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Fall 2011

Ideas for the World
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Fall 2011 - Department | St. Alban’s Minute

St. Alban’s Minute

As we approached the 10th anniversary of the events of September 11, 2001, I found myself in a reflective mood. We do not know what this year will hold for us as we confront the realities of our lives and of this world. It has been 10 years since 9/11. A day of infamy that happened when the senior class of 2012 was in the second grade and before just about anyone in kindergarten through sixth grade was born. Yet we now live in a world forever defined and changed by those events.

Our world is inundated by fear right now. Fear has the power to control our hearts and minds. It can paralyze us. We can certainly talk about the fear of the big things like terrorism, war, nuclear threats, global warming or even illness in or ourselves or someone close to us, as well as broken relationships.

But what about our daily fears?

When students are afraid to raise their hand because they risk getting the wrong answer.

When we are afraid to speak out in support of someone else being teased or bullied in a string of texts or online chats.

When we are afraid to try something new on the off chance that we might fail or not do it perfectly.

When we are afraid to reach out for help because the temporary circumstances of our lives seem to overwhelm us.

In the Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 14:22-33), we hear the tale of Peter trying to walk on water. The disciples were alone in the boat, and a terrible storm had arisen, rocking the little craft. Jesus is seen walking toward them across the water like an apparition or ghost, and they are filled with fear. The storm was real, the boat small and to see their beloved Jesus walking across the lake in the dark, amid the chaos of the storm, doing what was humanly impossible, must have been frightening.

To try to do what is humanly impossible by ourselves, without God, is always frightening.
Our boats are symbols of false security. They are the safe place to be. A place to hang on and ride out the storm.

Jesus says to Peter,“Come,” and, defying all logic, Peter gets out of the boat and begins to walk on water.

Our boats are symbols of false security. They are the safe place to be. A place to hang on and ride out the storm.

What is the metaphorical boat in your life that you are afraid to get out of? What is the boat in your life that prevents you from taking that step of faith? What is the fear that imprisons you?

Yes, there are times when we are afraid. There are times when we feel as though we are sinking. Yet God is there. Calling us. God certainly knows our fears and our insecurities. Still, God says to us, “Come."

Peter could not continue to walk on the water because he was afraid. He looked around at the worldly reality of the storm, the situation absurd and incomprehensible, and fear overwhelmed Peter. He began to sink. And then Peter did what we must all do. Peter cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Jesus then speaks to Peter with these words, “Why did you not believe, you of little faith?” On the one hand, we can take it to be an judgment of Peter’s faith and by extension of our own. Asking ourselves, why don’t we have more faith? In us?  In each other?  In God?
As we move forward, we should continue to find ways to step out of the boat.

Faith is never settled once for all. We are reminded elsewhere in the Gospels that if we have faith even as small as a tiny seed we have the power to move mountains. Tiny bits of faith, help us to take giant steps forward. Maybe Jesus is speaking to Peter with words not of condemnation, but encouragement. Saying in essence, “You were doing it! You had it!”

In the end, like Peter, we must take that step. We must step out of the boat. Maybe even go “all in” and like Peter take those steps of faith.

As we move forward, we should continue to find ways to step out of the boat. In some ways we’ve already begun. Teachers are trying new things in their classrooms, there are new tools in technology; the building of the Center for applied studies is also another example of how we as a school are taking a risk and stepping out of the boat.

To become the person God calls us to be I fully believe that we ALL need to step out of the comfort and safety of our boats. To step forward, even if the ground beneath is no more substantial than water.

And despite Peter’s fear in his attempt to walk on water, and the other mistakes that he makes in walking with Jesus, he will go on to become one of the greatest of the disciples and leader among the early Christians. His life and his faith reminds us that there is hope. And if HE took that risk why not us. There will be successes AND, yes, even failures. But how will we even know, if we’ve never taken that chance.  What matters, is that even for a moment, we have left the boat behind and we are walking.

The Rev. Daniel L. Leatherman

Comments from Readers

  1. D41d8cd98f00b204e9800998ecf8427e
    Rachel Won on 11/1/2011 at 11:37pm

    Thank you for your reflection and message, Father Leatherman! Faith really is choosing to take the steps that we cannot take without the Lord's help. Faith is humiliating and liberating, and worth every mistake.