Your will remember the story of Aladdin and his lamp. He found an

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B Pentecost 9
2 Kings 4:42-44
Psalm 145:10-18
Rev. Rod Adamson
Holy Spirit Lutheran Church, Edmonton
July 26, 2015
Ephesians 3:14-21
John 6:1-21
Your will remember the story of Aladdin and his lamp. He found an old lamp
which he proceeded to polish up and Lo and Behold, out of the lamp sprang a
‘genie’, a spirit. This is a middle eastern story so some of the bits are a little
strange. The genie tells Aladdin he can have 3 wishes and they will all come true.
It’s a convoluted tale which ends with Aladdin becoming rich, marrying the
beautiful princess and living happily ever after. I could never understand why he
didn’t make his first wish that all future wishes come true. But that might have
spoiled a good story.
I remind you of this folk story because today we read the story of Jesus feeding
the 5000 and walking on the water of the Sea of Galilee. When I was in Sunday
School I first heard these stories and was told they proved Jesus was the Son of
God because only God could feed 5000 with 5 barley loaves and 2 fish, and then
go on to walk on the water. I did not realize at the time that this was a very
shallow understanding of what the stories are about (no pun intended). What I
was told was a bit like the story of Aladdin and his magic lamp – Jesus can do
anything: change water into wine, feed 5000 with a little food. If he chose, or if
we believed strongly enough, he could work miracles in our lives and make us
rich, happy, beautiful – whatever your dream happens to be. I will try to share
with you something of the original meaning of these stories, what they meant to
the gospel writers, and what they might mean to us today who live in the age of
science, as well as the age of the church and the Bible.
Our first understanding of the story of the feeding of the 5000 was probably that
it was a great miracle performed by Jesus to prove he was God. In our spiritual
growth we might stay stuck at this level of understanding. But at a deeper level
we can explore the notion that the loaves and fish were really part of the lunch
that everyone brought, because they were on an all-day journey. The miracle lay
in their agreeing to share with those who had forgotten or hadn’t brought
enough. By sharing, everyone got fed. At a third level, there are in the story,
overtones or reminders of Holy Communion. At communion worship we get a
very little to literally eat and drink, but spiritually we are fed to the extent of our
heart’s desire. We make a real connection with the risen, living Jesus. In the old
Anglican Book of Common Prayer the priest prays “grant us therefore, gracious
Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that
we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us.” As we open our hearts to the Spirit
of Jesus , and to one another, he connects us and feeds us. This is the deepest
longing of the human soul, to know we are loved, to know we are accepted and
forgiven, and somehow joined to the creator, redeemer and sustainer of the
universe. In this chapter of John’s gospel Jesus says “I am the bread of life,
whoever comes to me will never be hungry .. whoever believes in me will never
thirst.” The Book of Proverbs says “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I
have mixed; lay aside immaturity and live, and walk in the way of insight.” 9:5,6.
When we allow Jesus into our lives we partake of him, he is the wisdom of God.
We know him by faith.
At still another level of understanding, as we read the story, we realize the food is
real food, bread and fish. The Sea of Galilee had a well-known commercial fishing
industry, and there is a reflection of that in the story. The disciples are distributing
real food to a hungry crowd. The Bible is very clear that God’s justice requires that
everyone shall have enough. In the end, for us, following Jesus’ instructions
implies political choices and decisions. Here we can applaud Pope Francis and his
encyclical.
So how do we see Jesus today, and what do we expect as we come to worship
and greet one another week by week? Robert Capon is a contemporary Christian
writer. He says that for ordinary Americans thinking of Jesus, the picture they
have is of Superman. It goes like this, and it’s a bit irreverent. “Faster than a
speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a
single bound, it’s Superman! Strange visitor from another planet, who came to
earth disguised as Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan
newspaper, fights a never-ending battle for truth, justice and the American way.”
Capon continues, “If this isn’t the way many think of Jesus, I’ll eat my hat. Jesus –
gentle, meek and mild, but with secret, souped-up, more than human insides,
bumbles around for 33 years, nearly gets killed by the Kryptonite Kross, but at the
last minute struggles into the phone booth of the empty tomb, changes into his
Easter suit, and with a single bound, leaps back up to planet Heaven. It’s got it all,
including he never once touched Lois Lane.”
This was quoted by Marcus Borg, another contemporary Christian scholar, who
goes on to criticize this picture of Jesus because it doesn’t describe a real human
being. It’s an ancient heresy where Jesus just seems to be human but secretly he
was God with all the divine powers. Unfortunately we cannot follow, imitate or be
like such a person. The real Jesus set aside his divine powers, and as St Paul says
in his Letter to the Philippians, “being found in human form, humbled himself and
became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross.”
This means we will not leave it all up to Jesus. Inspired by his teaching and
empowered by his Spirit, we will collaborate, work together with Jesus, to remake
the world, including ourselves. The miracle stories of Jesus are not intended to
make him like Aladdin with his wonderful lamp, or even Superman. They are
intended to point us to Jesus, the bread of life, the food for the soul, and to
encourage us to follow his example. Grace, the undeserved kindness of God, flows
from the cross, Jesus’ cross, the cross we are invited to bear.
May Jesus empower you and may you be graced to walk with him wherever he
leads. AMEN.
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