Prayer before reading:
Lord Jesus Christ,
You call us to come
To be with you.
By your Spirit help me
To see you,
To hear you,
To receive your Spirit,
To be led by your Spirit.
Read slowly. Listen deeply. Indwell the scripture.
Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
We are led to the northern beach of Lake Galilee where Jesus tells us to board the boats, and to row back across the lake to the other side. He will dismiss the crowd– the thousands of persons who have listened to Jesus teaching, been touched and healed, and fed with the loaves and fishes. They too will make their journey to the other side of the lake.
As we begin the crossing by boat, Jesus climbs the nearby mountain and withdraws into solitude, a space alone with Abba. The shadow of John’s death still hangs across his path, and the fickle nature of the crowd presses in upon his consciousness. What they receive from him today, they will demand again tomorrow – not because of belief and love for Jesus, but because they want food. The soul they forget. (John 6:26,27)
Where do we go when shadows of rejection and consumerism which suck the breath out of any awareness of soul, and deaden the breath of the Spirit? Fatigue, disillusionment, anger, and a deadening absence of God can become the dark shadows which hang across our path. Where do we go for help when the warm and invigorating visions of our commissioning and ordination become dim and dark? Where do we turn for restoration of soul and vision? Elijah and Jesus offer us a pathway into solitude, and beckon us into retreat.
Jesus pulls away into solitude, seeks out a mountain, and, like Elijah so many years before, climbs to its peak. The rhythmic climb on the mountainside, his breathing heavier now, settles the stress within his body, and places physical distance between himself and the fractured and death-making ways of humankind this side of Eden. Here he breathes a thinner air, and sinks into the greater space of God’s presence and holding, God’s care and purposes.
It is to such places we need to come, and to hear God asking us, “What are you doing here?” (1 Kings 19:9). It is to such places we need to come and stay—at least for a night, and even longer. We need time away in our life and ministry for solitude and prayerful retreat. Just to be with God. In that place apart we can see how we, like Simon Peter, respond to the call of God, but become frightened and disoriented by the winds and the waves. We become aware of how we have sunk beneath the surface of the storms of ministry. There, the quiet of solitude God meets us, and restores our faulty vision, helps us see as God sees. Then we are able to see Jesus walking upon the very waves which are swamping our boat, and hindering what we would name as progress. It’s not always about getting to the other side, but rather about discovering Jesus in the midst of the storm, and trusting him for help, rescue, and finally – calm. We do not still the storms. Only Jesus can do that.
Time and again we will find ourselves stripped of our ability to control outcomes in ministry, even stripped of our ability to do what Jesus has commanded us to do. This stripping leaves us naked, vulnerable, tired, and afraid. But Jesus comes in these dark night crossings, and meets us in the very place that is giving us the most trouble.
Reflect on what stormy night crossings you may be encountering just now, or have experienced in your life and ministry. As you wait in the presence of God, what do you notice? What do you want to say to God? And what might God be saying to you?
Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
- 8/1 Monday: Matthew 14:22-27
- 8/2 Tuesday: Matthew 14:18-33
- 8/3 Wednesday: Psalm 85:8-13
- 8/4 Thursday: Romans 10:5-15
- 8/5 Friday: 1 Kings 19:9-18
- 8/6 Saturday: Matthew 14:22-27
- 8/7 Sunday: Matthew 14:18-33