Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.
‘Don’t be afraid’
How does it feel to be on your own? I won’t pursue the Bob Dylan lyric reference any further. But that simple refrain will serve to draw together some of what’s taking place in our readings today. How does it feel to be on your own? Vulnerable to discrimination, persecution? Lonely, vulnerable to paranoia and despair?
Matthew’s story likens the situation to that of a boat and its crew tossed about in a storm (a familiar predicament for biblical readers/hearers, familiar predicament for coast-
The Gospel, in short, is about a minority group out in the open (afraid, paranoid, persecuted – the Greek word translated “tossed about” is also the word for “persecuted”) and Jesus/God appearing as an initially scary then comforting figure.
Peter, representing the pilgrim church that often misunderstands Jesus, struggles with doubt, and even abandons Jesus in time of trial, is called to tread upon the chaos. For a moment he succeeds. When he fails, Jesus saves him (we might imagine, with a smile, with understanding). His words to Peter are words to the bold and frightened of every time and place: “You have so little faith! Why did you doubt?”
Walking on water ... certainly – it’s about daring to believe ... it’s about daring to trust in a God more powerful than the chaos and violence; daring to trust that this God more powerful than the chaos and the violence is the God of Jesus Christ – the God embodied in a passion for justice, and in compassion – the God who raised Jesus from the dead.
It’s striking that Jesus is not so troubled by the chaos – though his confidence, it’s important to note, is hard-
Matthew is teaching that there is security in relationship with this God (in the face of chaos and violence) – it is possible to cling to love, to nonviolence. It is faithful to resist intimidation, brute force and bullying ... A very contemporary message for small congregations, small churches. (On a recent run along the Princes Highway I noticed a billboard outside a certain “Bible-
I was talking with a friend recently about the 19th-
I recall that conversation because, as unlikeable a belief as I’ve made it just now, Nietzschean faith represents a real challenge. It’s the modern alternative world-
How does it feel to be on your own? It can be exhilarating, sure. Reading Nietzsche can be exhilarating. But it is also terrifying. The more so, the more that one is vulnerable to persecution – the poorer one is. And as one online commentator points out, in a consumer culture of increasingly older workers and a withering welfare sector, in a “culture of reciprocity” – I’ll read to these kids until their parents frustrate me; I’ll visit the nursing home for as long as it’s “rewarding” – efforts toward community-
For which coming, for which event do we pray? For the eternal circulation of life, with its endless wheel/waves of joy and sorrow, or for the coming of the Lord Jesus, the Crucified and Risen Saviour?Faith in the forces of nature, the strong over the weak, or faith in the impossible love of God for all the crucified and oppressed?
For me, it’s never an easy choice. I feel the waves hitting the boat. I am anxious for the world, for the church, and for myself. And I see that the Christ who appears is strange, scary. In my paranoia, I see Christ as a threat to my self-
How does it feel to be on your own? Sometimes it’s lonely. And yet there is a solitude – prayerful, however that comes about – and faithful – wherein you may hear the words of comfort: “Don’t worry, it’s me; don’t be afraid.” These may also be the most exhilarating words of all, for they call us out, with trembling others, upon the water. They call us to community service, to life in relationship, to trembling others, to all creatures, to Christ. Where the impossible may be, just may be, possible.
When or where have you heard such words of comfort: “Don’t worry, it’s me; don’t be afraid.” …Amen.