“Step into the Swell” by “Lisle Gwynn Garrity” | A Sanctified Art LLC | sanctifiedart.org
Weekly Bible Devotional
“Unraveled by Uncertainty”
July 5, 2020
This week we look at the example of Peter in his attempt to walk on water with Jesus. We often think of this story as a model for working a little harder on being more faithful to God. Yet, the story has the potential to show us that sinking and feeling overwhelmed can be a time of great rescue! We do well if we focus on what Peter and the other disciples learned and experienced when Peter started to sink.
Uncertainty is a part of life, especially these days. What we thought we knew about life and the world has come into question during this pandemic. And things keep changing so quickly. While our instinctive reaction to uncertainty is anxiety and dismay, there is a great opportunity for growth, healing, and faith in all of this unraveling of our certainties. Despite the pain we are experiencing right now, there is a new level of awareness and healing that is emerging as we approach this time with faith.
I pray that the reflections below from “A Sanctified Art” will inspire you this week to look at how you are dealing with the uncertainty of our time.
Scripture for Sunday: Matthew 14:22-33
22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. 25 And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”
28 Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Peter takes one step onto the water and begins to sink. His confidence unravels right there in the wind and the waves. Fortunately for him and for us, Jesus is there, the boat is there, his friends are there. When we are sinking in doubt and uncertainty, let us remember God’s outstretched hand.
What Has Unraveled and/or Is Unraveling?
o Peter’s doubts and uncertainty.
o Peter’s “little faith” unravels into worshipful praise.
o The disciples’ fear.
o Just prior to this story, John the Baptist is beheaded and Jesus feeds the 5,000 in the desert.
How do these events inform this passage?
o Consider Matthew 14:28. Why does Peter offer to leave the safety of the boat to join Jesus on
the water? What are his motives? What is he trying to accomplish?
o What are the stormy seas that threaten to overcome you and your congregation? How might
your community offer support to those sinking?
A Quote for Inspiration:
“Peter walks, becomes frightened by the wind, begins to sink, cries out to Jesus, and is rescued. This familiar sequence of actions needs to be understood in light of the obedient act that put Peter on the water in the first place. It is not the story of the skeptic who habitually doubts, but the story of the faithful follower who becomes overwhelmed by the circumstances surrounding him, who begins to lose his nerve when he discovers the odds stacked against him, but who from Jesus finds a steadying, delivering hand.” -Walter Brueggemann
From the Artist // Lisle Gwynn Garrity:
At the start of this chapter, John the Baptist is brutally beheaded. Jesus withdraws from the crowds to a deserted place, yet is followed by the masses-perhaps many of them former followers of John the Baptist. Moved with compassion, he heals the sick and miraculously generates bounty from a meal of five loaves and two fish. Then, he “immediately” rushes the disciples into a boat, dismisses the crowds, and retreats to a mountain by himself. Perhaps he needs space to grieve John and to grapple with the gravity of his calling. The crowds and demands of his ministry were surging; in the same way, the waves and the wind begin to batter the boat that had drifted far from shore. If you’ve ever been in open water during a storm or even high winds, you know the shockwave of fear that pulses through your veins. Yet, as dawn breaks, a mirage beckons to them, casting out words to buoy them up: “Do not fear.” What I find in Peter’s response is not a challenge or a profession of doubt, but a willingness to step into the swell, like a trust fall into the unknown. Perhaps in seasons when our sense of certainty and security unravels, our desperation is more likely to convert into courage. Is there something about unraveling that makes us a bit less risk-averse, a bit more willing to try what we wouldn’t have dared when everything felt predictable and sure?
Imagine this same scene with no storm, no raging seas, no ghostly glimpse of Jesus skimming the surface. Would Peter have stepped in then? Would he have expanded his definition of what’s possible? Would he have experienced the divine so surprisingly, so surely? Would you step in?
Take a few moments to gaze upon the artwork. Breathe deeply in quiet meditation as you observe the visual qualities of what you see: color, line, texture, movement, shape, form.
Now take a deeper look. What parts of the image are your eyes most drawn to? What parts of the image did you overlook?
Now engage your imagination. If you were to place yourself in this scene, where would you be and how would you interact with what surrounds you?
– What has unraveled and/or is unraveling in this story?
– Why do you think Peter asks Jesus to order him to walk on water in Matt. 14:28? What is he hoping to accomplish? Do you find yourself acting similarly when you are filled with doubt?
– During seasons of uncertainty, how do you release anxiety and practice trust?
Imagine you are Peter. What are the stormy waters that threaten and overcome you? What events and forces unravel your trust? In the space below, name these threats as a way of releasing their power over you.
Unravel my uncertainties, my fears, and my doubts into courage to step forward. Amen.