St. Paul’s is a welcoming and inclusive community of about 280 members who come from all over the greater Milwaukee area.
We treasure the richness and diversity God has given our community, as it enhances our understanding of God.
“Location, location, location…” Do you get it? Location is important, in purchasing a house, selecting seats for the symphony, a play, the opera, the ballet, or especially Lambeau Field. Location gives others a clue as to your status, your place in the world.
For those of you following the past couple of weeks, you know that Matthew is heavy into forgiveness as one of Jesus’ main themes. Matthew would probably add forgiveness to Paul’s list of gifts that never end – like faith, hope and love. Forgiveness is a fount of generosity, flowing from God into our lives – and through us to one another. Forgive – “how many times,” asks Peter? As many as seven? – which I am sure he figures is excessive. Jesus responds, “No, try seventy seven” – Wow. Translated, Jesus means forgiveness has no limits. Don’t count the times – just keep forgiving. That’s how God is – life-giving, healing, and effusively forgiving.
I’m an optimist, by nature. Yet I also realize some things are inevitable. Jesus says the poor will always be with us, and they are. Another thing – some churches let sinners join. I’ve seen it happen. They can make a church messy. Some are annoying people who will blame you for their problems. Yes, God’s people can disappoint us and let us down sometimes.
To find out what events are planned for St. Paul’s in September you need to read the Apostle newsletter. Just click on NEWS then on the Apostle icon.
I have admired Peter – in a strange way. He has what I lack – the gift for speaking up, giving an answer, without regard for whether he’s right or wrong – usually wrong until after Pentecost. Given all his bone-headed comments Peter finally gets one right. “But who do you say I am?” Peter steps up: “You are the Messiah, Son of God.” “Great, Peter, blessed are you. You nailed it!” Peter must be feeling right proud of himself. When we connect, knock one out of the park, the ooh’s and ah’s – a Nobel Prize winning comment for sure – well, that is Peter, the day he nails Jesus’ identity. He gets the words right, but that’s all.
And Jesus said, “Who do you say that I am?”
I need to tell you a story.
Once upon a time there was an abbot of a monasterywho was very good friends with the rabbi of a local synagogue. It was Europe, and times were hard. The abbot found his community dwindling and the faith life of his monks shallow and lifeless. Life in the monastery was dying. He went to his friend and wept. His friend, the rabbi, comforted him and told him:
What in the world were those boys thinking? They’d already enjoyed one stormy day with Jesus on the sea. That time they had to wake him so he wouldn’t miss the fun. Today he sends them on without him. He’ll catch up with them later. Night falls and a storm bears down on them – wind, waves. For hours they search for land. About 3am someone spots a figure walking across the stormy waves toward them. Like silly children these grown men shriek: “It’s a ghost.” “It is I – be not afraid.” It’s Jesus. And Peter, doubting and scared, maybe relieved and hoping, challenges: “If that’s really you, invite me to walk to you.” Why does Peter not ask for some other proof, like: “If it’s you, stop the storm.” Or, “How many did you serve dinner to last evening?” “Come right ahead, Rock,” says Jesus. And Peter hops out, walks a few steps until a gust of wind gets his attention. He looks down. I’ll bet his wonderment smacks him like a wave, “What the heck am I doing out here?” He starts to sink. Moral of the story – “Keep your eyes on Jesus and you can walk on water.” Simple enough – not really. The point is – we can try, but we can’t save ourselves. External circumstances often are beyond our control. Jesus lets Peter fail and falter. Jesus doesn’t say, “Nice try – too bad you lack enough faith.” He saves him, doubts and failure, and a mouth of sea water. I hear a twinge of humor in Jesus’ voice – “Man of little faith, why did you doubt?” And that’s the point of the story to me. Jesus is there, because that’s who he is, and we need saving. He saves us, not as we want, but as we need.
You’ve probably heard this Gospel reading a few times in your lives, especially since this is the only miracle that is recounted in all four gospels and it is thought to be an anticipation of the Last Supper and of the Eucharist. That makes it even more challenging to tell you something you may not have considered when reading this passage.
Just to set the stage for this gospel reading, Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist had just been beheaded by King Herod. When Jesus heard this he withdrew by boat to a quiet place to reflect on what had happened to John, and maybe to spend some time grieving for his cousin, but the crowd followed him on foot, and would not leave him alone. The Gospel says, Jesus had compassion on them and healed their sick.
I’m yet to see the movie or read the book, Heaven is For Real. The subject does interest me. A child has a near death experience, travels to heaven, encounters Jesus, and relatives he never knew. He returns to tell his story. Dad writes it into a bestseller. Many skeptics and even some Christians dismiss it as fairy tale. I like the title, though, and I imagine Jesus would, too. For the past weeks Matthew has fed us a diet of Jesus’ take on heaven’s reality.
Some thought Jesus is out of touch with religion, reality and the ways of the world. That would be the religious leaders of his day. Many in our day, still think he’s out of touch. Frankly, he is – because of how we try to structure reality. We try to fit God into our ways. And God doesn’t fit. God wants to fit us into God’s world. A lot of people may say otherwise, but don’t want that.