Monday, July 23, 2012

Gospel text for Sunday 29 July 2012

John 6.1-20
Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, "Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?" He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, "Six months' wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little." One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to him, "There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?" Jesus said, "Make the people sit down." Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, "Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost." So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, "This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world."

 When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

 When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. But he said to them, "It is I; do not be afraid." Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going.

Two paragraphs, two miracles. Oh my. The Jesus we meet in this text is extraordinary. His very presence transforms reality in unimaginable ways. I believe that is the point of these miracle tales; to make it crystal clear that being in the presence of Jesus changes everything. Being in relationship with Jesus gives us access to dimensions of reality that are truly beyond reason – in other words - miraculous. For who can reasonably explain satisfying five thousand people’s hunger with a mere five loaves and two fishes? And even a four year old knows that people do not walk on water.  So what is going on here?

 I believe these miracle stories are examples of God working through created nature to reveal a dimension of non-ordinary experience that is aligned with God’s own true and unlimited nature.  And I believe that every human person has access to this non-ordinary experience of reality in relationship with God.  And yes, it is astonishing.

 The thing is when it comes to being in relationship with God we are talking about a kind of experience that surpasses human understanding. We are talking about a kind of experience that is not bound by the laws of general relativity and quantum mechanics, not constrained by the fundamental properties of matter and motion, not explained by the principles of reason and logic. We are talking about astonishing, radical, life changing, consciousness expanding experiences.

 Regardless of whether you read the miracle stories as literally true, as signs, as prophetic revelations or as allegories, the bottom line is this; reason is not sufficient to describe the experience of being in relationship with God.  That said, it is not surprising that the great religious traditions of Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism all use miracle stories to describe non-ordinary experiences aligned with DIvinity. All of these religious traditions use miracle stories to describe that which reason cannot grasp because at the root of all of these great traditions there is the experience of knowing that which cannot be known.

 ++ The image from the Hubbell Telescope is described:  “Colliding galaxies make love not war.”