Monday, August 1, 2011

There is No Spoon: Proper 14, Year A

This Week's Lectionary Texts
Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28 or 1 Kings 19:9-18
Psalm 105:1-6, 16-22, 45b or Psalm 85:8-13
Romans 10:5-15

Matthew 14:22-33

This Week's Reflection
Okay, there is no way around this. When I read this week's gospel - the well-known story of Jesus walking on the water - I heard in my head, "There is no spoon." The Matrix (the first one) is among my top-five-all-time-favorite movies. Any preacher worth her salt would find all kinds of illustrations within the 136 minute 1999 blockbuster film. However, I don't recall ever making a connection between the main character Neo and Jesus walking on water. And yet, for some reason this one time, today, reading through the passage from Matthew 14, as I read about Jesus walking out toward the boat that had left him behind on the shore, I find myself thinking, "There is no spoon."

You can click here to view a YouTube clip from The Matrix. Basically, the gist is this - Neo has been awakened into the reality that the reality he has always known doesn't even exist. He is being taught by a child in this scene that if you realize there isn't a spoon to begin with, you can bend it, bend your own mind, bend your own existence to do whatever you need to do. If the spoon doesn't even exist, you can make it do whatever you like.

What in the world does this have to do with Jesus walking on the water? That is the question I found myself asking Holy Spirit. Here is what I can make out so far. In some mysterious way that I could never find words to explain, we believers live with one foot in this world and one foot in the Kingdom of God. Some have used the analogy of having bifocals on, able to see both at the same time. C.S. Lewis writes about that Kingdom world being "more real" than this one. Jesus not only teaches us to feed the hungry and clothe the naked, he not only provides the example for living in this world taking care of others and following The Way, but he also shows us what is really real.

There is nothing in the text to suggest that he hesitated for a moment. He didn't stand on the bank trying to figure out the best way to get back to his boys. He just walked on the water. If the turbulent water is part of this world, then Jesus had no doubt of what was real. Walking on the water was no problem - if there is no water, then you can do whatever you need to with it.

Now, before any of you readers start to get into a fit of rage because I seem to be spouting a gnosticistic heresy, let me pull back for just a moment. I do not deny that the water, the lake, the boat, Jesus' feet, clothes, hair, etc. were all very real. I'm only sharing what popped into my head as I read the text, "There is no spoon." There is a reality that is even more real than the waves that washed over Peter and scared him out of his wits. There is a reality that Jesus never questioned, a reality that made it possible for him to see his friends, know he needed to get to them, and not allow even a lake to stop him.

Peter saw that reality for just a moment, but then the thought of something even more real scared him right back into seeing with only one part of those bifocals. It is the fact that Jesus called Peter out of the boat that amazes me. That Jesus knew there was no spoon is all well and good - HE IS JESUS! But, what his invitation to Peter says to me is that each one of us can see both realities at the same time too. We allow the storms on the lake to stop us when we just don't have to, when we could see beyond it, and simply walk right on top of it.

Though this sounds like a call for a simplistic faith, it is not. There is nothing simple about stepping out into the crashing waves and sometimes getting used to those new bifocals can make you feel all kinds of yuck! Following Jesus into a world that is even more real than this one is not simple. His invitation to Peter and Peter's partial success just proves to us that it is possible.

This Week's Art
in order of appearance in the reflection
There is No Spoon, Cherry by Marcus Metropolis
Christ Walking on the Water by Henry O. Tanner
Walking on Water by Paul Hart
bifocals by Kim

Check out the Word Bible Project for more great images to guide your reflections!