L is for . . .

Literal or Literary (and a smidgen about Transfiguration for that upcoming Sunday)

I confess…I hesitate about taking miracles literally. Jesus lived in a “pre-scientific” world. If something couldn’t be explained, it was labeled a miracle. Additionally, others beside Jesus were considered “miracle workers.”

And, literarily speaking, many of Jesus’ miracles were parallels with the Jewish/Hebrew literature. Manna from heaven fed Moses and the Israelites in the wilderness. Of course the Gospel writers wanted Jesus to have a “miraculous” feeding, also in the wilderness, also with a group of people.

Or this . . . Jesus was transfigured on the mountaintop. Moses (yes, him again) and Elijah make a token appearance. As Jesus’ face glows, isn’t this really a literary reference to Moses the lawgiver after he’s been in the Holy presence? Once, after being “exposed” to Holy, Moses’ skin glowed. It was enough to cause the Israelites to request that the old lawgiver veil his face. Jesus and Moses demonstrated that even sunscreen with a high SPF won’t matter if you hang around God.

I’m cynical, wary and a skeptic. Yup, that’s me.

Still, in literal or literary way, I’m thankful for the presence of the miracles. I am more “comfortable” imagining the feeding of the five thousand was about people sharing food or that Jesus’ bright face was another variation of the faithful storyteller’s belief that light overcomes darkness or . . .

But just a bit of me, skeptic that I am, ignores rational explanations and remembers: not everything can be explained. That unsettles me. Miracles unsettle me . . . they are a Holy rug yanked from under my self-assured, logical legs. And that feeling is sometimes where and how my faith is best nurtured.

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  1. Here’s a question for you. What does it mean to “believe in” a metaphor? Open up your William James /C. S. Peirce gospel on pragmatism and recite after me: Belief means how we act differently because of our belief in that statement. How do we act differently because we believe in the Transfiguration?

    1. I’ll be cantankerous and have you answer first . . . do you act/belief differently if the Transfiguration is treated as metaphor compared to, say, a “fact” or a “shared memory of faith?”

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