And after Jesus had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking towards them on the lake. But when the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’
Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came towards Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’
Have you ever seen something so unexpected that you thought it must be supernatural? What was your reaction? I’ve witnessed people immediately healed of illness in prayer meetings (and a great many more that weren’t, which makes it all the more surprising when it does happen!). The reaction was always the same: Joy! Excitement! Celebration! And a renewed energy to keep praying, hoping, and believing that it would happen again.
By contrast, the disciples in the boat are scared out of their wits when Jesus passes by. I don’t blame them: they hadn’t asked Jesus to do this. It was completely unexpected. Only Peter tried to join Jesus walking on the water. Yes, he got scared and distracted by the strong wind, but the others didn’t even try.
In ‘The Importance of Courage’, Maya Angelou says: “Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.”
As we learn how to live with a changing climate, and appeal again for the entire world to take seriously the devastating impact of humanity’s inhumanity on our planet, we will need to be courageous. Courageous in the face of the unexpected, as well as the coming hardship that is almost inevitable. Courageous when confronting those who are slow to change their ways. Exercising courage will surely be a beautiful gift to our world.
Can we also be courageous in our prayers and beliefs? To expect God to do more than we ask or can even imagine? And to listen courageously for the Spirit of God who blows like the wind?
It’s time to step up and step out.
Great giver of courage, fresh influx of love,
God’s presence intruding like wind from above,
you seek out those locked down, confused and unsure:
burst in to revive us with hope, joy and cure.
Infect with your wisdom for what we must face.
Endow us with courage to help us keep pace.
Revive and restore us, so we may pull through,
work wonders together, empowered by you.
(From ‘Great giver of courage’ by the Revd John Campbell)