The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost — The Rev. Richard P. Limato

The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost: July 29, 2018

2 Samuel 11:1-15  |  Psalm 14
Ephesians 3:14-21  |  John 6:1-21

Preacher: The Rev. Richard P. Limato, Deacon of St. Michael’s Church

At the risk of having you cringe and think – what now? or glaze over from the overuse of this term.

The Breaking News

The Breaking News is actually the title of a book I recently read to the children attending the St. Ann’s summer program in the South Bronx.

The story helps the children, most of whom are children of immigrants; understand what they can do when they see the “grown-ups” distracted by the sadness of breaking news in their families, community or our nation.

If these times seem overwhelming to us, think of how much more difficult it is for children to process.

They seem to be growing up in a time and place where sad news abounds, where miracles don’t seem possible at all!

Today’s gospel challenges us to live beyond that feeling of hopelessness.

To consider that when we are often stripped of our hope, beaten down by sad cable news, or the latest alarming tweet, miracles do happen.

Albert Einstein said “there are only two ways to live your life, one as though nothing is a miracle, the other as if everthing is a miracle.”

It’s important for us to think about how we choose to live.

The common Hebrew word for miracle is “nes.” It translates as something that is raised up something that is elevated, something that occurs where and when we see God’s love clearly at work in our world.

Miracles elevate, they inform, they give new insights into the meaning of ordinary events. Miracles reveal God at work in our world. (Rabbi Shmary Brownsteing, chapbad.org.)

Yet, it can be so very hard to recognize God’s work around us when so much makes us feel powerless to act, and strips us of our hope.

I’m sure the same was true of the people sitting on the lawn that day when Jesus fed the 5000.

I’m sure the same was true when the terrified apostles saw Jesus walking along the water.

They were living in a dark time. There were so many reasons for them not to recognize the miracles in their midst. Oppression persisted, injustice reigned, mercy was hard to come by, hatred and suspicion of the other seemed to be the order of the day, they worried about their children’s future.

Sound familiar?

But Jesus shows that every now and then, cracks in the status quo, make life more hopeful.

The Gospels abound in miracles, light that shines through the cracks.

In today’s Gospel, the Gospel writer documents two of the most familiar miracles, Jesus feeding the 5000 and Jesus walking across the water.

We sometimes fail to believe in miracles.

Miracles sometimes fail to impress our enlightened minds. We tend to dismiss them or to explain them away.

We let them reinforce doubt.

We let them feed our growing skepticism.

Perhaps, instead of Jesus performing a miracle, the boy with the five barley loaves and two fishes encouraged all to share what they had with others.

Perhaps, Jesus walking across the water is less a miracle tale of his power over creation, the real miracle is more about easing his disciples’ anxiety.

Now there is some truth in not solely basing the significance of Jesus on wonders and signs.

There is more important truth in not letting skeptics rob us of hope, convince us that light cannot break through the cracks that miracles never happen.

People who live skeptically fail to experience the extraordinary happening within the ordinary.

They fail to recognize the wonder of divine grace.

They deprive themselves of witness to the wonder of life.

They limit their reach.

They live a transactional life; focusing on routines, satisfying personal needs, failing to dream beyond the present because surviving challenges of life becomes more important.

Living a transactional life limits our reach; it prevents us from being a prophetic voice, from heralding God’s glory, from bringing God’s consolation, mercy and justice into our world.

A transactional life is expressed in skepticism like the disciple Philip; “Six months wages would not buy enough food for them to get a little.”

A transactional life is expressed as questions like the one asked by the Apostle Andrew, “What are five barley loaves and two fishes among so many people?”

We shrug our shoulders in the face of overwhelming need and few resources.

We become fatigued with the daily bursts of sad news, we fail to see, hear and respond to the breaking news.

We find ourselves doing business as usual, rather than seeking transformational, life changing solutions.

We find ourselves in a place of despair, where light fails to break through the cracks.

This is true for us and it is also true for the church.

Today’s gospel tells us otherwise.

Today’s gospel reveals a transformational Christ revealing how to be transformational Christians.

The gospel reveals how to engage in life changing action, to create opportunities for miracles to happen, for God’s reign to break forth into our world.

The gospel reveals that love’s actions multiply meager resources and brings comfort.

Love’s actions instill hope.

Love’s actions lead us to incarnate God.

In today’s Gospel Jesus reveals how to prepare for transformational ministry.

He understands that the darkness will persist; the needy will continue to beckon and to follow.

He knows that the tasks are daunting.

Yet, Jesus prepares and fortifies himself. He withdraws to the mountain top to pray and to reflect on his ministry.

We must to the same.

Introspection helps us to remain faithful to Christ’s desire for each one of us

To discern how we can create miracles through transformational Christian action.

Introspection and prayer helps us to believe that miracles are possible, that ordinary acts morph into the extraordinary.

At the opening of our general convention, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry invited us to follow the way of Jesus.

He invites us to intentional prayer and reflection.

To engage in practices that lead to a Jesus centered life; practices that lead the church to a new era of spiritual life, practices that enable us to be the light shining through the cracks of despair.

He welcomes us:

To turn: to pause and to listen, to hear what God is saying to us.

To learn: to study Jesus by reflecting on scripture.

To pray: to spend time with God in intentional prayer and reflection.

To worship: to gather and live in community.

To bless: to live our faith in Christian service to others.

In the book The Breaking News the children learn that small acts are within their reach, small childhood acts like watering the plants, playing with a younger sibling, helping to clean, walking the dog, are transformational, that everything good brings light even when the breaking news continues to be so very sad.

Today’s gospel asks us if we are ready to go beyond our comfort zone, to multiply the resources, to ease the anxiety, to create miracles of our own, to offer our wonder-filled responses to a world that yearns for transformation.

To consider how our work together will be transformed when we deliberately choose to follow Jesus’ example.

To consider how our lives will be transformed when we deliberately chose to reveal God’s power through our individual and collective ministries.

Jesus acts in this gospel and he reveals that ministry is the revelation of God’s grace among us.

That ministry beckons prophets willing to transform a world bearing God’s hope and comfort to a world that waits for us to act.

This is what living our Christian faith and living in community is all about.

To travel paths we haven’t had the courage to journey down before, to find ways to imitate Jesus’s acts of love, to make miracles happen.

That, my friends, is the real breaking news.