Finding God in the Unexpected

1 Kings 19: 9a, 11-13a; Romans 9: 1-5; Matthew 14: 22-33

We encounter some of Scripture’s most iconic figures this weekend through Elijah, Paul, and, of course, Peter. For whatever reason, he seems to be the most relatable of all the disciples and not because of him doing everything right, but just the opposite. He seems to get it wrong often and yet, in those moments, Jesus is there to invite him into deeper faith and relationship, as he does today.

I think we can also relate in the sense that, in today’s Gospel, he’s drowning. Fear and anxiety have overcome him, weighed down by his own thoughts and doubts, life seems to be pushing him under the water, and again, in that moment, the Lord is there to pull him up and deeper into faith and trust. For Peter and us, it’s about letting go of what we think things should be, our expectations that weigh us down and engulf us, that often keeps us from living today and deepening our faith and trust. Sometimes, it’s even about letting go our of expectations of God.

Such is the case for Elijah. He’s had enough of God, enough of life, enough of everything. He’s defeated the pagan gods and now everyone is out to get him. He can’t handle the weight of life; he’s bogged down and drowning and he does what anyone of us would do in that situation; he runs. He leaves it all behind thinking that will take care of all the problems and escapes to Mount Sinai, Horeb, and prays for death. It’s so bad he’d rather die! Everywhere that he knows to look for God, some kind of sign that this prayer will be answered, and God is nowhere to be found. In the wind…nothing! Earthquake, not there. Even in the fire, no sign of God! It’s not until he let’s go of where he wants and thinks God to be, his own expectations of God, that God can be revealed in a new way in Elijah’s life. Now, in the depths of his heart, mystery unfolds in the depths of his silent heart and the voice of God speaks.

Paul had expectations as well. It seems as if he’s beating himself up in this reading from Romans today. He suffers a deep grief for how unbelieving the people are. He has such fire and flare for his faith and he see’s the lackadaisical approach of the people, who have inherited this gift for centuries. But in order to meet them where they are and to be that hand of God to pull them up, he’d have to let go of who he thought they should be or wanted them to be and meet them where they are and am. It so often seems that we’d rather place all those expectations on everyone else or even ourselves for that matter, making life burdensome and violent at times. We see that continue to unfold in history here and around the globe. We so often want people to be something and someone that they are not.

Peter, who’s greatest obstacle is himself, is once again. He wants to walk on water; thinks he should, wants proof, and so on; and yet, as he becomes more consumed by himself, he falls like a lead weight. The weight of his own ego begins to drown him, thinking he’s not just like Jesus but wants to be Jesus! And yet when the moment arrives, fear and anxiety take over and Peter, once again, finds himself in a difficult situation. Again, not by doing it right, but wrong for Peter leads him to deeper faith and trust in the Lord.

It’s easy to say that’s not me, but I dare say that we often have to be pushed to that point. It’s the only way that we will surrender the storms of our lives to the Lord and can reach out and take his hand to be pulled out to life. It’s ingrained in us as Americans to think we can do it on our own, pull ourself up; yet, that maybe true to survive but not to live. It’s God who gives life. It’s God who pulls us out. Maybe we’re not there at the moment, it doesn’t mean we can sit back and wait out the storm, at that moment, we may just be called, in the silence of our own hearts, to be the hand of God to lead others out. We pray for the courage to surrender our lives to the Lord, to mystery; let go of our expectations of what we think or the way things should be, so that we may grow and deepen in faith and trust.

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