A theme of faith emerges from two of today’s lectionary scripture readings, Romans 10:5-15 and Matthew 14:22-33.
The scene in Matthew has Jesus miraculously walking on the Sea of Galilee to join his disciples, who were waiting in their fishing boat. Hardly believing their eyes, the disciples were fearful because they thought that Jesus was a ghost. Then Jesus reassuringly announced himself, after which Peter walked on the water toward Jesus. But the power of the wind and waves scared Peter and he began to sink. Jesus reached out and rescued Peter, saying, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”(Matthew 14:31b).
The vivid situation seems utterly fantastic, so much so that it is ingrained into cultural consciousness. How so? Have you ever heard of the phrase “walking on water?” Yes, this is the biblical story where that originated. When we say that someone walks on water it usually means that a person is especially holy. Let’s backup to Peter, whose lack of faith contributed to his sinking. Here we are, experiencing a lesson about not letting the wind and the waves—or supposedly anything—distract us from our walk with God. The great news is that even if when something causes us to sink, God can be there to lifeguard our experience.
Now we turn to Romans, where Paul wrote, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). This is an obvious tie-in to what Peter experienced when Jesus rescued him from a watery grave. A person can find life so overwhelming that they can sink under weighty burdens. Yet, we can draw close to God’s saving grace, which restores from certain destruction.
Enter the issue of a verbal faith confession, which can be a natural extension of what a person feels in their heart. Paul encourages his readers not to be ashamed to proclaim the joy of their faith to the world. When a faith confession comes from a sincere heart then that’s a powerful combination, one that restores an awesome connection to God that no amount of trouble can destroy. This is how Paul suggests the idea of immanence, meaning something that is within something else. In this case, what is within us is God, the spirit and power of the divine essence. Neither the Old Testament law nor religious rituals guarantee spiritual fulfillment. Instead, we must ask for and receive God’s presence, which is the core and substance of what rescue’s us.
Paul then turns to a liberating statement about access to salvation. The claim here is that God does not distinguish between Jew and Gentile (non-Jews). This may not sound radical to us, but in Paul’s day it was revolutionary given the view among many Jews that only their ethnic group made them God’s chosen people. Jewish elitism gave way to the faith freedom inaugurated by Jesus’ teaching, which transcended the Old Testament law and opened the path for non-Jews to receive the same type of redemption as Jews.
Lastly, Paul extols the virtues of messengers who proclaim God’s truth. This is another invitation for individual believers to spread the wonderful gospel message of transforming, redemptive love. We can respond to God’s call by announcing to the world—through our actions and attitudes—that we are revitalized people of faith. We are invited to shout the joys of our salvation by being ready, willing and able to inform the world of our vibrant spirituality. Will you join us? Together, we will do much more as a faith family than we can do in silent isolation.
–Reverend Larry Hoxey