Do you believe in Santa Claus? How about the Easter Bunny? The Tooth Fairy?
Children do. Have you ever noticed they have tremendous, unquestioning faith? If they are told that Santa exists, they will believe, and their belief will be reinforced year after year by the presents under the tree, In the case of the Easter Bunny, the eggs in a basket every year are the reinforcement. Where the Tooth Fairy is concerned, that dollar appearing mysteriously under the pillow, replacing the lost tooth, will reinforce belief. Even when they are old enough to suspect that the person who ate the cookies and milk on Christmas Eve was really dear old Dad, they are reluctant not to believe for fear that the presents may stop appearing. In their developing minds, they grasp for the reality of things hoped for and therefore trust in persons, or rabbits, or fairies they cannot see.
That is what faith is, the surety of things hoped for, the certainty of things unseen.
To a child, faith is limited by an immature view of the world. A child cannot comprehend that the gifts hoped for and received, are really the manifestation of the love of God as shown through the love of parents. But as a child matures, his or her faith matures. In fact, for most of us faith is an ever-changing part of our psyche. As people of faith, we anticipate it will grow, and it generally does. However, that growth is not steady, and all too often is limited by a finite world-view unable to totally comprehend our infinite God.
We have stories of faith in today's readings. One of those we have is the impetuous Peter whose faith was, more often than not, in need of water wings.
Peter's faith, at best, wavered. In fact, during Jesus' earthly ministry, it waffled all over the place. It was rash. It was impetuous. When he saw Jesus walking on the water, Peter was not sure who was actually doing that amazing thing. He yelled out, "Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water." Jesus replied, "Come!" Peter immediately began walking across the sea, but lost heart in the face of the wind and waves. He began to sink, so Jesus reached out his hand and saved him.
Such actions were common with Peter. Remember his confession. Jesus was walking with the disciples and asked, "Who do men say that I am?" "Some say Moses, or Elijah, or John the Baptist."
Jesus responds, "Blessed are you Simon Bar Jonah [Peter's Hebrew name], for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven." Jesus then said he was going to Jerusalem where he would be arrested, tortured, and killed; then in three days he would rise from the grave. Peter blurted out, "God forbid, Lord. I shall never let that happen to you." To which Jesus replied, "Get behind me, Satan. You are a hindrance to me."
I wonder who has the stronger faith from amongst those we find talked about in our scriptures. Is Peter one of those with a strong faith or does he have the strongest faith? Probably it was one of the Hebrew scripture characters like Jonah. His faith never wavered, even in the belly of that great fish. But Peter had an insight into something which Jonah totally lacked-a glimpse into the infinite power and love of our God. And that stood Peter well. After the coming of the Holy Spirit, which buttressed Peter's faith just as Jesus' hand had supported him on the water, Peter was able to step out in faith and preach the Gospel without fear, even though a martyr's death was ever before him.
What does all this mean to us? Most of us have the wavering faith of Peter. That's OK. The church was built by legions of people over the centuries, all in need of water wings. We are the architects of the new millennium. Thankfully we have something that Jonah, and even Peter, never had. Through the lens of the Resurrection, we have the assurance of the infinite power, love, and forgiveness of our God. We know that every time we step out of the boat, Jesus' hand will be there to keep us afloat.
So, let's take a walk.