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The Rev. Ramona Soto Rank The Rev. Ramona Soto Rank

The Rev. Ramona Soto Rank was associate pastor at Augustana Lutheran Church in Portland, OR, and president of the American Indian and Alaska Native Lutheran Association.

Member of:

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Representative of:

Augustana Lutheran Church, Portland, OR


What the Disciples Witnessed

Matthew 14:22-31

August 11, 2002

Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. These words have been spoken through the centuries by people just like us. We are weak. We are sad. We are distressed. We are searching. Lord, please help me. Lord, please save me. We know that you have promised to hear us, that even our sighs and groans are heard by you. Be with us this day as we recognize your presence in our lives. We ask your presence now. In the name of your Son, Jesus, please be with us. Amen.

"Lord, Save ME!" How many times have we mouthed these words? "Lord, save me! I am floundering, failing, sinking, dying. Lord, save me!"

Jesus and the disciples are in close relationship. It is sometimes prickly, sometimes funny, sometimes tense, but never boring.

God's faithful people-we are those disciples today. We have the same properties, the same illusions, the same misunderstandings, and the same relationship. God fulfills God's vision in community. There is not just one of us but many of us who continue to question, be confused, lose sight, and flounder. Jesus is our focus, but sometimes we lose our focus.

Today's story is filled with wonderful word pictures. Jesus, after spending time with many people, healing, praying, preaching, and teaching, retreats to a high place to meditate, pray, and gather his energy. He sends the disciples on their way ahead of him. They get into their boat to begin the journey to the other shore. Jesus would meet them after he had rested.

The disciples and the boat began to move across the lake. They must have been exuberant from the great gathering they had witnessed. People came from nearby villages to hear Jesus and to be touched by him. It was a fine day.

While comfortable in the beginning, the winds picked up and began to move the boat in ways that alarmed the disciples. The sails of the boat were stretched; the waves began to come over the side; the clouds signaled a storm. They were fisherman and knew when to become alarmed when on the water.

Jesus sees that they are far away from the shore and begins to walk to them. Already in an emotional state, that sight scares them. "It's a ghost!" they cry. They were afraid. Jesus seeks to calm them by identifying himself. It is early in the morning and he knows their fear.

Peter, the disciple who constantly exhibits exuberance and excitement during his time with Jesus, recognizes Jesus and asks to meet him. "Tell me to come to you on the water," Peter says. And Jesus answers him, "Come."

Peter trusts Jesus and leaves the boat to meet him. He is doing the unthinkable; he is also walking on water toward Jesus. Peter has his eyes locked on Jesus.

Then what happens? The wind picks up. It buffets Peter. Peter becomes alarmed and looks away from Jesus. It is then that he begins to sink. He begins to flounder. He knows he is in trouble.

Life can be like a harsh wind, blowing and buffeting us back and forth. Circumstances in our life can cause us to flounder, to panic, to drown. We want to keep our eyes on Jesus and do the impossible, but these circumstances of life interfere and insert themselves between Jesus and us.

Have you ever felt like you were out of control, drowning, going under for the third time? Are you drowning in debt? Are you drowning in a relationship that saps your energy? Are you drowning in despair and depression? What are those waves that assail you every day?

How is your relationship at home, at work, with your children, with your family, with your significant other? Are you so swamped by the circumstances of your life that you can't breathe?

Jesus speaks to us in those times. Don't be afraid. Take courage. I am still here. Jesus also asks us, "Why do you doubt?"

Why do we doubt? We allow things and circumstances to distance us from the care of God. We allow the worries of the day to become so overwhelming that we lose sight of Creator God. Sometimes we feel like God is an illusion, a ghost!

We are human. Jesus never doubts us. Jesus is there for us, even when we are overwhelmed. Jesus is there for us when we have lost our way or lost a loved one. Jesus is there to say, "I am with you always, even to the end of the world. Why do you doubt?"

Have the faith of a tiny seed and you will move mountains. We have that seed within us. We have that grain of faith, put there by God before the day we were born. We have the connection with Creator God to do great things.

Jesus came as our example. Jesus came to teach us and to heal us and to uplift us and, most importantly, to love us. We only need to respond.

Peter left the boat in the storm with his eyes on Christ. That took great courage. He began to flounder when he looked inward, not outward, when he began to doubt. Jesus reached out and caught him, just as he continues to reach out for us. We, on our own strength and resolve, are still people in need of God's grace and God's love. We have both in abundance.

We can still cry out, "Lord, save me!" and Jesus will respond. Amen.

Brothers and sisters, let us rejoice in the promise that Jesus will be with us even to the end of the world. He is the one that is our sustainer, our redeemer, our friend, and our lover. Please be with us in the times of doubt, in the times of trouble, in our humanness. Thank you for the grace of God that covers everything. Amen.


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