"Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat
and go on ahead to the other side."

From one shore of the Sea of Galilee to the other.
From the place of the feeding of the 5,000.
To the shores of Gennesaret.
Where sick from the region
flock to Jesus,
touch but the fringe of his cloak,
and are healed.

It's a transition in Saint Matthew's Gospel.
A transition between one major moment and another.
A transition with a few peculiar details.
Beginning with Jesus making the disciples get into the boat,
without him.

Perhaps he sent the disciples off
to give them a head start.
Or, as the text suggests,
simply to enjoy some peace and quiet.

There's no evidence Jesus thought much of the events that transpire.
After spending most of the evening by himself,
he just walks casually toward them on the sea.

I suppose that's what you do if you are God.
Move from point A to point B,
by taking the shortest route possible, whatever it is.
Direct.
Functional.

And yet we make so much more of this episode
than it probably warrants.
More of it than Jesus himself does.
We make so much of it
that we overlook the more peculiar details,
and reduce the rest to three:
1. Jesus walks on water.
2. Peter sinks when he tries.
3. Jesus saves him.

And turn what is a functional transition point,
with all sorts of oddities,
into a wildly entertaining, supernatural miracle.
Or a morality tale aimed at the insidiousness of human fear.

When in fact the moments this story connects
are far more important:
5,000 plus women and children fed, on one end;
Countless sick healed, on the other --
a marvelous view of the kingdom of heaven.

All of which is seemingly forgotten.
as we focus on Peter.
And those eleven terrified disciples.

And there, focused on them, we find a few more curious details.
The disciples's terror makes little sense.
Many of them have navigated these and other waters
in their professional lives.
Managed and sailed countless boats.

Experienced sailors aren't afraid of wind coming against them.
They simply sail at a close haul.
It's a safe position.
Although sometimes the wind does go out of the sails.
And the boat stops.

The wind ceasing all together is an entirely different story,
and far from any help.
It's a nuisance.
For without wind how now are the disciples to go
anywhere?

The whole episode is, frankly, bizarre.
Underplayed by Jesus,
who doesn't even bother with one of those long
or short
explanations
we've become accustomed to.

In a Gospel
and in an ethic
of the kingdom of heaven.
that focuses on the wellbeing of so many people,
all people,
I wonder why so much time is spent on
12 not-so-very bright disciples,
who've seemingly forgotten basic nautical skills.

The whole enterprise is irksome.
Unless.
Unless, we take the sea seriously.

On one side of that sea there is hunger.
And on the other, extreme sickness.

My hunch is Saint Matthew intends the sea
to stand for everything else in between those hardships.
to stand for every other trial faced in life.
to stand even for death. How easy it is to drown at sea.

In fact, the sea -- turbulent sea -- was,
in the ancient Near East,
a place of uncertainty, turmoil, distress.

The plain truth of this Gospel
its Good News is that
Jesus meets Peter and the disciples.
at the turmoil of the sea.

Meets us at any and in any of life's turmoil.
When we seem overwhelmed.
Have no idea where to turn.
Or who to turn to.
When we are confused, distraught
when we feel completely alone,
isolated,
and as is so easy to feel in such times:
afraid.

Jesus meets us there.
Grabs us ahold of us, and does not let us go.

We experience that grasp at various points in life,
but the first time, the most important times
is in the waters of baptism.

When we are baptized,
we hover over waters that look at once refreshing,
but also relate to the turmoil of life.
We are plunged death-ward into those waters.
And each time,
three times rise,
rise life-ward.

Rise and see, as that water is wiped from our eyes,
the light of the resurrected Christ.
In the light of the Paschal Candle.
A beam.
A glow.
A lighthouse of sorts.
The light of Christ which becomes our own light
with these words we know so well:
"Let your light so shine before others."

A light to rely on
When life seems dark and dim.
When there seems no way to carry on.
When it feels as though we are drowning perilously.

That light.
The light of Christ.
The light that never fades.
And illumines us.
When nothing else can.

Illumines us,
and shows us others.

We experience this illumination each year at the Easter Vigil.
We gather around the font.
With only the dim light of the Paschal Candle in this darkened church.
There we recall God's saving works.
Hear the font's continuous flow of water.
Struggle to remember the words of the Apostles Creed.
Relying on the voices around us to carry us
from one statement of the church's faith to another.

And then, as we light our candles from the Paschal Candle,
suddenly we beginning to see what we experienced there:
we stand not alone, but with Jesus,
and not only with Jesus, but stand with others.
I imagine that to be something like Peter's experience
when he and Jesus got back in the boat.
With the eleven others.

Which may be why the wind stops.
And they stop.
They needed to be together.

Anytime we are in need,
it is being together that we need most.
People to care for us.
Neighbors to pray for us.
Friends to cheer us or cry with us.

Which is why it is so important to come here.
Gathered together as people who know these waters.
Troubling but saving waters.
Illumined.
Gathered together in this place.
To pray.
To rejoice.
To break bread.
Together.

For here we begin to see Jesus.
See Jesus even in the grimmest of situations.
The most turbulent of seas.
See Jesus and see one another.
Not simply to be at peace.
But to go together to the other side of the sea.

To go to those in need on the other side of the sea.
The sick.
And the despondent.

To go to those in need in every corner of this globe.
In need of our prayer.
And our fervent love.

To go together on the most important of journeys:
even to the other side of the sea.
Where that light, and those waters lead.
Where we stand together.
Where all stand together.
Praising God on a yet more glorious shore.
Where sorrow and pain are no more,
neither sighing, but,
as God in Christ Jesus promises,
life everlasting.