Read Matthew 14:22-33.
A metaphor is like a gas tank full of alcohol. It’ll get you going, but you don’t want to drive it too far or your vehicle will cough and choke. [How’s that for a meta metaphor?]
And if you do manage to keep it going, the engine block may crack. Speaking of cracks, the readings in the lectionary are separated by them. If you read one lectionary passage one week and the next lectionary passage the next, important things can fall into them. [Never ask a computer scientist to write on topics that matter.]
In last week’s lectionary reading of Matthew 14:13-21, Jesus feeds the 5000 with five loaves and two fish. Or rather, he instructs his disciples to feed the crowd. His grace works through his disciples. The disciples hadn’t prepared, weren’t expecting it, and yet at Jesus’ command they work a great miracle of the Word of God, the Word of eternal life. Those in the crowd are filled and yet yearning for more.
In this week’s lectionary reading of Matthew 14:22-33, the disciples are in a boat escaping the crowds, but a storm blows up. Jesus walks across the water to them, and Peter goes out to meet him. Peter’s faith and God’s grace had just enabled him to feed 5000 with five loaves and two fish, but here he takes his eyes off Jesus, his faith wavers, and he sinks into the billows of the stormy world, until Jesus pulls him up and restores him to faith and grace.
Possibly falling into the crack is the vignette of Jesus dismissing the crowds, sending off the disciples in a boat to go on ahead to the other side, and withdrawing to a mountain by himself to pray. To refill his tank?
I used to think of grace as filling a metaphorical gas tank. In the night you spend time with Jesus, filling your tank with grace. Then through the day it powers your life and ministry.
But the tank metaphor can be driven too far. When you aren’t looking, tanks can leak. Gas left too long gets stale. Or polluted. That metaphor must be balanced with the metaphor of keeping your eyes on Jesus.
Maybe a better metaphor for the experience of grace is a fuel line rather than a gas tank. The fuel line must be connected to the source at all times for the engine to continue to run. You must have your eyes on Jesus, your heart pumping, your feet ready to follow.
Lord, how can I stay connected to you? Help me keep my eyes on you throughout the day without concern for the billowy waves all around me. How can I bring prayer out of the closet and into the world? How can I pray in the presence of other people? How can I walk in the Spirit? How can I be a channel of grace?