Matthew 14:22-33 Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”
Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Reflection The earliest Sunday School memory I have is sitting cross-legged on the floor amidst a bevy of four year olds watching our buttoned-up Sunday School teacher bounce Jesus’ cut-out felt figure across pointy pretend waves toward a small brown boat. Though I harbor no recall of what she spoke to our unsullied minds, I can almost feel my tiny pudgy arm waving before I was called upon and protested, “Jesus cannot walk on water. I know because we go swimming in the ocean.”
What a great teaching moment, but alas, it was lost on the intransigence of my stone-minded Sunday School teacher. Rather than help me wrestle with the Gospel story or remind me that sometimes we love stories that are real in a different way than a table or the felt board or our shoes are real, this supposed purveyor of the Good News passed on the bad news to my parents that I was no longer welcome in her Sunday School class. Post haste I was moved to a class full of big kids and that was the last time I spoke in school.
Why do we tell stories? We tell stories to make sense of our world and to pass on wisdom from generation to generation. We tell stories because they engage our listeners’ whole selves, body, mind and spirit, and are easier to remember than an exhausting speal of information.
According to a 2015 Huffington Post article by Mitch Ditkoff, “neuroscientists, psychologists, theologians, sociologists, advertisers, linguists, and marketers (concur)… Storytelling is the most effective, time-tested way to transmit meaning from one human being to another. It’s been going on since the beginning of time when our first ancestors stood around the tribal fire. It’s how civilizations pass on their wisdom to the next generation. It’s how religions pass on the sacred teachings of their faith. And it’s how parents, via the telling of fairy tales, transmit the values they want to impart to their children.”
Rather than consider the story of Jesus walking on water as a supernatural feat reserved for the only chosen one, my stymied Sunday School teacher might have invited me to to remember a time that I was really, really scared. Once she saw the lightbulb go off in my face then ask me how it would feel if I knew that Jesus was with me even when I was really scared? I have every reason to believe if that had been the case, a smile would have lighted my eyes, turned my frown to a smile, and I would have been content to keep on listening to her story. This is the Good News.
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