Generally speaking I work from home on Fridays and Tuesdays to save on some gas. This past Friday I worked out of my office at the YMCA to get aquatinted with the staff, the space, and most importantly - meet the kids that come to our after school programming. Prior to their arrival I met with one of my staff members, Kelsey, who has been the acting director in this lapse between my predecessor and myself. Kelsey shared with me that these kids come from broken homes and difficult school systems and as such will be resistant to a new authority figure in their lives. It was going to take some time to build trust until they would open up with me. I discovered just how true that would be when two girls around 6 years old - 'Nyla and Germylla came into the office to see Kelsey and discovered me there also...
Me: "Hi! My name is Nick, I'll be the new director of the kids program. Who are you?"
One of them: "I didn't ask who you is and I ain't bout to tell you who I am."
I smiled to them and to Kelsey as we stood up and made our way down the hall for games, sports, and art.
However, this got me thinking about the church as well. I journaled that evening wondering whether or not the disciples had similiar apprehension to Jesus when he came into their lives as a new authority figure with God sized claims about who he was and what their role would be in his life. Whoa buddy, I barely know you, I'm not sure I'm ready to get involved with that yet. I wonder if Jesus had to be patient and move carefully for his disciples or whether they could see something in his person that made him trusting. On a more local note I wonder about the church as an institution and the people that come across it. How do we interact with guests to make us a trusting institution and place to call home? For some, they come from comfortable backgrounds and are open to trust and new relationships while others come from a more broken home and might see the church in a more negative light. How can we tailor our worship services, marketing materials, physical space, and programming to be as safe and transparent as possible? These are some of the questions I invite you to consider alongside me this Lenten journey.
Scripture to Read
The story that I think of when I think of trust is when Peter is invited to walk on water with Jesus during a storm. I invite you to read the full story below and then come back for my expanded thoughts on this.
- My Thoughts -
Peter had spent nearly his entire life on the shore of Sea of Galilee and had logged thousands of hours in boats - fishing and sailing across the lake. But on the occasion of the scripture story, Peter would have an experience unlike anything he'd ever had before. I find that telling that even when we in a place we are quite comfortable with that God can still move and do the unexpected. Perhaps you've been in church your whole life and feel quite comfortable in one...when is the last time you felt like God had asked you do something beyond your expectations - like walking on water - that required you to fully trust God?
I think its important to note that the Gospel writer also wanted their readers to see Jesus coming to his disciples in their hour of need. He was watching over them even when they could not see him. This is intended to be a picture of what Jesus still does in the lives of believers when we're sailing through our own storms in the darkness. For the children I work with at the YMCA they have experienced their own storms that I don't know about, let alone the storm of ever changing staff, and yet they being asked to step out into the unknown trusting that the person calling them is safe. I get why they might prefer to remain in the boat. Every week we receive a few prayer requests from you, the congregation, about the storms in your own lives that you're facing. You trust us enough to be vulnerable with that information and to believe that we will lift you, your family, and your situation up in prayer and walk alongside you during your concerns. I think this is what the Gospel writers hoped their readers would understand when they included the story of Jesus walking on the water, not only that he once did what only God can do but also that he continues to come to us in the storms of life, climbs into our boat, and rides out the storm with us.
But then we get to the dramatic part of this story as Peter sees Jesus walking on the water and he does what must have sounded so stupid at the time. Instead of offering a hand to Jesus to come INTO the boat like a normal person he calls out "Lord, if it's you, order me to come to you on the water." There's an important detail here: Peter didn't just call to Jesus and step out of the boat. He waited for Jesus to bid him to step out of the boat and come to him. He did not trust in his own ability to walk on the water. But he trusted that if Jesus called him to do it, he could. Jesus said "Come!" and Peter stepped out of the boat. Can you imagine that? Peter had been working on the water for his entire life. His experience taught him that getting out of a boat on the lake meant that a person either would have to sink or swim; walking was not (and still is not) an option. And in a storm like that, being far from shore, swimming wasn't much of an option either. Yet here was Simon Peter, stepping out of the boat.
What is your boat? What is the comfort zone you are too afraid to leave behind? How does fear keep you from experiencing a richer, more fulfilling life? Fear is ubiquitous. It is everywhere. It's the unknowns of new situations, new employment, new directors, new pastors and more. We struggle with fear all the time, often without even realizing it. But what if we switch our brains to resist the fears and live by a life of faith - trusting not in ourselves but trusting in God to do miraculous things in our lives? When we are motivated primarily by faith rather than fear, we recognize, as Peter did, that the adventure is outside the boat. What's your boat? Let's jump out of the boat trust that God has got us in certainty and uncertainty alike.
Praying through Praise
You know how certain songs are just stuck in your head forever and ever no matter how long its been since you last heard them or sang them? VBS causes songs like that to be added to that part of my brain every year. But as I typed the words "jump out of the boat" above I was immediately taken back to high school where we would sing this song at nearly every mass or retreat. I'm pretty sure I still remember the dance to it. If you commit to tithing to the church I'll send you a video of me doing it. hahah!
Fair warning this is iconic early 2000's Christian music.
Peter and Thomas went fishing one day Jesus had died and so had thier faith Thomas had doubted and Peter denied Of ever knowing Jesus at all Standing on the shore was someone so fimiliar Calling ot them as only he know how When Peter relized that it was Jesus He grabed his coat and started singing aloud (CHORUS) Im jumping out of the boat Im getting closer to him I dont care if I sink I dont care if I swim Cuz I know something goods gonna happen It wont matter now even if I can float All that I know for sure is Im jumping out of the boat I found myself on a boat with no directions Sailing alone was the plan for me No one would know all the pain I had been through The teared fill nights and the bad memories Everywhere I looked I saw nothin but trouble The things that i heard brought me misory When I relized his voice that was calling I jumped up and I started to sing (CHORUS) YeaheYeaheYeah I dont care if I sink I dont care it I swim Cuz i know something goods gonna happen It wont matter know even if I can float All that I know for sure is Im jumping out of the boat Im jumping out of the boooat IM JUMPING OUT OF THE BOAT