Ascension Church

Homily, Aug. 13, 2017


I. My six years as the associate pastor at the Basilica of Saint Mary allowed me a thousand passes up and down the worn steps of its prominent high pulpit. At the top, imprinted in the marble floor, was a pair of footprints, about a size ten, left behind by a century of well-polished preachers. It was my favorite place in the world to stand, resting in those footprints—until I got to my next parish and stood at that pulpit in those footprints. And now, here. I love standing here: it’s safe, secure, familiar. Here I have a script: I don’t work without a net. Standing here, I don’t get my well-polished shoes dirty, or my feet wet.


II. One would think that the disciples are frightened today because of all that wind and those waves. But such sudden storms are frequent on the Sea of Galilee: these fishermen wouldn’t have been surprised by the weather. So what were they afraid of? They thought they saw a ghost. They thought Jesus was a ghost.


Leave it to Peter, he who frequently had his foot in his mouth, to be the one to dare to put his foot into the water, unafraid to get his feet wet. When he faltered, he reached for the hand of Jesus, trusting that he would find it there, that Jesus was real, that he was no ghost.


III. Too often, we profess with our lips that Jesus lives, that Jesus is, but in reality we fear he’s just a ghost, a phantom, a fake. We’re afraid to step out of the boat (or the pulpit), out of our comfort zone, without a script or a net, into those pesky winds and waves and storms and squalls, because we don’t really believe Jesus is there.


The gospel calls us to go to the margins, the peripheries, to unsafe, unfamiliar places. Whether these days it’s walking into the terrifying hurricane our immigrant brothers and sisters are facing, or the roiling waters of white supremacy and racism, or the daily storms faced by the poor and marginalized, we must hold fast to the fact that we are not alone, that we are never without the steadying hand of Jesus, who in his love and concern walks across the waters to reassure and steady us. Again and again and again, the living Lord, stretching out his hand, encourages us to take heart. Take courage. Don’t be afraid to get your feet wet.
h/t: Karoline Lewis