Redefining Possibilities

John 6:1-15
Ordinary Time
Elizabeth M. Deibert

My four grandparents all died before Apollo 11 went to the Moon. I’m sure they would have considered it impossible. Not to mention the impossibility in their minds of talking to someone on a cell phone or sending an email or doing research via internet. Even in the two decades of my adulthood, technology has changed everything in communications. I remember how wonderful it was when I had toddlers that the cordless phone was invented.

I remember struggling to write papers in college because of the write and scratch it out and erase with a pencil method. It was so frustrating. What an amazing thing it was to have a word processor with a delete button, a backspace, with cut and paste so you could move your paragraphs around, with a save and a print button. It redefined writing for me, because no longer did I have to be sure, I could just got with the flow and fix it later.

When Richard and I went to England the first time, we had no telephone in our seminary apartment. So we went to a pay phone every Sunday night to wait for calls from our parents in the US. There was a delay in the phone, which interrupted the flow of conversation. When we returned twelve years later, trans-Atlantic conversations were like speaking to a next door neighbor, and there was email too. When Emily flies to England tomorrow night, she will have a fairly inexpensive cell phone with a virtual US number so we can talk as she moves from England to France to Switzerland to Italy to Greece. Then too, she’ll have Skype,
so we can both see her and talk to her via the internet. Impossible that so much has changed in the last twenty years in communications.

If we human beings, created in the image of God can invent such marvels, dare we say miracles as this, in the short span of a twenty years, just imagine what God can do. In fact, our epistle lesson says God’s power is at work in us to accomplish amazing things. Ephesians 3:20, which we will read as our call to discipleship later in the service says this: Now to God, who by the power at work in us, is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to God be the glory... God can accomplish not far more, but ABUNDANTLY far more than we can ask or imagine. This God is amazing. This God can redefine what is possible in your life. This God is the one who came as Jesus Christ and demonstrated such power by turning a boy’s lunch into a feast for 5000. Hear now that story, and be amazed again.

(Read text)

Just to remind us of the 1st Century context: There were no refrigerators and no pantries filled with canned, bagged, and boxed foods. People often drank wine because it was cleaner than water. It goes without saying there was no fast food of any type. Getting food to eat was no small matter. That’s why it was a crisis to have 5000 hungry people on the side of the mountain. And Passover was near, and it just wasn’t right for people to go hungry that day. And perhaps it still is not right for people to go hungry when if we’d just listen to Jesus, there is enough, enough for the masses. There’s enough healthcare too, enough for everyone. We just need to find a way to share the cost of it, so everyone gets what they need.

Now Jesus, who had a plan, asked Philip, “Where will we buy bread for these people to eat?” Philip gives the rational answer. I’ve heard the same rational answer given in many church meetings by sensible people like Philip. It would take an impossible amount of money to accomplish that. But Jesus knew what he was planning. He asked the question to test Philip. Andrew, who had a bit more imagination than Philip, said, “Well here’s what we have. Five loaves and two fish from the adolescent boy who thought he had an ample meal for himself and perhaps one or two others. ” Now whether you’re from an African village or from a melting pot culture like ours, you know that five loaves and two fish are not enough. But Jesus says, “Tell the people to sit down.” And Jesus breaks the loaves and does the impossible.

Jesus was always doing the impossible at mealtime. He turned water into wine. He shared meals with impossible mixes of people. It might not matter whom you sit with to eat these days, but it did in Jesus’ day. And how could Jesus tell Martha, the one providing the meal, that she should just rest and listen like Mary? Who was providing the food, Jesus? Impractical man. But he fed 5000 with two fish and five loaves, so I guess he could have thrown something together for Martha and Mary and their household. He managed to catch a bunch of fish when there were no fish at all. He believed in throwing a veritable feast for the irresponsible son, who threw all his money away in wasteful living, but then decided to go home.

Jesus did impossible things at mealtime. He broke bread and said it was his body and that the wine was his blood. He said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” So how is it that a little piece of bread and a sip of wine or grape juice have the power to fill us completely?

The church has sadly divided itself over trying to explain with rational thought the impossible to understand reality of Christ’s real presence in the communion meal. Instead of arguing over interpretations of words, we should have just been weekly sharing the meal all Christians together, being filled with all the fullness of God.

Our Ephesians passage speaks of being filled with all the fullness of God, as we know the love of Christ that surpasses all knowledge. Surpassing knowledge. That what feasting with Jesus is all about – surpassing knowledge, being filled full of the love of God. And when we are filled full of the love of God, the possibilities are endless.

We are tested like Philip to define what is possible, and then Jesus, who knows what he’s planning to do, supercedes the possible with the impossible. Is it possible for someone with lung cancer to live the remaining life full of abundant joy – yes, when the possibilities are redefined. Is it possible for a teenager who feels misunderstood by parents and out of step with friends, to be at peace in her soul? Yes, when the possibilities are reshaped by Jesus’ love. Is it possible for burned out, stressed out, worn out parents of preschoolers to find any time to get energized again? Yes, when possibilities are defined by the Creator of those parents and preschoolers.

Is it possible for the unemployed to be sustained financially in these economically turbulent times? Yes, when the possibilities are redefined by the Lord of life, who said “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear.” It seems strange to say this, but I am worrying less about our finances now than I was before Richard’s job loss. Back when he was still employed, I thought we were in control. Now our situation is such that I am constantly reminded that I cannot control it, that I must rest my anxieties with God and live one day at a time with gratitude. I know God has a plan, like Jesus had a plan to feed all those people, and that we are simply being tested like Philip.

Is it possible for you with your hidden struggle, your addiction, your insecurity, your secret, your depression, your doubt, to move forward with healing, strength, and confidence? Yes, possibilities redefined by God. Is it possible to find some way through to a new medical system which controls costs and provides excellent health care to a broader spectrum of society? Only when possibilities are redefined by the spiritual compassion that is God, not by the greed of the marketplace.

Is it possible to have growth in a new church in a denomination just learning to do evangelism instead of despairing over membership decline? Is it possible to have develop new church with no building in a suburb filled with upscale housing? Can you grow a new church when you’re daring to blend traditional and contemporary worship enough to stretch many beyond their comfort zones? Can you sustain a new church determined to give away 20% of budget even in a recession? Is it possible for such a new church to thrive? Yes, when the possibilities are redefined by the Lord of life who makes the loaves abound.

That little bit of bread and juice is enough to transform us, to fill us up with the fullness of God’s love. And that love which fills us is enough to spread around and still have twelve baskets full. I cannot explain it, just like I cannot explain how Skype will work to help us talk to and see Emily half way around the world? We don’t have to explain how it works. We just need to marvel in it and give thanks for it and enjoy it. That’s the way it is with faith in the miracles of Jesus too. You don’t need to explain how they could have happened. Just revel in the possibilities that are ours when we believe that Jesus lives again and Earth can breathe again. Know that God can accomplish abundantly far more than we can ask or imagine. Pass the Word around. Loaves abound.