Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Sermon July 10, 2016 Seventh Sunday after Trinity

These are the days of miracle and wonder 
This is the long distance call
The way the camera follows us in slo-mo
The way we look to us all, oh yeah
In his song The Boy in the Bubble, Paul Simon tells us that we are in a time of miracles.  That is true today even more than when the song was written in 1986.  It was a long distance call but today we have smart phones and the internet and all that comes with it; we have social media; and apparently we are going to have self-driving cars before we know it—actually they being tested on our roads today.  I heard on the radio this week that the first fatal accident involving a self-driving car has happened.  There will be more to come and they tell us they are inevitable; they are the future of driving.  So hang on to your hats and your steering wheels.

We do have things at our finger tips that would seem like miracles even when Paul Simon wrote that song.  I looked up the date it was composed on the internet and had an answer in less than a minute.  And yet with all these miracles around us we are in an age that no longer believes in what can’t be explained by science and technology.  Likely none of us here today can explain how the internet or most of what we use works. 
However, that doesn’t stop us from using them and considering them just a normal part of our lives.  Indeed if we didn’t have access to everything that involves computers and the internet our society would grind to a halt. 

Despite all these miracles many people dismiss religion as superstition.  They cannot believe what is portrayed in the biblical miracles such as the one described in today’s Gospel passage—the miracle of the loaves and fishes.  This modern movement to demythologize the events in the bible that could not be understood in our modern day perspective was proposed most notably by Rudolph Bultmann who attempted to demythologize the biblical accounts such as the story of the loaves and the fishes.  Indeed much liberal theology today continues with this approach.  The accounts of the miracles of Jesus and other such accounts are explained away psychologically or sociologically or even literary contexts. 

My father, who was a United Church minister, was very much in this approach to theology.  He did not accept that miraculous things such as this account of the feeding of the four thousand could have been a miraculous event as it was described.  I even recall discussing this account with him many years ago.  His explanation was that the miracle was the reaction by the crowd that was gathered. In his understanding the people gathered had food hidden under their cloaks and were moved by Jesus to share what they had with their neighbours.  As a result there was more than enough for everyone—there was even food left over.

In preparing to write this sermon I found out—another example of the modern miracle of the internet—that this was a common interpretation of the Gospel passage amongst theologians and clergy of a liberal bent. The desire or need by some people to have everything in life explained is, to my mind, a critical mistake.  The attempt to consider everything from the perspective of the intellect is a fatal mistake. As Hamlet says to Horatio, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy”Mystery which is the purview of the divine does not deal only with the intellect.  That is a part, albeit an important part of God’s creation but there is much more to creation than intellect.  I believe it is a mistake to make the belief in miracles and other mysteries of our relationship with God to be the litmus test for orthodoxy on either the traditional or liberal understanding of God.

My understanding of God’s relationship with God’s greatest creation—humankind—does not depend on the details or facts of a particular part of scripture.  We should not get into arguments or worst over the details of a particular event portrayed in the bible or other accounts of God’s relationship with humankind.  We need to understand these accounts as myth rather than demythologizing them.  By that I mean we need to understand the meaning—the capital T truth of these events.  Why did they become part of the account of the story of God’s people?    Except for the Resurrection, the multiplication of loaves is the only miracle told in all four Gospels.  What is the truth in these accounts that made it essential for those Gospel writers to include the event?  Why did it resonate with people through the ages up to today?  What is the truth of this story regardless of the details of the story?  There are in total six different versions of this event; Jesus fed the people on at least two occasions—once 5,000 men and another time 4,000 men; once with five loaves and two fish and again with seven loaves and a few fish; once with twelve baskets of remaining bread and in another five baskets.  The details may vary but the truth of Jesus is eternal.
What then is the truth of the account of the feeding of the multitude—be it four thousand or five thousand or each and every one of us today. 

The truth is that we are fed by the person of Jesus Christ each time we partake in the Eucharist.  We are fed with the food that does not perish just as Jesus offered the Samaritan woman at the well the water that is eternal and once you drink of it will never be thirsty again.  Once you partake of the food that Jesus offers you, you will never be hungry or thirsty again.  That food that is offered is there in abundance.  There is food for everyone and there is more than we can ever consume.  It is offered freely to all.  Come and taste and see that the Lord is good.  Happy are they that trust in him.  Amen.

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