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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

by Kristin Berkey-Abbott

The readings for Sunday, July 29, 2012:


2 Kings 4:42-44

Psalm 145:10-19 (Psalm 145:10-18 NRSV)

You open wide your hand and satisfy the needs of every living creature. (Ps. 145:17)

Ephesians 3:14-21

John 6:1-21

In today's Gospel, we see Jesus feed the multitude from a tiny offering of two fish and five barley loaves. It's important to remember where this story comes chronologically in Jesus' ministry. He's already gotten quite a reputation as a worker of miracles. Indeed, that's why the crowds won't leave him alone; they can tell that Jesus is something special. And the disciples have witnessed the power of Jesus time and time again.

I mention this fact because I'm always surprised when the disciples act the way that humans do--the way that you and I do. Jesus tests them, by asking how they will buy enough bread for everyone.

Of course, there's not enough money in their communal pockets to buy bread. Jesus knows this. One of the persistent messages that Christ gives us is that to rely on money to solve problems is to put our faith in the wrong system.

Notice that the disciples don't come up with any grand plan. They've watched Jesus work miracle after miracle--they've seen this with their own eyes!--and it never occurs to them to dream big. No, they still live in a world where it takes money to feed people.

Some theologians accuse the disciples of having a scarcity consciousness--a state of mind that's all too familiar to people of our time. It's the fear of running out of what we need, and so we don't share. We don't share, and our hearts become shriveled and tiny, as opposed to the way they would blossom if we trusted God more and shared our stuff. Who amongst us doesn't have more than enough stuff to share? We're drowning in possessions.

Perhaps they are stunted in this way. But again, I think they're just not used to the power that has come to dwell with them. They're rooted in the world and they forget what they're capable of.

Jesus has a different vision. He takes that small offering and feeds the throng of people. He takes something that seems so insignificant and this act grows into one of his most famous miracles.

Our rational brains can't accept this. Most of us could eat two fishes and five loaves all by ourselves--how could Jesus feed everyone?

Not only does Jesus feed everyone, but they have leftovers, 12 baskets full! It’s one of the many times that Jesus shows everyone that the world is full of abundance. Jesus offers us more wine than we can drink (John 2, the first miracle in this Gospel), more bread than we can eat.

It’s so easy to forget what God is capable of. We don't dare to dream big dreams, for fear that we'll be disappointed. We worry that if we share our resources, we won’t have enough for ourselves and our families. We don’t dare imagine that there’s enough for everyone.

We also forget how much God desires to be an active part of our lives--and we forget how active God is in the world. All our scriptures remind us of how God yearns for communion with us--and what wondrous transformations happen when humans go to meet God. Not just personal transformations. It's very well and good if you become a better person, more compassionate and more generous. But God has a much grander vision, one that doesn't stop with our individual lives.

How can you be part of that Kingdom? Christ didn't come to get us ready for Heaven, although many church traditions focus on that part of his mission. Christ came to show us how the Kingdom can be right here, among us, here and now. We can begin by sharing our basic resources and trusting that God will multiply our generosity.

Are we people who believe in miracles or not?

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