Gospel: John 6:1-21
1st Reading: 2 Kings 4:42-44
2nd Reading: Ephesians 3:14-21
If you would have asked me a couple of years ago, I probably would have told you that I didn’t believe in miracles. The sick are healed because doctors do good work and people feel the support of their family and friends across great distances. This Gospel story of the feeding of the 5000 is a story where one boy decided to share his lunch and everyone else got out their picnic lunches and shared them, too. And don’t even get me started on the Virgin Mary.
I am part of a cynical generation. We are known for our wry sense of humor. We question everything. It is a rite of passage to reject everything our parents believed in, God, America, family, to prove that we are our own person. We may or may not be in the same generation, but I know you’ve experienced it to. We are in an age where we know everything about every politician. Someone that you might have wanted to vote for now has their affairs broadcast in great detail on every internet news site. Books are written tearing people down, prying into their lives until nothing is left to the imagination. In some ways more information is good, because who doesn’t want to be informed. On the other hand, some things just shouldn’t matter, and yet they do.
My cynicism, like a lot of people’s, started with my teenage years. That’s when we all start to realize that there is so much suffering in this world, that the good guys don’t always win—in fact they seldom do, that there are wars and disease and terrible things going on and very little that anyone is doing about it. We notice our parents being hypocritical. We wonder if there is anyone or anything that we can rely on.
And religion isn’t immune from this cynicism. Read your history and you can see how people have misused religion to gain power for themselves, to hurt other people, and to control people. It is no wonder people are suspicious of religion and people of faith.
On top of that, it has been a tough couple of weeks in the news. A week and a half ago, we had the shooting in Colorado. I read a story in Rolling Stone magazine about climate change and how by the time Sterling is 16, we’ll be at the tipping point of environmental collapse. I read how fossil fuel companies are literally invested in burning 5 times the carbon that our planet can handle without whole countries being submerged in the ocean and society breaking down and our planet being too hot to support the foods we love to eat, that we need to eat. I just didn’t realize it was happening as fast as it is.
This kind of news has a numbing effect. Sometimes I find it hard to have hope. I want to do something, but I know what I’m doing will never be enough. I picture all the suffering people and I can’t do a darned thing to help them. It is hard to believe in miracles when the world is falling apart around us.
And yet, today, I can say I believe in miracles. I’m in a little different place—a little more hopeful place, than I was a few years ago, because I am aware of miracles going on around me. I’ve seen real miracles. I know it is a miracle that happens to almost every woman eventually, but in the past year I’ve grown a child inside my body, experienced the miraculous growth, felt every miraculous kick and hiccup. Now I get to see a human being learn every little thing, which is a kind of miracle.
I also believe in miracles because my child believes in them. If you want to see a miracle, watch a toe wiggling in a sock, watch a butterfly flit around your yard, sit down and really taste your food like you are trying it for the first time, watch light patterns stream through windows, stare in the face of someone you love, listen to some music, sit in a breeze, study a set of keys. All these things I took for granted for so long, are now new again. Things I quit noticing, I notice again and appreciate. Many of you experience this now through grandchildren or great grandchildren. Those everyday things have been miracles all along, just now I see them for the miracles they are. And what a miracle, our five senses that we have to explore our world.
We find hope through these new little people who show us miracles every day. Because of that hope and that belief in miracles, we will do what it takes to make more miracles happen. Because we believe in miracles, we won’t return violence with violence, but we’ll find a way to forgive. Because we believe in miracles, we’ll give our time and our money to make sure that other people get to experience the miracle of their child being well fed, receiving medical care, and growing up in a world without the fear of violence. Because we believe in miracles, we’ll lobby our officials to change the rules so we don’t pollute and ruin this beautiful planet that we want our grandchildren to experience.
The one miracle I’ve always believed in is that God came as one of us to experience our life, died and rose from the dead to give us life. Even if we can’t believe in miracles, or there are times in our lives when we quit noticing miracles, God believes in us and works miracles through unlikely, clueless folks. God keeps pouring God’s abundant grace into us. The abundance of God is all over the stories for this morning.
In 2 Kings, Elisha looks at what little he has, just 20 loaves of barley bread and some flour. He questions what good it is going to do when there are 100 hungry people to feed. God tells him to share it and let the people eat. And they do and there are leftovers.
The Gospel reading parallels this reading—even the kind of bread is the same, barley loaves. The Disciples have been around long enough to know they want nothing to do with a hungry crowd. Have you heard this new word “hangry?” It is a combination of “hungry” and “angry.” I know being hungry doesn’t make me a happy person. This crowd is going to be hangry any minute now.
I love that it is the little boy who saves the day. He is the only one naïve enough to think that he can make a difference. He believes in miracles. He has been learning what the adults have been teaching him—how to share. They have been teaching him what they don’t remember how to do. Now he is going to show them what it means to share. He gives without regard to whether he’s going to get any. He doesn’t eat his lunch and give what’s left. He doesn’t just give 10% or 2% of his lunch. He gives it away in a bold offering. It is only a little, yet it is enough because Jesus is enough. Love is enough. God is generous and when we have faith in him and are generous, it is enough. Jesus can use us to make a miracle if we will let him instead of being cynical and afraid and greedy.
The second reading speaks of the “riches of his glory.” The God would use God’s power to strengthen us. That it isn’t our own power, but Christ dwelling in us, rooting and grounding us in love. The prayer is that we would know Christ’s love and be filled with it, that we would be filled with the fullness of God. Because of this, God is able to work through us more than we can imagine. We have the power to make this world more just, more peaceful, healthier, stronger. Or rather it is God through us who is doing miracles everyday, right in front of our eyes, and is asking us to participate in his miracles of feeding the hungry, healing the sick, comforting the bereaved, and caring for nature and our planet so that it can continue to support abundant life and future generations can continue to know the grace that we know.