First, let me remind you of a little geography.
The Sea of Galilee is the largest freshwater lake in Israel. It has an average depth of 84 feet. The part, about 3 miles out, where the apostles were is about 30 feet deep.
By comparison, Lake Erie is the tenth largest lake in the world. It’s actually an inland freshwater sea. It has an average depth of 62 feet. Around here it is about 25-30 feet. This is why storms can come up so suddenly and unexpectedly, just as they do on the Sea of Galilee.
Now back to the Gospel passage. We all know this event in the life of Jesus and St. Peter. Peter is always the impetuous one – quick to act, a bit slow to think things through first.
One has to admire his faith and his courage in stepping out of that boat when Jesus bids him, “Come.” At the same time, one has to give a big sigh when Peter starts to sink.
Note that Jesus wasn’t testing Peter’s faith or trust. He gave a simple, one-word invitation, “Come,” and Peter responded. He certainly had faith in Jesus; however, his faith was only half-formed, not yet perfect the way it would be when he was led to his own crucifixion.
Maybe some of you have been out on Lake Erie when a storm suddenly came up. All of us, though, have had other types of “storms” come up, often unexpectedly, in our lives.
We go along day to day and things are fairly routine – even boring. Then, all of a sudden some crisis strikes. It may be a sudden illness of oneself, a family member or a friend. It may be loss of a job or a financial crisis. Whatever the storm is, Jesus calls out to us, “Come.” Come to me; trust me; have faith.
God doesn’t send these storms to test us. Nevertheless, when they do occur they can be a source of our deepening faith – our increasing trust and reliance on God’s loving care for us. Certainly we are going to be scared by these storms. They are going to test our faith. Jesus is always present in the midst of our crises and bids us to come to him.
I never expected to be retiring this early in my life. I had planned on being here at St. Nicholas until the day I died – hopefuly many years from now. However, things have taken a different turn. My back trouble is forcing my life onto a different path. I don’t know how things are going to turn out after I move to Cincinnati. I’m not sure what I’m going to do. I know that I’ll miss being with you and ministering to you. However, I am sure that God is right there with me and he will guide me to do his will, whatever that may be. Because of that, I am calm and accepting of the situation.
Some years ago a parishioner gave me a picture of a boy at the helm of a ship during a storm. Jesus is standing right behind him with his hand on the boy’s shoulder, guiding him, reassuring him, encouraging him not to lose heart.
In the same way, Jesus is always standing beside all of us, reassuring us, calling out to us, “Come to me and I will save you. Don’t lose heart.”
And after the storm of the crisis is over, he is still there beside us as we return to shore – to our normal, calm – even mundane – lives. It is then that we need to continue knowing that he is there with us at all times, not just during the storm. Even if the boat of our lives is battered, the sail torn, a hole in the bottom or the rudder knocked off, he is there with us, loving us, caring for us, calling for us to come to him, the safe harbor.