8th Sunday after Trinity
Proper 12: 2 Kings 4.42-44; Ephesians 3.14-21; John
Almighty Lord and everlasting God, we beseech you to direct,
sanctify and govern both our hearts and bodies in the ways of your
laws and the works of your commandments; that through your most
mighty protection, both here and ever, we may be preserved in body
and soul; through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
THIS little-known story of Elisha involves an unexpected gift
from an unknown man who made a miracle possible - we will never
know how far he travelled to fulfil his obligation to bring the
first-fruits, or if he realised how urgently his gift was needed.
This prefigures the story of Jesus's feeding the crowd, which
depends on an unknown boy's offering, on the face of it, a
pointless gift: six months' wages were inadequate; so why bother
with a packed lunch? It took courage by Andrew to make such a
stupid suggestion, but, sometimes, reckless courage is needed to
unlock a miracle.
If the provision for 5000 was a miracle, then so were the
leftovers, which comprised far more than the boy offered. I wonder
what the disciples did with this tangible reminder that God not
only met needs, but provided in abundance. This early example of
not letting anything go to waste raises questions. Do we throw out
food too readily? Do we recycle all we can? There is also a
spiritual application: do we miss part of God's blessing through
failing to gather up the fragments around us in daily life?
The satisfaction of the crowd is juxtaposed with the later
terror of the disciples. Both wanted to do something to Jesus. The
crowd wanted to make him king; so, to avoid being thrust into the
political arena, Jesus withdrew to be alone. The disciples wanted
to take him into the boat, once he had calmed them down.
Enigmatically, John does not tell us whether Jesus let them do this
(unlike Mark, who says that he complied), but simply reports that,
immediately, the boat reached the land towards which they were
going. For John, Jesus is never someone to be controlled by
For a few weeks, we switch from Mark's action-packed Gospel to
John's more reflective Gospel. John does not let the miracle of the
feeding go unremarked, but uses it as the basis for Jesus's
teaching about the bread from heaven. Intertwined with this are
questions about Jesus's identity, which, in John's Gospel, is
proclaimed openly, and people must respond rather than guess at the
secret that Mark makes it.
These two miracles involve creation, and are foretastes of the
ultimate healing of creation in Christ. Paul looks forward to this
when writing of the glory to be revealed: "The creation was
subjected to futility . . . the creation itself will be set free
from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory
of the children of God" (Romans 8.18-21).
Storms were stilled, water bore the weight of Jesus walking on
it, bread and fish fed more than they should, the sky darkened at
the crucifixion, and the earth shook at Christ's death and
resurrection. Here was a person whose relationship with the
physical creation was not scarred by the effects of sin. Creation
responded to his presence.
Stories of the relationship between the saints and the physical
creation are part of our heritage; whatever we think about otters
warming St Cuthbert's feet, birds nesting in St Kevin's hand, wild
beasts becoming docile, timid animals frolicking joyfully with
saints, these stories illustrate this theological understanding,
that God's redemption in Christ restores all of creation to its
intended freedom to flourish.
This is a very holistic understanding of salvation's including,
but not restricted to, humans: "All that is created longs to
participate in the divine glory" (Jürgen Moltmann, History and
the Triune God, Crossroad, 1992). The Eastern Orthodox Church
sings to Christ on Holy Saturday: "The whole creation was altered
by your Passion, all things suffered with you, knowing that your
Word holds all things together in unity"; and, in the Easter vigil,
sings the words of John of Damascus: "In Christ's resurrection the
whole creation is established and made sure."
As we pray to be open to the riches of God's grace, on the one
hand, we pray with the author of Ephesians for power to comprehend
the scale of God's love which surpasses knowledge, so that we can
be filled with the fullness of God; on the other, we are reminded
to be attentive to God's blessing of creation, to offer what we
have, however little, and to notice and gather the fragments that
are the surplus abundance of God's goodness