Jesus didn’t stop the wind

When reading the Bible often I am surprised by how I miss the obvious. Take Matthew 14:22-33 (ESV) which I read this morning.

Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.”So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying,“Truly you are the Son of God.”

At the moment I am reading the Gospels for the second time this year — I try to read them 2-3 times each year as I am rather on keen on knowing and understanding more about Jesus. Previously I had not noticed verse 32,

And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased

I had worked on an idea of Jesus taking Peter’s hand and the wind stopped then. It appears to me that much of what is taught in discipleship classes, preached in sermons, seen on God tv, proclaims the idea that once the problem, difficulty, situation etc. is given to Jesus it stops being a problem.

Jesus seems to work differently here, the wind does not stop as soon as he takes hold of Peter’s hand. In effect he says, I will lift you up out of the mess and then walk with you whilst it still goes on around you.

A simple question occurred to me: Do I miss the presence of Jesus at times because I am waiting for the problem to be over not to simply be conscious of his presence with me in the midst of it?

An intellectual class giving metaphysical priority to desire

R. R. Reno posted an article, Empire of Desire, Outlining the Postmodern Metaphysical Dream, on the First Things website. In concluding Reno makes this statement:

The greatest threat we presently face is not Islamic terrorism, global warming, nuclear proliferation, genocide, or poverty, pressing as these problems may be. The antinomian revolution in the postmodern West poses a more fundamental existential threat to the human future, because it erodes the cultural capital necessary to respond to these challenges, and to others. The richest and most powerful countries in the world are dominated by an intellectual class that, however individually self-disciplined and well intentioned and personally influenced by inherited moral traditions, give metaphysical priority to desire. They train us to live as docile, dutiful citizens in the Empire of Desire, asking never what is right and true but instead what is “healthy” and “empowering.”

Reading this in the light of last weeks Supreme Court decision in the USA, I think Reno might be on to something about society in general.

However of greater concern in my thinking is the implications of such thinking for the church of Jesus Christ. In recent years has become commonplace for churches to preach long sermon series, and to offer studies on the idea of personal destiny, in effect we teach men and women of God that it is “all about me.” The result is a church that lacks power and credibility in a world that desperately needs it to have both.

When the World Rebukes the Church

Matthew Parris, blogging in The Spectator, has been quoted by a number of Christian sources for his recent comments regarding the Same Sex Marriage referendum result in Ireland. His words are brilliant and challenging. Although they might be seen primarily as directed towards the Roman Catholic Church, I think they are also a stinging rebuke to modern day evangelics such as Tony Campolo (see below) who are tempted to compromise in a day of increasing pressure from secularisation of society.

Whilst I would not claim to agree with all that he says, I shall quote a few lines from Parris below (follow the link and read the whole article, it is interesting). After parodying the remarks of the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martina he says this,

Even as a (gay) atheist, I wince to see the philosophical mess that religious conservatives are making of their case. Is there nobody of any intellectual stature left in our English church, or the Roman church, to frame the argument against Christianity’s slide into just going with the flow of social and cultural change? Time was — even in my time — when there were quiet, understated, sometimes quite severe men of the cloth, often wearing bifocal spectacles, who could show us moral relativists a decent fight in that eternal debate. Now there’s only the emotional witness of the ranting evangelicals, most of them pretty dim. How I miss the fine minds of bishops like Joseph Butler, who remarked drily to John Wesley: ‘Sir, the pretending to extraordinary revelations, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, is an horrid thing, a very horrid thing.’

So, wearily and with a reluctance born of not even supporting the argument’s conclusion, let me restate the conservative Catholic’s only proper response to news such as that from Dublin last weekend. It is that 62 per cent in a referendum does not cause a sin in the eyes of God to cease to be a sin.

Can’t these Christians see that the moral basis of their faith cannot be sought in the pollsters’ arithmetic? What has the Irish referendum shown us? It is that a majority of people in the Republic of Ireland in 2015 do not agree with their church’s centuries-old doctrine that sexual relationships between two people of the same gender are a sin. Fine: we cannot doubt that finding. But can a preponderance of public opinion reverse the polarity between virtue and vice? Would it have occurred for a moment to Moses (let alone God) that he’d better defer to Moloch-worship because that’s what most of the Israelites wanted to do?

It must surely be implicit in the claim of any of the world’s great religions that on questions of morality, a majority may be wrong; but this should be vividly evident to Christians in particular: they need only consider the fate of their Messiah, and the persecution of adherents to the Early Church. ‘Blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute you,’ says Paul. What does the Archbishop of Dublin now have to say to the 743,300 people who voted to uphold what their priests taught them was God’s will? These, and not the gays, are now the reviled ones. Popular revulsion cannot make them wrong.

For those of you who don’t know, yesterday, Tony Campolo, a hero of mine in the Evangelical wing of Christianity, decided that God now approves of homosexuality. I was surprised and disappointed by his statements. Though I am sure I do not understand all that he has gone through in coming to this decision, I do sincerely believe he is wrong.

It seems that at times the church needs the world to challenge us regarding our real convictions. Thank you Matthew Parris.

Remember Jesus Christ, nailed to a cross and crucified, before you decide to compromise your faith.