By The Very Rev. Sherry Crompton
July 26, 2009
Read: Ephesians 3:14-21 and John 6:1-21
Miracles. Today we hear of two of Jesus’ miracles stories. The feeding of the 5000 and walking on water. The feeding of the 5000 is the only one of Jesus’ miracle stories that makes it into all four gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. That is significant. So what is the message or messages in this story. What do you think of?
Oh, this story reminds me of so many things. You see, I’m always amazed how God takes whatever little we have and does a great thing with it, over and over again. The Bible is full of stories like that. Do you remember Moses holding only a shepherd’s staff and God asking him, “Moses, what do you have?” “Only a stick, Lord.” And in the service of God, a mere shepherd’s staff did a mighty thing. Oh, the Bible is full of stories about God taking something very little and doing a mighty thing. Like little boy David with only a slingshot and a pebble and at the service of God, that pebble felled a mighty giant.
It is the power of God that fills people with what they need and sees that there is plenty left over. In a world where we are told repeatedly that there is not enough to go around, God gives face to the lie by feeding a large crowd with what appears to be a meager amount. What would a world grounded in an understanding of abundance look like in comparison with one based on fears of scarcity?
Fear. We hear today Jesus saying, “It is I; do not be afraid.” The most frequent saying of Jesus in the New Testament is, “Do not be afraid.” Jesus walks over a sea that has risen up because of a strong wind. In John’s Gospel, Jesus does not calm these rough seas—instead, he walks over them, accompanying and comforting those who are frightened in the boat.
“It is I; do not be afraid.” In Ephesians we hear a prayer asking that we all know what is the “breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that we may be filled with all the fullness of God. And that we, by the power at work within us, are able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine.” Abundance. Not scarcity – abundance. Far more than we can ask or imagine.
There is enough. In fact, there is more than enough. Jesus knows this, but nobody else seems to. Why would they? They can count—five loaves and two fish versus all those people. So it’s just Jesus and the little boy against all the voices of common sense.
There is a tension in our life between responsibility and vision. Understanding what has been and holding on to that which seems to have worked and a new vision for the future. A future, that by definition, is unknowable. Where do we obtain the courage to step out in faith?
Through a radical trust in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Through trusting that he will be with us through it all, storm-tossed or not. We will Wade in that Water of life, knowing that God’s love is abundant. We will open our hearts to let Jesus in. We will open our eyes to see the extraordinary in our ordinary lives. It is there. It is present.
Gerda Weissman Klein spent six years in a Nazi death camp. Hollywood made a documentary film – “One Survivor Remembers” – of her experience. The film won an Oscar for best documentary.
Gerda had this to say about those years. She said:
“Most people think the Holocaust camps were like snake pits—that people stepped on each other for survival. It wasn’t like that at all. There was kindness, support, understanding.” She continued: “I often talk about a childhood friend of mine, Ilse. She once found a raspberry in the camp and carried it in her pocket all day to present to me that night on a leaf. Imagine a world in which your entire possession is one raspberry, and you give it to a friend. Those are the moments I want to remember. People behaved nobly under unspeakable circumstances.”
There is something of worship or prayer in laying down an offering at someone’s feet and then going away quickly. The nicest gifts are those left, nameless and quiet, unburdened with love, or vanity, or the desire for attention.
Writer Anne Lamott tells of her profound experience of Christ indwelling in her. She was unmarried, pregnant, and decided to have an abortion. She coped with the pain in her usual way, by smoking dope and getting drunk. When she started hemorrhaging a week later, she sobered up fast.
It was that night she became aware of someone in the room with her. She writes, “the feeling was so strong that I actually turned on the light for a moment to make sure no one was there—of course, there wasn’t. But after a while, in the dark again, I knew beyond any doubt that it was Jesus.” What she felt was appalled. In her circle of family and friends, nobody was a Christian. They were all like the Ephesians: worldly, sophisticated, and in need of no one but themselves. But Jesus remained in the corner, ‘watching me with patience and love, and I squinched my eyes shut, but that didn’t help because that’s not what I was seeing him with.”
She had been going to church for some Sundays, drawn in to a funky little church mostly by the music. The next Sunday she went back. She could not escape the feelings. “It was as if the people were singing in between the notes, weeping and joyful at the same time, and I felt like their voices or something was rocking me in its bosom, holding me like a scared kid, and I opened up to that feeling—and it washed over me.”
When she got home to her houseboat, she opened the door, hung her head and said to Jesus, “F— it: I quit.” She actually said this out loud: “All right, you can come in.”
Anne let Jesus into her heart.
We seem to be immersed in a culture that has all but lost the capacity to wonder. A people grown skeptical about the extraordinary is likely to miss the extraordinary that lies within the ordinary. Elizabeth Barrett Browning said this:
Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
And only he who sees takes off his shoes—-
Truth is, we have closets packed with thousands of excuses why our boats are too small to sail in the big, deep side of the ocean called life. So often we opt for the safer floating along in the shallow end of the predictable, taking no risks, never going outside our comfort zone, never befriending anybody who does not look like us and think like us and believe like we do. But the real and deeper Truth is that Jesus is with us on that deep side of the ocean called life. And he is saying to each and every one of us, “It is I; Do not be afraid”. Trust that God’s power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine. Offer Jesus whatever you have, no matter how small or insignificant you believe it is. God can work miracles. To Him be glory forever and ever. So, wade in the water, children. Wade in the water. Amen.
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