Miracle stories are problematic. Until the middle ages, miracle stories were considered proof of God working in and through a particular person. Renaissance scholars sought explanations that aligned the text with scientific explanations of the laws of nature. Today miracle stories for many people have become barriers to faith.
In this week’s Gospel lesson Jesus feeds 5,000 men, and probably their families, starting with five loaves of barley bread and two fish, and yielding 12 baskets of leftovers! Early Christians would have interpreted the text to mean that the bread and fish supernaturally multiplied as they were being distributed. Renaissance scholars would have examined the text and recognized that it does not say how Jesus multiplied the loaves and concluded that Jesus had opened their hearts and, following the example of the boy who offered his five loaves of bread and two fish, they shared food hidden in their cloaks that earlier morning. While inducing compassionate generosity in a large crowd can be miraculous, it tends to obscure the work of God among the ordinary, demoting a miracle to merely a moving speech.
As miracle stories are told and retold extra details tend to get dropped. Yet in this story the presence of a “great deal of grass in this place” is retained, perhaps amplified. Is this detail to remind to look for abundance from God in all things, even in the grass under our feet, reminding us that every day we stand on holy ground?
I will have more to say about John 6:1-15 at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church at 8:15 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. on Sunday, November 18th. Our Thanksgiving celebration luncheon will follow the 10:00 a.m. worship service.
Robert Shaw, Pastor
A Tip for Parents
In the Lord’s Prayer we say: “Give us this day our daily bread.”
Have you asked your child what this means?
The story of God providing manna in the desert provides an lesson on giving thanks for what we need for today and trusting that God will provide enough for tomorrow, so that we can do our best today.