Richard S. Vosko

Musings on religion, art and architecture

8/7/11-Homily-Sink or Swim

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19 Sunday A – August 7, 2011 – Sink or Swim

1 Kings 19:9a, 11-13a, Psalm 85:9-14, Romans 9:1-5, Matthew 14:22-33

Today’s biblical texts

Thirteen miles long and seven miles wide the Sea of Galilee is about 700 feet below sea level and 150 feet deep. Hills on the east side rise up to 2000 feet where there is cool dry air. This is where the feeding of the multitudes in last week’s gospel may have taken place. The Sea itself is surrounded by warmer wet weather. This contrast causes rapid changes in the temperature and barometric pressure and can result in the unpredictable violent winds we heard about in today’s gospel. [1]

After the revival meeting, where thousands were fed physically and spiritually, Jesus tells his disciples to go to the other side of the lake; that he will catch up with them later. As the story goes, during a great storm in the middle of the night, blurry eyed disciples saw Jesus approaching the boat … walking on the water! After hearing Jesus say there is nothing to be afraid of Peter eagerly jumps into the Sea. Of course, we now know that Peter could not swim.

Sink or swim. That’s what great numbers of middle class and poverty stricken Americans are faced with these days. Yes, the politicians may have side stepped a national default, but at what cost? The sinking feeling comes when you are out of a job and grocery bills, mortgage payments and tuition loans still pile up. In New York State there are worries about reductions in social service programs. If you can swim at all in this swelling sea it is against the tide. Getting to the other side of the lake, the land of milk and honey described in the bible, seems almost impossible.

Jesus said do not be afraid. Jesus said you can swim in these treacherous waters. Jesus said all you need is faith. OK, Jesus. We get it. However, this presents a huge question for us who believe in his words. How exactly does a faithful person stand up straight and strong when, as the first reading suggests, the fierce and heavy winds tear apart mountains of American dreams and earthquakes shatter visions of a stable, peaceful world?

There is no easy answer. Yet. We gather in this church this morning looking for inspiration, something to reinforce the foundations of faith, hope and love. Yes, it is here where we can acquire solutions for fixing the infrastructures that seem to be wavering in an unpredictable climate where nothing is certain. Here is where we join other faiths — Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist — to plant our stakes firmly in the trust that God will calm the seas and tame the winds. I believe this and hope you do too.

The government has taken small steps to keep the country afloat. Depending on your point of view the bill passed last week is either good or bad, just or not, right or wrong. Regardless of our perspectives or the realities, the question for us, this body of Christ this morning, is this: What strokes are we going to take to make up the difference?

We believe there is room in our corner of the religious world to respond to the call that Jesus made to Peter, to come to him. Just jump in, don’t be afraid to get wet.  One parishioner who reads my blog wrote that Peter sank because he was not aware of his own strength, his own capabilities. Another reader said give the guy a break. At least he tried while the other disciples just sat in the boat! That cannot be true with us can it? We will not sit comfortably in the boat while others do all the work.

Once immersed in the waters of baptism we are convinced no sea storm can prevail over us. We are ready then to jump into the water to save those drowning in despair. This is the time for a spiritual stimulus package, one that pumps energy into us so we can get more involved in our parish and our communities; to see to it that people we know and don’t know do not sink to the bottom of the sea.

You and I have been buoyed up by the Word of God, we have been nourished with spiritual food and drink for how many years? Now it is time to give rather than receive, to share rather than hoard, to swim with strength and without fear. If we don’t … we just might sink.


1 DeYoung, Donald. Weather and the Bible.


Author: Richard S. Vosko

Richard S. Vosko, Ph.D., Hon. AIA, is an internationally known sacred space planner. He is a presbyter in the Diocese of Albany who enjoys the classroom as much as the pulpit. On Sundays he presides at worship at St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Albany, NY. For more information on Vosko’s background, his projects, publications and speaking engagements please go to his website. For his homilies and occasional musings about religion, art and architecture go to his blog. Comments, questions and suggestions are always welcomed there.

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