Where do God’s story and our story intersect? Our more evangelical brothers and sisters might ask? Is there a word from the Lord this morning? How discipleship is lived out in our lives is that place where God’s story and our story meet. It is a place full of meaning and hope.
The Bible teaches us that faith is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8), but if you’re anything like me that’s hard to accept. I tend to think that having faith is something I ought to achieve by myself. If I pray hard enough or work hard enough or am good enough I will earn faith or develop faith. But that’s not the way it is and I never seem to get it into my head.
So when Jesus chides Peter, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” it sure feels as if he’s speaking to me. I am the person of little faith. And that’s just the point! That is the place where our story and God’s story intersect.
One of my favorite prayers is the Litany of Penitence we traditionally pray on Ash Wednesday, at the start of the season of Lent. In one of the petitions we confess our negligence in prayer and worship, and our failure to commend the faith that is in us (BCP p. 268). We are people of little faith but, Jesus tells us, the faith we have been given is enough. Because – because – and here’s something else that I have a difficult time getting through my pea brain – because God can take that little teeny-tiny faith I bring – my ever-so-small mustard seed – and grow it into a huge, gigantic tree. Sufficient faith to move a mountain! It’s like the multiplication of the loaves and the fishes – God takes what we bring and enlarges it and it is more than sufficient.
You can almost see Jesus shaking his head and smiling, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” It is one of the all-time great questions. We doubt because we’re human; I doubt because I know who I am and how badly I’ve messed up; I doubt because I have not loved God with my whole heart and I have not loved my neighbor as myself; I doubt because I have been a glutton, a polluter, and I have been greedy. But most of all I doubt because I have not believed strongly enough. Why would God save me from drowning? The winds are very strong and I am sorely afraid.
And in the midst of that storm that is my life, at the heart of my fear I hear “Come.” “Come.” That one little word of comfort. Come. “Come unto me all ye that travail and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you (BCP p. 332).” The words of the old Baptist hymn ring in my ears “Come home, come home, you who are weary come home.” And another verse resounds in my heart – you know it – the first verse many of us learned in Sunday School as children: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have ever lasting life. (John 3:16 KJV)”
Frederick Buechner writes:
Faith is better understood as a verb than as a noun, as a process [rather] than a possession. It is on-again-off again rather than once-and-for-all. Faith is not being sure where you’re, going, but going anyway, a journey without maps (Beyond Words, p.109).
And that’s good to bear in mine because there are other stories about the disciple Peter in scripture. Peter, remember, we heard last week, wandered into Unitarianism on the Mount of the Transfiguration and suggested that the disciples build three booths or dwellings in honor of Moses, Elijah, and Jesus all of whom appeared on the mountain and God had to correct Peter sternly pointing to Jesus and shouting “this is my Son, listen to him. (Luke 9:28-36)”
And Peter is the disciple who denied knowing Jesus three times when Jesus was arrested. So Peter’s track record of faith is sketchy at best.
But, remember, God takes the faith we have, the faith he has given us, and uses it, uses us. Jesus calls Peter the rock upon whom the Church will be built (Matthew 16:18) and it is to Peter that Jesus leaves his most important commission. He tells Peter in John (21:15ff) “Feed my sheep.” That’s important to remember because fear dominates our lives when we assume our task is to survive death or to save the church. Our task, however, is not to survive, but to be faithful witnesses. Fear can not dominate our lives if we have good work to do and justice to fight for. Good work to do and fighting for justice are other names for worship and for living out our baptismal vows.
Like Peter we struggle, we stumble, we doubt, we run away and hide, but ultimately we get up on Sunday morning and we come. We come. We are weary, we are broken, we are bruised, we are afraid, we are discouraged; we are hurting and sad and lonely in more ways than we want to admit, but we come. We come home. We come home to be nourished by Holy Communion and by community. We come home where we are cherished. We come home to be sent out again to share God’s reconciling love with those who have yet to hear about it or those you have yet to believe the message, especially those who are, like us, hungry, frightened, lonely, and in danger. “Thank you, God, for your loving grace that has brought us home today.” Amen.