By Rev. Peter Karanja
July 19, 2020
Video of whole service: https://www.facebook.com/hanscomparkchurch/videos/314781189890405/
Scripture: Isaiah 61:1-3 & Matthew 14:22-30
Gumboots, Wellington, mud boots, rain boots, mucking boots, billy boots: there are many names for these greatest innovations in the footwear industry.
Gumboots are very handy shoes in diverse industrial settings: protection from mud and grime in mines, from chemical spills in chemical plants and from water, dirt, and mud in horticultural and agricultural work; and serving the high standard of hygiene required in food processing plants, hospitals and for the fishermen and list goes on and on.
I still remember my colourful gumboots growing up as a child. They gave me that courage to walk on wet or muddy ground and even play easily outside when it was raining. I was at liberty to jump from one puddle to another; slide on wet ground with less fear of being wet and get into trouble with my mom. And of course one gets to appreciate gumboots when you get to visit a swampy area. So did I growing up walking on the unpaved roads. In this setting the gumboots became like a life-saver protecting us from mud, dirt waters and sharp objects.
I am always fascinated by this special footwear, the gumboots. Although, they seem to be very unpopular, as well very popular in various settings. For instance you can rarely see commercial ads or advertisements on gumboots but any other footwear their ads are endless – a good example is sneakers. My guess is gumboots do serve their intended purpose so well that there is less need for advertisement or promotion. Just like a beautiful rose flower or our mysterious “me” sunflower at the Church that just speaks of their beauty; there isn’t a need for promo.
My best recent experience with gumboots was in the Summer of last year. I had to sign up for an off-campus course that as a class we had to travel from New Jersey to North Carolina for this learning experience. One of the objectives in this course was to learn the environmental quality of that area. When I looked at the syllabus, I couldn’t help but think of chemicals and reading of the PH but to my surprise; that morning we drove into a forest reservoir and stopped at this stream. We were all issued wader gumboots. In my mind, I was like “yes, now we are ready for the lab.” I was wrong. The wader gumboots’ purpose was to help us wade through the stream water catching various species of fish, writing down their names, counting and releasing them back into the stream. We were basically doing biological environmental quality testing. The more we caught various fish species along the stream was a good indicator of environmental best quality.
We would walk through the stream water fearlessly to reach this diversity and abundance of fishes in this stream. For hours we would continue walking against the strong water current into the depth, and our courage was heightened by this special gear that we were wearing. The wader gumboots protected us from freezing and sharp objects in the water. We were determined to find the answer, and nothing was gonna stop us. With our wader gumboots on, we were ready for this mission of environmental justice.
The apostle Paul knew better the importance of footwear having traveled to many places sharing the good news. He points this out to the Church of Ephesus; put on your shoes in readiness to share the gospel of peace. Of course this gospel of peace to the poor wasn’t just like a sounding bell during that time but a dangerous encounter due to the persecutions and deaths of believers. The emperor couldn’t bear the fact that Jesus who was crucified would set the people free from their bondage especially the poor.
Even among the poor they could not believe that they had rights to be free. A good example was the poor Nazarene community who must have immensely suffered for years under the oppressive Roman emperor that they seemed to have lost a glimpse of hope. It is not surprising that, when their own community member Jesus stood and read the prophetic word of the Isaiah in the synagogue of God’s redemption – bring the good news to the poor and the broken-hearted – they got pissed off with him and saw him as a joke. I mean the Nazarenes must have been so beaten up by the oppressive system that they couldn’t see or connect how Jesus was worthy of wearing this shoe of prophecy….for them it was too big for him to fit in; and again “Isn’t he not the son of Joseph?” So the only thing left was for them to mock him and finally kick him out of the town.
In our second reading; It is fascinating how Peter (ME haha!) the disciple walks with Jesus. All the disciples in the boat were in total shock seeing Jesus walking on the water, and of course as human beings they needed time to process what was unfolding. But here goes Peter, I suppose without thinking twice; he calls out; “Lord if it is you tell me to come.” Then Jesus invites him to join this adventure. Peter began walking a little bit on the water but began doubting after paying attention to the winds…he got panicked and began sinking. Peter’s unreadiness for these adventures made him prone to distraction. He paid more attention to the winds as opposed to the good news of who Jesus is.
Church! This good news to the poor that Jesus is inviting us today requires us to be selfless, faithful and more importantly bear in mind it is a divine task: to face the ingrained injustices and standing in solidarity with marginalised, the voiceless in our communities. Yes, this might seem like a daunting task; unpopular, complex, debatable, but it’s God who invites us now and again to put on those gumboots and go forth share the love of God; that sets the captives free, heals the broken-hearted. And when the road seems too super muddy and slippery, just focus on Jesus, who is our source of strength. Remember, it is not by our might, not by our power but by the Spirit of God who enables us all.
In the name of our God and of the son and of the Holy Spirit.