Monday, December 07, 2015

Advent Nine

Once, I walked on water.

Stepping out onto a frozen lake, in Sweden, with an experienced local guide.

We stood in the middle of the lake, and I thought that, standing still, the ice might give way.

We keep moving because we fear that if we stand still, if we stop for just a moment, the ground will fall from under us.

Sometimes that is exactly what we need to happen.

Once, Jesus walked on water. And Peter doubted that it was truly Jesus, not a ghost. So Peter asked to walk out on the water to him, as proof; and Jesus consented. Peter walked on water. It was only when he stood still that he recognised Jesus, the salvation of God.

“You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

‘Little faith’ is not a criticism. In Jesus’ teaching, it is precisely the poor in spirit who experience the kingdom of heaven; the little flock who are comforted; the seed or the grain of yeast that transform. Those ‘of little faith’ are those on the inside of the secret – those who, of all people, are able to recognise Jesus. The doubt Jesus wondered at is Peter’s failure to recognise him while still (or, more to the point, not standing still) in the boat. Even so, these are words of comfort and encouragement, not rebuke.* And they spring from the place of stillness, of poised or attentive waiting.

In the boat, Peter was busy, rowing against the wind, fighting circumstances, trying to keep afloat. Jesus, initially making as if to walk past, stood still. Stood still, at the edge of Peter. Stood still, long enough to see Peter – beneath the veneer of competence and busyness – before Peter stood still long enough to see him. And far from drowning, their friendship took on new depths.

*Jesus certainly rebukes Peter on occasion. But this is not one of those times.

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