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7/26/2009 - The Rev. Caron A. Gwynn - The Eighth Sunday After Pentecost

posted May 21, 2010, 6:35 PM by Unknown user   [ updated May 21, 2010, 6:35 PM by Terry Brady ]
God split the rocks open in the wilderness, and gave them drink abundantly as from the deep. Yet the Lord commanded the skies above, and opened the doors of heaven; God rained down on them manna to eat, and gave them the grain from heaven. Mortals ate of the bread of angels; the Lord sent them food in abundance. And they ate and were filled, for the Lord gave them what they craved. They did not keep in mind God’s power, or the day when God redeemed them from the foe; when God displayed signs in Egypt, and his miracles in the fields of Zo’an. (Psalm 78:15, 23-25, 29, 42-43)

In the name of the one true God and holy Trinity. Amen.

The source of our Gospel lessons for the next several weeks will be the Gospel of John. Today in John’s Gospel, the feeding of the 5000 and Jesus walking on water are two familiar miracle stories to us. The Gospel of John is known as the Book of Signs because the purpose of the Apostle John’s Gospel is to reveal the identity of Jesus as the Messiah who is in our midst and the author of our salvation.

Additionally, this Gospel was written to reveal the nature and power of God through Jesus Christ as witnessed by the disciples and others during his public ministry. Apostle John says, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name” (John 20: 30-31).

Quite often, the signs Jesus revealed and displayed were misinterpreted, misunderstood, or missed all together. This created confusion about who Jesus was and what he could and should do for the crowds that followed him everywhere he went and even among his own disciples. The people were in awe of the miracles he could perform but they continued to miss the true meaning of his teachings and the signs he tried to show them. The feeding of the 5000 and Jesus walking on water are indicators of the miraculous actions that reflected the presence of God among the Israelites in the Old Testament scriptures.

At one point, Jesus has to slip away to a mountain to pray alone. He sends the disciples ahead of him in a boat to Capernaum. The Israelites wanted to select and crown their own king. A group of them was convinced that they had found their king after witnessing Jesus heal the sick and feed the crowd of 5000 people with five barley loaves and two pieces of dried fish. The fact of the matter was that Jesus fled because his identity and mission was not linked to becoming the next political king. Jesus’ mission is God’s mission among the people and he carried that mission out through his actions and teaching. The sign for us is to remember that Jesus was not a new prophet like Moses. Jesus was God incarnate. The power of the God of Moses, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the Samaritan woman at the well - all reflected the power of Jesus the Messiah.

In our society, we find signs that identify the people sitting behind their desks in the office or in the classroom. Our bodies give us signs that something physical is happening. However, when we are not careful, we may miss the physical warning signs that may require immediate attention. We depend on economic indicators, traffic signs, news reports, and other signs and signals that give us critical information and direction everyday.

In l981, I traveled to Guatemala City to test out the experience of traveling outside of the States while I was contemplating volunteering for the Peace Corps. One day, I needed to cash some travelers checks at the local bank. I knew a little Spanish and I was eager to practice it. I stopped a man and asked him for directions. I was standing alongside a wooded area and according to the man, it appeared that all I needed to do was to walk around to the other side of the wooded area and I would see a yellow building.

I happily walked around the wooded area towards the building. The yellow building had a sign, El Banco de Sangre. I did not pay much attention to the rest of the words after seeing ‘El Banco.’ But to my surprise, the door was locked. I waited patiently for a staff person to arrive and noticed a woman walking hurriedly towards me. I pointed to my watch to ask what time the building would open for business. The woman smiled and turned my arm over and pointed to the inside of my wrist. She let me in and while she answered the phone, I noticed a couple of huge silver refrigerators and a centrifuge on the laboratory table. Have you already guessed where I was standing? I was in a blood bank! The woman and I laughed and laughed. When we composed ourselves, she led me around the corner to a small unimposing building and there I saw a large sign which read -The Bank of Guatemala City – in English! I had not read the first sign completely and had an entirely different expectation of what a bank should look like!

I suspect that one sign that is often overlooked in the feeding of the 5000 gathered for the approaching Passover celebration, is that Jesus - yes, Jesus meets the physical needs of the people. However, John’s Gospel more importantly, reminds us that we are called to be is the host of radical hospitality wherever we are just as Jesus was for the crowd who gathered as his guests. Jesus displays radical hospitality to all the people around him - both his supporters and his foes alike. It is written, that this radical hospitality is not a response to expectation, need, or demand but rather a response of grace and generosity as Jesus modeled the nature of God. (Synthesis, July 26, 2009). We are called to witness to others and remember the signs and miracles in our own lives as a response of God’s love and mercy. AMEN.
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