“The love of Christ,” Paul writes, “surpasses knowledge...” In other less elegant words, it is not with cognitive powers that we can take in the miraculous feeding of the 5,000 hungry followers of Jesus or understand the story of Jesus walking on the water. These astonishing images become fruitful for us when the eyes of our hearts are opened to mystery.
God’s Word means to make us shiver, to experience awe, to grasp what is beyond our abilities. No wonder people who do not enter into Christian fellowship (or that of other faiths!) find us a bit off-center. What we take in as narratives of hope and joy sound simply preposterous.
Let us rejoice this day in the sheer enormity of what God’s Word holds out to us as nourishment. Let the preacher name some of the many daily miracles that abound in our current lives, in the midst of the congregation. Where is hope emerging? Where is love making itself plain?
The common theme of the two stories is the response of the people who receive a gift of grace from Jesus. In the first story, Jesus meets the physical needs of the crowd by providing an abundance of food from a very limited supply. The crowd responds by trying to draft Jesus into their preconceived status quo notions of power structures. From this, Jesus withdraws. In the second story, Jesus meets the needs of the disciples by rescuing them from a storm at sea, and calming their fears of the unknown. The disciples respond by welcoming Jesus into their presence without condition or expectation. In doing so, Jesus does in fact join the disciples in the boat, rather than withdrawing as he did with the crowd. Following Jesus' lead, rather than insisting Jesus follow our lead, is the way we sustain our relationship with the Good Shepherd. – Stephen H. Fazenbaker
2 Kings 4:42-44
Reflecting the Great Multiplication in John 6, this short lection in 2 Kings recounts Elisha's miracle of feeding one hundred people with twenty loaves of barley and an indeterminate amount of grain from one sack. Although the miracle is in no way similar in scope to Jesus' feeding of the five thousand, we are reminded that God has always provided for us, and we may trust that God's provision, both physical and spiritual, is eternal. – Stephen H. Fazenbaker
Beginning a lection with “For this reason” automatically prompts a question: is the author saying, “because of the reason I just gave,” or “because of the reason I am about to give you”? If we were working through the entire letter, we would have to spend time on this question; however, for our purposes, we will trust that the lection we have been assigned is inclusive, and therefore the latter is the answer to our question. In fact, verses 14–19 comprise one sentence in the Greek, so we are safe in our assumption. If we substitute the word “pray” for “bow my knees” in verse 14, and read “I pray that …” as “I pray so that …” in verse 16, the meaning of the long opening sentence of this lection becomes clear; and when we consider the lection as a whole, we discover a prayer in the form of a traditional collect, containing all of the traditional elements: the address to God (v 14, “Father”); the attributes of God on which the prayer is based (v 15); the petition (vv 16–19a); the intended result of the petition (v 19b); and the final doxology (vv 20–21). – Stephen H. Fazenbaker
Steven H. Fazenbaker is director of the Wesley Foundation at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
Homily Service 42, no. 3 (2009): 88-99.