Walking on the Water

Archbishop Seraphim : Homily
Walking on the Water
9th Sunday after Pentecost
17 August, 2008
1 Corinthians 3:9-17 ; Matthew 14:22-34

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

The Apostle Paul is saying this morning that we are God’s building, and that everything we are doing in our lives has to be built in Christ, built of Christ, and exist only in Christ. He says to us, in effect, that this is the only thing that really matters. He says that anything else that we are going to build, however we are going to build, is going to be tried “on that Day”. “That Day” always means the Day of Judgement. It is going to be tried with fire. It is going to be tested. It is going to be weighed. It is going to be weighed in the context not of what sort of experts we are, and how accomplished we are technologically or intellectually. It is going to be measured by our love for Him, our faithfulness to Him.

That is why it is important for us to remember the events of the Gospel today. We see our Saviour first having been alone in the hills by Himself because He had just been feeding thousands of people and looking after them. He had to retreat, to take a rest, to be at peace in the Father, and then to carry on. In the meantime, the apostles are out on the Sea of Galilee in their boat which is already being beaten by the waves. This happens all the time on the Sea of Galilee. It is a very common experience there because the winds come up very suddenly. The boat is being beaten by the waves and the apostles are afraid. They fear that they are going to sink (as they feared more than once on that sea, as we have heard elsewhere). Our Saviour comes to them, as He walks on the water in the middle of the night. The fourth watch of the night is already the darkest part of the night. They are afraid and they think that He is a ghost. But of course, He is not. When Peter sees that it is our Lord, he says : “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water”. Thus, it happens. However, in coming to the Lord and walking on the water, he notices what is happening around him, with the waves and the wind.

This is how we are, ourselves, so much of the time in our lives. Our lives are dedicated to Him. We want to have our focus on our Saviour ; but the trouble is that we let our mind take over. The mind starts to race, instead of letting the heart be in charge. The mind starts to say : “Oh ! Look at the big waves ; and there is such a big wind – what is going to happen to me ? I am standing on water : how can I possibly be standing on water ?” These are the sorts of things that are probably going through the apostle’s mind. That is what would go through my mind. The Apostle Peter, as we have seen, is very much like us with his weaknesses and fears. Still, the Lord makes up for those weaknesses and fears, over and over again. That is important for you and me to remember, too. All these thoughts are racing through his mind. His focus veers off the Lord, and on to the turmoil round about him. This is when he begins to sink down. However, he is quick enough to know what is what. Immediately, he cries out : “Lord, save me”. Immediately, our Lord takes his hand, and up comes, standing up again on the water.

It is important for us to remember this as well, because most often, in the course of our lives, when we are having difficulty and we are facing obstacles, our tendency is to engineer things ourselves. We are formed in our fallen world (and especially in the West) to do it this way. We will likely say : “There is something the matter, and I am going to fix it”. “I only go to Him and bother Him when I am absolutely desperate”. We keep the Lord definitely on the back burner. Why do we do this ? We do it because of our pride. First, we think that we can do it ourselves. The second thing is that in the western formation in the middle of which we live, there is a tendency to think that if we believe that God created the universe (because there are many of us who do not), we think of Him as having accomplished the creation, and “put it on a shelf” (so to speak). We think that He is sitting there reading a newspaper or some interesting book. Everything is going on and on by itself ; we are responsible for ourselves, and He is not particularly interested. This is the absolute opposite of what is really the truth, and what is revealed to us in the Scriptures. The Lord is not disinterested. He is involved in everything that we are and do. He wants you and me to be constantly involved with Him, referring everything to Him so that it can grow well, so that what we are building will be precious and long-lasting. It will be so because it is accomplished in, and with Him.

We should not be asking the Lord to save us at the last minute when we are almost under the water, as the Apostle Peter did today. Indeed, even before we begin to sink, and at all times, we should be saying : “Lord, help me”. “Lord, save me”. “Lord, be with me in this, and be with me in that”. “Bless what I am doing ; show me how to do it right”. Human beings who have done the greatest things in history are people who have had that sort of focus. I am not talking about building pyramids, although that is a big enough feat. I am talking about the mighty works of love. People have been healed from diseases. People have even been raised from the dead. These are much greater things, far greater things than building pyramids, skyscrapers, and architectural monuments, grand as they may be. (This is not to suggest that I am discounting architectural monuments.) However, everything is at its best when it is built in co-operation with the Lord, when we are referring everything to the Lord.

You and I face difficulties in our lives as well. Troubles afflict us. Obstacles impede us. Turmoils are sometimes our environment. How do we live in the middle of all these difficulties and the perturbations of our lives ? How do we get through it unless we turn to the Lord in the middle of it and ask Him to be with us, to help us and to save us. When the Apostle Peter did this, our Lord took his hand and raised him up. They went to the boat together, got into the boat, and immediately the storm stopped. As a rule, storms on seas do not suddenly stop. They progressively calm down ; in some hours, the waters settle down. However, the wind immediately ceased. Then the water settled, and immediately the sea was calm. Immediately the apostles confessed Who is Jesus Christ – the Son of God. Our Lord is ready to calm the waters of our lives in the same way that He calmed the waters of Galilee on this day. He is ready to calm our hearts and focus our hearts, and keep us on the right path, as He does today with the Apostle Peter.

The Lord is ready to help you and me together to build whatever we are building in this life to His glory, things that will last truly because they are built in love, and in the hearts of human beings. Let us ask the Lord to give us the Grace to take up His offer constantly, and, following the words of the holy Elder Herman of Alaska, let us “from this day, from this hour, from this minute, love God above all, and do His holy will”, and glorify the all-holy Trinity : the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages.