Swimming on land and walking on water


Dear Minster and Friends,

Jesus walked to them across the sea. They were terrified. They thought they had seen a ghost. Peter- usually one to act first and think later called out ‘if it’s you Lord, call for me to come to you over the waves’ and as Jesus responded, he clambered over the side and started to do the impossible, but then he panicked , and as he started to sink, felt the strong carpenter arms reach down into his distress and pull him back out. Soggy, but safe.

Sometimes following Jesus can be disorientating. He calls us out across the water, to follow him when it doesn’t always make sense. In the words of the beautiful song, Oceans:

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

But as strong as this image is, sometimes the familiarity with the image, the story, and the songs turn deep wisdom into a cliche that we can skim past – much as a skimming stone bounces on the waves- touching it, but not really going deep.

And so this week I have been allowing the themes of discipleship and following Jesus in uncertain times be informed by the imagination and descriptive power of C S Lewis. In one of his books – voyage to Venus (Perelandra) which many skim past , he describes what it might feel like when the polarities of what we know and understand are reversed. It is a glimpse of the Kingdom of God – where the great will be least and the least will be greatest. The Hero- Ransom arrives in a fictional Venus, to discover that the sea is solid and the land is fluid. He has to learn to walk on water and swim through the land:

And then for the next hour or two he was teaching himself to walk. It was much harder than getting your sea-legs on a ship, for whatever the sea is doing the deck of the ship remains a plane. But this was like learning to walk on water itself. It took him several hours to get a hundred yards away from the edge, or coast, of the floating island; and he was proud when he could go five paces without a fall, arms outstretched, knees bent in readiness for sudden change of balance, his whole body swaying and tense like that of one who is learning to walk the tight-rope. Perhaps he would have learned more quickly if his falls had not been so soft, if it had not been so pleasant, having fallen, to lie still and gaze at the golden roof and hear the endless soothing noise of the water and breathe in the curiously delightful smell of the herbage. And then, too, it was so strange, after rolling head over heels down into some little dell, to open his eyes and find himself seated on the central mountain peak of the whole island looking down like Robinson Crusoe on field and forest to the shores in every direction, that a man could hardly help sitting there a few minutes longer–and then being detained again because, even as he made to rise, mountain and valley alike had been obliterated and the whole island had become a level plain.

The fishermen, the disciples, spent their life in uncertainty – on waves, on water. They knew how to handle boats and squalls and winds, they could navigate the fluid. I think perhaps they had spent much of their life learning reliance and dependency, and the capricious seasons and the unpredictable shoals, and knew how to read the signs and follow the instincts that would lead to a good catch. As they started to follow Jesus – this familiarity with a topsy turvey world meant they already had the sea legs of discipleship.

May we follow him faithfully in uncertain times.

With much love,