Homily by The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. Francis Episcopal Church, Goldsboro, NC, 13 Aug. 2017, Proper 14
Year A RCL: Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28; Psalm 105:1-6, 16-22, 45b; Romans 10:5-15; Matthew 14:22-33
When we hear today's Gospel, we tend to
focus on Peter's sinking in fear &
Jesus asking, “...why did you doubt?”
Notice what else Peter does.
Peter is the only one among his fellow terrified disciples
to take the big step out of the boat
in that storm to be with Jesus.
He does walk on water,
In his book, If You Want to Walk on Water You've Got to Get Out of the Boat, John Ortberg sees Peter's “Getting out of the boat [& walking as] Peter's great gift to Jesus...[and] the experience of walking on water [as] Jesus' great gift to Peter.”1
While Peter keeps his eyes on Jesus, he walks on water. When he notices the strong wind, fear takes over. He starts sinking.
We have to keep our focus on Jesus.
We have to keep our focus on Jesus.
When life's storms arise, we, like the disciples, may forget: Genesis 1 says: God moves in the beginning of creation, sending a wind over the waters of chaos; Exodus 15 says God sends wind to part the Red Sea & turn it into dry land.
We have to rely on the great gift God gives us:
the gift of the Holy Spirit to guide us
through life's storms.
We may have to get our feet wet to do the work
God calls us/calls you to do.
Sometimes it takes time to find our new calling in life's changes. A long ago friend's new life after retirement comes to mind. After his success as owner of a restaurant & bar, he worked with Habitat for Humanity in Valdosta, GA. My husband & I were reminded of this in a newspaper tribute after his death in June.
[Tribute by The Valdosta Daily Times Executive Editor Dean Polling at
includes parts below adapted from the original:2]
Stuart Mullis was a big man in his positive impact on people & literally broad & over 6 feet tall. After selling his business, he volunteers at Habitat & is not initially impressed working in 100-degree summer heat pushing a wheelbarrow full of sod. Then he encounters a boy from the Habitat house next door & becomes a believer in Habitat's effectiveness.
The children & their mother come outside to play. Stuart cuts his hand. The little boy with 2 front teeth missing comes over, looks at his hand & asks what's happened. Stuart says he cut it & playfully asks the boy what happened to his teeth. He says, “My daddy knocked them out" & he wraps his arms around Stuart's legs & says, "Thanks to you for our house, he'll never do that again."3
Stuart hadn't worked on their house. This was his 1st Habitat experience. But the child knew Habitat helped him & his family have a home.4
That little boy walked on water to Stuart.
On that 1st project, Stuart learned Habitat needed a local executive director. He applied, was hired, & served well, being generous & firm with Habitat's required sweat equity as the way people pay for their homes.5
Stuart did a lot of walking on water.
A blind man wanted a house for his disabled wife. Stuart offered a creative opportunity for sweat equity: Habitat had received about "a million nuts & bolts”, which a store couldn't sell because they were mixed in damaged boxes.
Day by day in the cold winter, the blind man came to Habitat's storage facility & stood sorting nuts & bolts by hand to fulfill his sweat equity for the house he wanted because he loved his wife.6
That's walking on water.
Building houses is work.
Building relationships is work.
Building up the Body of Chris is work.
Work requires rest.
In our Gospel today notice: Jesus is alone with God, taking a rest after feeding the 5,000 & sending the disciples off in that boat. Early in the morning he comes to the disciples walking on the water.
Life's storms distract us.
May we have the grace to take time
to walk on water.
The Four Translation New Testament. Minneapolis: World Wide Publications. New York: The Iversen Assocs. 1966.
Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers. 1988.
Holy Bible. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989.
Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation. New York: Oxford University Press. 2004.
The New American Bible for Catholics. South Bend: Greenlawn Press. 1986.
New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha. Eds.: Herbert G. May, Bruce M. Metzger. New York: Oxford University Press, Incorporated, 1977.
Ortberg, John. If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat. Grand Rapids: Zondervan. 2001.
Polling, Dean. Executiv Executive Editor. The Valdosta Daily Times. “Stuart Mullis” http://www.valdostadailytimes.com/news/local_news/remembering-the-man-that-habitat-built/article_6677c42b-d285-5f31-8298-e16d616aa744.html Accessed: 30 June 2017.
1 Ortberg, John. If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat. P. 78.