A message from our District Superintendent Reverend Dr. Alpher Sylvester

A Contention of Sense and Faith

Grace and peace be unto you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.

Unique to our humanity is the power that our emotion exerts upon our psyche.  Our emotions seemingly acts as a rudder to our life’s journey.  It is a trigger to our reactions to things or events that are all around us.  In the face of uncertainty, these stimuli engulf us; as an avalanche, they generate so many feelings, chief of which is, the feeling of FEAR.

One of my mentors, through the lens of FEAR, reflected on this biblical story found in Matt 14: 23-33.  He noted and focused on two key elements found in this story: water, he said is tangible and ever present while fear is intangible but equally present.

Water, he said, is essential to life and living; it heals, cleans, nourishes and connects us but it possesses the ability to be a potent destructive force. He spoke of fear as being either Reverential or Morbid.  Reverential fear is the type of emotional response ascribe as a reaction to a superordinate.  That being must have the ability to deliver on their words or positions”’ on an issue. If that “ability” is muffled or nullified, then that type of fear becomes mute.  Morbid fear is the fear that paralyses you! It inflicts psychological pain that short circuits our ability to respond or think; it only allows us to feel. In the face of uncertainty, my mentor speculated that, Peter felt this fear - the pounding waves, the raging winds.  Familiar sounds that emerges as demons in the night and in the middle of the Sea of Galilee.

A exegetical reading of the text reveals that Jesus had invited the disciples to come.  Peter alone took the first step out of the safety of the boat and was now dealing with elements and a situation unlike anything he had dealt with before.  Every sense was obviously engaged; he could hear the wind, feel the surf, taste the water, and see the boisterous swells.  Fear was inevitable! So with eyes on Jesus, reverentially, faith motivated him to walk.  He walked on water! The contention is his senses.  Morbid fear erupted and psychologically paralyzed him for the moment, Peter began to sink.

As trite as this account may be, I find solace to think that in our uncertain times within our great United Methodist Church that each of us has the ability to determine our responses in the face of “fluid situations.” I am well aware that like Peter, there is ever this contention of sense and faith.  My decision determines if I walk or sink.  I choose to “walk on water.”

The initial step in “walking” has to be purposeful.  It must be driven by a deep desire to be fully ambulatory in spite of the conditions around you.  Walking negates stagnancy and moves one forward to a goal. Even in turbulent times, we could have goals.  Jesus and Peter obviously had a goal in the midst of this turbulent storm.  They strove to build their relationship on trust, to nurture their community and to love each other despite the commotion of the elements around them.

Our relationships, like Jesus and Peter is to relate, respect and look out for each other.  This mandates a level of civility unlike any other. Maslow describes it as a need to “belong.”  It quashes the need to divide, hurt, alienate or isolate.  It always moves us back to a fundamental truth that, ‘we are better together.” Like Peter, we look for those that are important to us, who depend on us; also, on him who has the ability and authority to help us. Yes! That’s the way we walk on water a second time, even if is back to the safety of the boat

Our humanity is natured in a place where there is safety, belonging and an opportunity to self-actualize.  This happens in community where forces intentional and unintentional weighs upon us, squeezing us, shaping us. Under such conditions, metamorphism is inevitable. Attempts to survive outside of community could be devastating.  That’s why our ability to weather the storm is so much more meaningful.  The power of our Christian community assures us that we are not alone.  There is a great crowd of witnesses cheering us on as we brave the storm; angels rooting for our victory and the blessed Holy Spirit waiting to guide us as we fight to retain community.

Having said all, we recognize that this is no easy fete. It will take a transcendent power to hold us together against the emotions generated by this terrible tide.  There is one force that has maintained a track record across the ions of time.  That force has nullified pain, decapitated evil and rendered hate impotent. That force has aided and abetted relationships in the midst of the storm; it has undergirded communities in the worst of times.  Love eclipses hate, mutes pain, obliterates fear and gives life to possibilities.

Peter’s possibilities could be our possibility if we choose to nullify the contention of our senses and allow faith to undergird us as we walk on water.  Connecticut, our resolve in the midst of a contentious time is to know that we are better together and by faith, we have the ability to walk on water.  Let’s walk! To that end, I say, In Jesus name - let it be so. Amen!

In His service,

Alpher Sylvester, DS
In Connecticut, After God, We Put People First!