August 10, 2014 –– 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jesus Christ Is The Son Of God
The Gospels give us stories about Jesus with a single underlying conviction: Jesus Christ is the Son of God. That same conviction is what makes a Christian a Christian; it is what makes the Church the Church. The fundamental reason for preaching is this same underlying conviction: Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
Yet we see that Jesus gets alone with the Father in order to pray. If the Son of God needed to make time for prayer, then what of you and me? I need to do better at creating time to pray. It was possibly toward 9:00pm by the time Jesus made his way into the hills alone to pray after a long day with the people. Jesus was making his way to the disciples during the fourth watch of the night––about 3:00am, so Jesus had been praying for maybe six hours. That kind of prayer is consistent with many of the great saints of Christian history. This challenges all of us in our prayer life. To be like Jesus, we need to be going deeper and deeper in prayer.
Another thing worth noticing here is that the disciples had gone out into the night and onto that big lake in obedience to Jesus (he made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead). At the risk of pointing out the obvious, note that obeying Jesus did not mean no problems for the disciples. In fact, they were fighting an angry sea precisely because they had obeyed Jesus and gone out in the boat. And since they had departed before Jesus dismissed the crowd and left to pray, they had been fighting the sea for maybe 10-12 hours. It seems that Jesus had even set them up. The disciples often fell into disasters whenever Jesus was absent, and Jesus knows that when we are vulnerable we are most open to God. I try to remember that when my stress levels seems at maximum level.
There is so much in one simple story from the Gospels. Again we find Peter in the limelight, another emphasis on his primacy among the original disciples. Undoubtedly, though, the emphasis is found in the response of all the disciples as they witness an incident that went beyond any natural understanding. A modern mindset wants to dismiss Jesus walking on water as an example of creative symbolism or pious legend. The disciples got the point: Truly you are the Son of God. The only way any of this makes sense is to remember that Jesus is God. This has something to say to us on several levels.
First, we need to face head-on this claim of the Gospels and the Church: Jesus Christ is the Son of God. We “say” it every time we confess the Creed, but do we believe it? As we live the routines of day by day, are our lives different because of an overwhelming conviction that Jesus Christ is the Son of God? That is the standard of Christian Faith for everyone who owns the name of Jesus.
A minister to young adults wanted to find out why so many young Christians lose their faith in college. He did this by actually asking them. One of the students said, “Christianity is something that if you really believed it, it would change your life and you would want to change the lives of others. I haven’t seen too much of that.” Again, are we living lives that show that we actually believe what we say we believe?
Yet, to be honest with the inherent weakness of our humanity in this broken world, we can often feel too much like the disciples here––alone and scared and not able to figure out the circumstances which engulf us. This story should help encourage us, though, because if we are where Jesus has told us to be, we can have confidence even if the storm is kicking and we are struggling. He knows where we are. And if his response to our trouble scares us to death, (“get out of the boat and come to me”) let's also try to remember that Jesus is repeatedly allowing us to be in situations so we can see his glory. But if we can't handle it yet, he's still not going to abandon us. His first words to the disciples were to identify himself and say, Do not be afraid.
Again, the only way any of this makes sense is to remember that Jesus, the Son of God, gives himself to us. His Spirit lives in all who believe in him, and he is wanting to extend his very life through us. To do that, we have to be open to this truth, which is why we have the Church to teach us. This is why there is preaching. But we also need to face our personal role in having a spiritual life. Remember that Jesus spent time with the Father. We all need to be growing in prayer, and we learn to pray by praying.
As Christians, we are to have a single basic focus. Above everything else––undergirding and surrounding all that we are and do––Jesus Christ is the Son of God. This is the center of everything else that happens in what we call "everyday life.” Jesus wants us to “step out” and meet him in all the circumstances of our lives.
Are you asking Jesus to be Lord of your everyday life? Do you truly believe that the Son of God wants to live in and through you? Jesus wants to meet us in our turbulence. He wants us to believe the confession of those first disciples: Truly you are the Son of God.
The one thing this requires is making a choice––a choice that turns into a lifetime of ongoing response. You are invited to give an unqualified yes in your life to Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He came into our world for that very reason. So in your own storms (and we all have them), invite Jesus to be Lord of all your days.