A lifeguard who walks on water

Cunning leaders are using the pandemic to roll back democratic gains. We can see that happening at home and around us in Asia.

Feb 06, 2021

By Anil Netto
A friend sent me a reassuring message today: “Remember, your lifeguard walks on water.” I thought that was a timely reminder for me in a world fraught with uncertainty and danger, when we can easily lose hope or drown in anxiety.

In recent times, the coronavirus pandemic poses not only a health risk but a genuine threat to democracy.

Cunning leaders are using the pandemic to roll back democratic gains. We can see that happening at home and around us in Asia.

The latest is the military takeover in Myanmar, where a cloud of fear has enveloped the nation. The crushing of democracy there comes on the heels of a general election, where a military-backed party performed poorly. Myanmar, like Malaysia, used to be rich in resources, but what has happened to all that wealth?

Other leaders around the world are manipulating racial and religious sentiment to whip up public support. Such cynical moves are often a cover for huge corporate and personal greed that eyes public coffers and the common good to rake in even more wealth and profits.

Imagine how the disciples of Jesus must have felt amid the turbulence of FirstCentury Roman-occupied Palestine and the persecution that the early Church experienced.

The following passage offered comfort to the persecuted Church:

24… the boat, by now some furlongs from land, was hard pressed by rough waves, for there was a head-wind. In the fourth watch of the night, he came towards them, walking on the sea,

26 and when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified. 'It is a ghost,' they said, and cried out in fear.

27 But at once Jesus called out to them, saying, 'Courage! It's me! Don't be afraid.'

28 It was Peter who answered. 'Lord,' he said, 'if it is you, tell me to come to you across the water.'

29 Jesus said, 'Come.' Then Peter got out of the boat and started walking towards Jesus across the water,

30 but then noticing the wind, he took fright and began to sink. 'Lord,' he cried, 'save me!'

31 Jesus put out his hand at once and held him. 'You have so little faith,' he said, 'why did you doubt?'

32 And as they got into the boat the wind dropped.

The Church has been metaphorically described as a boat tossed in stormy waters. For the disciples, their ministry often presented them with real emergencies in the midst of stormy seas.

The turbulent waters may be seen as the chaos of the world. In ancient times, the sea was often the focus of legends and myths in the Middle East, of dragons and monsters in the deep, the site of cosmic battles between warring gods.

But the sea was also the place where God showed his hand as in the account of Creation over the dark primordial waters and Moses’ parting of the Red Sea.

The Gospel account was set in the fourth watch of the night, which was 3am to 6am – that is, real darkness, when people fear the unknown.

But the fisherfolk of the time, often working hard to pay off debt and taxes, had to take risks, braving the dark waters in their flimsy vessels and battling their own fatigue.

The passage has remarkable similarity with Psalm 107: 5 By his word he raised a storm-wind, lashing up towering waves.

26 Up to the sky then down to the depths! Their stomachs were turned to water;
27 they staggered and reeled like drunkards, and all their skill went under.
28 They cried out to Yahweh in their distress, he rescued them from their plight,
29 he reduced the storm to a calm, and all the waters subsided,
30 and he brought them, overjoyed at the stillness, to the port where they were bound.

Flash forward to our times. What a turbulent world we live in – and once again, the sea carries hidden dangers – rising sea levels due to climate change, the threat of flooding and storm surges, super hurricanes from the sea, toxic waste including plastic rubbish, overfishing, massive reclamation destroying fishing waters. Much of this is driven by excessive greed and consumption.

Our seas are also potential flashpoints for territorial disputes. On land, rivers and water sources are likely to be the causes of future conflicts as climate change makes rainy seasons unpredictable and droughts longer and hotter.

And yet, rivers and seas are also the source of life – rain, water, fish and abundant biodiversity (now under threat).

Sometimes, in this world of darkness, fear and uncertainty, amidst all these threats, it is easy to forget that we have a lifeguard who walks on water. We have someone who is ready to haul us out of the vortex that is sucking us down into the abyss.

He has the ability to calm not only the storms at sea but also the raging turbulence in our world – no matter who the worldly lords and masters are.

What’s more, if we are committed to building the new kingdom which Jesus ushered in – a kingdom that turned worldly norms and expectation on its head — if we are poor and meek, if we work for justice and peace in the service of the kingdom, how could He possibly let us down, even if sometimes we feel like we’re sinking into the raging sea?

How could He let us down if we only call out to Him in faith, even in feeble faith? Not only does our lifeguard walk on water, He is the Living Water

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