by Kenneth C. Kroohs

Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost
Kenneth C. Kroohs
Jonah 2:1-9; Psalm 29; Romans 9:1-5; Matthew 14:22-33
August 08, 1999

There is that old test to discover whether a person is an optimist or a pessimist: show them a glass half full of water and see if they describe it as half empty or half full.

Today's lessons would be another good test. Are the lessons about the wonder of knowing Jesus better, of spiritual growth? Or about the danger of spiritual growth? Do you read the book of Jonah as being about a person who ran away and was still rescued? Or is it about being chased and captured when he didn't want to be?

Is the gospel about doing what Jesus tells you and ending up in deep trouble? Or is it about God's willingness to go to any length to reach us and protect us?

As I understand Jewish rabbinic thought, their answer to those either-or questions would be: "Yes". The lessons are about both the wonder and the danger of spiritual growth, about being rescued and about being captured, about being in deep trouble and about having God reach us. These lessons are a wonderful description of our lives as Christians. The more I read the great Christian leaders, no matter what their theological attitude, the more I discovered that our Christian life is about both sides. The wonder -- and the fear.

Notice what happens in the gospel story. John the Baptist's disciples had told Jesus that Herod beheaded John. Jesus tried to go away to a quiet place but the crowds followed Him. Jesus had compassion on the crowds, returned so He could teach and heal them. When evening came, Jesus arranged to feed them all with a few loaves and fish. Apparently, this day exhausted the disciples because as today's passage starts Jesus sends the disciples away while Jesus stays with the crowd. Finally Jesus dismisses the crowd and tries, again to find a quiet place to pray.

The disciples, several of whom were fishermen, could not even handle the assignment of sail ...

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