even further: 6 minutes of every hour. That is around one typical commercial break every hour. Jesus is even saying to us, “Give me what you have during that break, but give it all to me that I may give it back to you.”

Beloved, I don’t know about you, but I don’t even like to watch commercials.

In the name of the F, S, and HS. Amen.