It’s a Miracle! It’s a Miracle?

The first, and most famous, church potluck was unleashed…

Only one miracle—count ‘em, one—occurred in each of the four Gospels.

Matthew. Mark. Luke. John. You do your own laborious Biblical research, but you’ll come to the same conclusion as me (and everyone else). Only the feeding of the crowd has parallels in all four Gospels.

Was the feeding a miracle?

Answer A: We don’t know. The Gospels are not neutral, facts-only-ma’am history books. The accounts were biased and written two or three generations after Jesus’ ministry. That’s like me giving details about my grandfather’s childhood. We have no idea what happened.

Answer B: It’s completely true. After all, darn it, this is the Bible! If it’s in the holy scriptures, then every sacred, infallible word explains all that’s necessary. ‘Nuff said.

I live between those two answers. And I have an imagination. Continue reading →


John 2:1-11 – 2nd Sunday after the Epiphany – for January 20, 2013

“Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding…” (John 2:2)

I flip to page 116 of my trusty 2002 edition of the United Methodist Book of Worship and read from a section entitled Christian Marriage I:

With his presence and power Jesus graced a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and in his sacrificial love gave us the example for the love of husband and wife.

Like my church’s Book of Worship, most Christian denominations reference Jesus’ attendance at a wedding in Cana with the formal words celebrating the bonds of marriage.

The first marriage I conducted after ordination occurred in a living room, with a few family members serving as witnesses, and two teenagers declaring, “I do.” I don’t recall, in that simple ceremony between a fireplace and sofa, if I referenced Cana in Galilee while the teens laced hands together and made lifetime promises. But I know they were divorced a few years later. They married too young, but had to get hitched. No, the bride wasn’t pregnant, but both bride and groom claimed to be head over heels in love. Sigh. The parents near the sofa didn’t approve, but those same parents dreaded the notion of their children eloping and maybe losing contact with them for years.

Maybe things would’ve gone better if it had been an arranged marriage?

In Jesus’ time, an arranged marriage was the norm. Though the Gospel of John doesn’t say so, I’m confident the wedding Jesus and his disciples attended had been set up by the bride and groom’s parents. Were the two who got hitched at the Cana wedding in love? Maybe, maybe not. In those days, women were property. In those days, whether rich or poor, the families of the betrothed settled down to strike a business deal before “I do” was ever happily whispered or reluctantly muttered. Maybe they were in love, maybe they would eventually fall in love, but certainly they stood next to each other—as the wine ran out, as the guests milled about, as Jesus chatted with his disciples, as Mary the mother of Jesus fretted about her son and the vanishing vino—having little choice in the matter of matrimony.

I would bet—again the Bible doesn’t mention this—they were also teens like my first wedding. Just two kids. And, in the Gospel, the writer of John doesn’t give the reader a glimpse of the ceremony. The second chapter of the Gospel wasn’t overly interested in marriage or families or setting or ritual. This is a miracle story, the first of seven miracles chronicled in the twenty-one chapters of the fourth Gospel. Just like my Book of Worship declared, “with his presence and power” Jesus transformed well water into some darn fine Cabernet Sauvignon. Okay, it likely wasn’t a French varietal, but still, according to the chief steward in John 2:10, it was “good wine.”

Cheers! À la vôtre! L’chaim!

Other miracles would follow in dear John’s tale, seven all told, from healings to feedings to walking on water. How nicely they are arranged in the fourth Gospel! Continue reading →

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.