Reflection on This Week’s Readings


We who gather for worship each week know what it is like to feel terrified. We may not be on a literal boat being tossed by the waves, as are the disciples in the gospel story today, but our lives are often rocked by the circumstances we experience. Sometimes the howling wind that buffets our boat is a terrifying health diagnosis. The waves that batter us about might be financial ruin, marital struggles, the demands of caregiving, or a myriad of other issues. We are not strangers to feeling out of control or scared.

Some of us barely made it here today. We are out of energy and exhausted by living in fear. Jesus meets us in the midst of our worry and says, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid” (Matt. 14:27). He sings it to us in the hymns of our faith, speaks it to us in scripture, and feeds us with it in the meal.

As we turn to a hymn and open our weary lips to sing, Jesus is present in the words and melodies that God’s people have been singing for a very long time. We sing these hymns in the chapters of our lives when the seas are calm, and when we are certain we are about to capsize.

When someone stands to read a piece of scripture we have heard dozens of times, Jesus comes to us afresh as we hear that word with troubled or peaceful hearts. Christ meets us in the ancient texts that never get old, offering us stability when our little boats seem dwarfed by the raging sea.

We approach the table, steady or perhaps trembling; when we feel beloved and when we are deeply aware of our captivity to sin. Each time, we reach out with our cupped beggar hands, and Jesus offers himself to us: “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”



Matthew’s narrative describes Jesus as embodying the power of the God of the Hebrew tradition. The church receives words about Jesus as being the very word of God. On Sunday, these words are heard in the readings, meditated upon in the sermon, and consumed in holy communion.
Jesus’ power over nature, his claim “I am,” and his rescue of Peter proclaim that Jesus is divine. The sea is our chaos, Peter’s doubt our own. With Peter we ask Jesus to save us, and with the disciples we acclaim him the Son of God. “Do not be afraid,” Jesus says both to the disciples in the boat and to the women at the empty tomb.
The narrative of Elijah encountering only sheer silence is an ironic tale in the genre of theophanies that show divine power through the forces of nature. Matthew’s story of the stilling of the tempest fits more traditionally into a religious expectation that God has power over nature. The lectionary appoints both.
We assemble on Sunday to hear the very word of which Paul speaks. Today our faith in Christ saves us; now we hear God’s sheer silence; now the storm is stilled.

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