In June, Maureen and I decided to replace the family room furniture after ten years of service to the Swan family. I am not sure what motivated our decision. Possibly the fact one of the legs on the sofa was broken, or maybe it was because the frame of one of the barrel chairs was breaking. Whatever the reason, the decision for change did not come easily. After discussing what we each really wanted for furniture, how to make it fit in the room became a an issue of division. Frankly if I had my way, with both girls living on their own, I would have been glad to settle for two recliners and called it a day. But that would not have sufficed for how we use the room. So, after perusing options on-line, we settled on a sectional. No. . .sectionals don’t offer foot rests or recline like Barco loungers, but they do offer a lot of space for the family to lounge.
Armed with a clear vision of what we wanted and a full schematic of the family room, we were off to the furniture store to further explore our options with an in-store decorator. We learned the comfy chair Maureen wanted for reading would not fit in the room with the couch, but a chaise end would. So after two hours of conversation and looking at fabric swatches we left with a room design and a plan to mull over for a couple of days.
Three days later we returned to the store, ordered the furniture and walked away very excited about the prospect of new furniture arriving in 28 days or less.
Plenty of time to get the room ready.
A few days later I got buyer’s remorse. As I looked at the entertainment center, that seven foot tall by four feet wide, by two feet deep cabinet, I wondered how on earth we were ever going to move it. Not only is the cabinet a monstrosity, but to move it . . .would require disconnecting and rerouting the entire sound and media system. Since Best Buy wired the system the first time, I wasn’t sure I could handle the complexity of wiring it all together the second time. And besides, would the sectional really fit in the room as planned? Even though the family room is twelve by twenty feet, the sectional once together would be nine feet on the short end and just shy of twelve feet on the long end terminating with a chaise. When I closed my eyes, kept having this vision of the room looking like the living room in the Time Warner commercial where the husband over bought because everything was cheaper when bundled together.
Five weeks later, the furniture has now arrived and the room is complete. Thanks to the confident guidance and brawn of Peter Lapage and my cousin’s husband David, the media cabinet was moved and everything wired successfully, the furniture all fits as the decorator’s schematic claimed it would, and both Maureen and I are happy with the result especially the night we were stretched out at each end of the couch with our two daughters, one friend and thd dogs comfortably reclined between us.
In this morning’s gospel we heard another story of buyer’s remorse, well buyer’s remorse is probably not the best term for this, maybe it would be better to call it spiritual remorse. Of course, I am referring to Peter’s impetuous attempt to walk on water.
As we heard in this morning’s account, after the feeding of thousands, Jesus sends the disciples ahead of him across the Sea of Galilee while he headed into the mountains to pray.
The Sea of Galilee is not that large. It is approximately eleven miles long by four miles wide. About the size of one of the Finger Lakes. However, as anyone knows who has ever tried to sail from point A to point B by wind power, getting around the sea by wind is often harder than we may think. And like here in Central New York, storms can pop up out of nowhere and shift the wind quickly and unexpectedly. Add to this the natural fear of the sea as an unpredictable being itself, our story brings us face to face with twelve very frightened disciples who were wondering if life for them was coming to an end.
Knowing the background makes Peter’s decision to walk on water with Christ even more amazing. When the disciples first saw Jesus walking towards them they assumed it was a ghost. I can only imagine how relieved they were when they realized who it was. Maybe this explains Peter’s sudden lapse in judgment. After all, Jesus was the true Son of God, the one who, as Genesis tells us, separated the seas from the land, the One who has total rule over all the elements. Peter was merely mortal and confined to the limits of our mortality. But in that moment, Peter came to fully trust in Jesus, he truly believed with God’s help he was capable of anything, even walking on water. And so, Peter stepped out of his comfort zone in total faith and did the impossible. ..he walked on water. But then the wind blew, and Peter came to his mortal senses. He found himself at a point of spiritual remorse. He suddenly couldn’t see where Jesus was leading him. . .he couldn’t feel God holding him on top of the water and like so many of us in that moment of spiritual crisis, he took his eyes off Jesus and sank.
Sometimes being part of St. Luke’s feels as if we are in the boat with the disciples, being tossed and turned by the wind, not really sure where Christ has sent us. There is no doubt, the church as an institution has taken a beating these past ten years. Recently a friend told me only 1% of congregations have shown any signs of growth in the past decade. As the world around us has been going through rapid change, so has the church. How we do business, how we communicate is rapidly changing. In fact, after consulting with the communications officer in June, I learned our web site, now a little over two years old is becoming out dated.
With such rapid change, it makes many of us who have worked hard to get us where we are feel as if efforts our have gone unappreciated. As income and budgets shrink, more is expected of all us with very little to show for it. Frustrated and at times feeling as if our efforts go unnoticed, we too find ourselves huddled in the bow wondering if we will live to see the sun rise again. And like Peter, we get excited when we see that glimmering of hope, when we again feel the inspiration of possibility and find the energy move out of our comfort zone and step out of the boat in faith.
The challenge of stepping out in faith, going beyond our comfort zone comes when we realize we are not on firm ground, only the chaos of the sea churns beneath us. This is when we have to trust that God has a direction for us, and God will bring us to the shore.
The even better news in this story is, even if we do lose faith, even if we do sink as Peter did, with God there is compassion, there is understanding, and like Peter, he will lift us out of the water, stop the wind and set us back on course towards the kingdom, the rein of God, or St. Paul’s victor’s crown. The same reward that has always waited for us, the good and faithful servants of God.