The stories of prophets like Moses and Jeremiah put words and images to spiritual, transcendent encounters with the holy, that call people out of themselves to live for something more: more faith, more hope, more love. We may not recognize our own spiritual journeys in these larger-than- life tales, but the sense of feeling that God is on our side and that God is present to us in extraordinary ways is something we might well relate to. At least, we can be open to such feelings and encounters. If we only bring our
rational minds to the faith, we might miss whole dimensions of God’s call on our lives. We can develop our peripheral vision and keep watch for the glimpses of God that will surprise and energise us.
In our journeying this week we are challenged to look for signs that God is at work in the world at large and within our own small sphere of experience
Is there a more confusing situation than the one between Jesus and the Canaanite woman whose daughter was in need of healing? There are so many parts to the story.
First we have Jesus’ confession that he was sent only to the ‘lost sheep of the house of IsraeI’. Then we have the seeming lack of compassion shown, first the disciples and then by Jesus. This followed by the interaction between Jesus and the woman, an act totally unbecoming of a Rabbi and finally the woman’s ability to get the upper hand over Jesus and the regard of her faith in the healing of the child
It would be easy to retreat into matters of Matthew’s community coming to terms with gentiles, but it may be more. It is easy to forget the humanity of Jesus, to underscore this tiredness with the crowds and the noise and the demands. Did Jesus learn something about the ways of God that day? Perhaps, but the point is clear. Faith matters.
In the hands of God faith can do amazing things.
You have to like Peter. He hangs out with the best people. Given half a chance, he’ll have a go at anything. Even when he blunders into the worst mistakes, you still have to love and forgive him, even if you are Jesus. When Jesus walked on the water, he thought, ‘I’d like to try that.’ Like a would–be water skier, it didn’t go so well, actually.
And aren’t we all glad. Just imagine if he had succeeded. Instead of the sacrament of Holy Communion, we might have had the holy sacrament of walking on water! Now that will test your faith, I wonder when Jesus reached out to Peter as he swiftly sank whether he might not have had a bit of a chuckle – you know that chuckle a father has when a four year old days the can fun faster and jump higher. This is a great story. It reminds us it is okay to have a go. It reminds us it is okay to fail. It reminds us the Jesus will not let us go. And it reminds us that the best is yet to be as we journey with Jesus.
This week the lectionary includes the story of Jacob wrestling with God and losing (yet also winning). This is paired with Jesus feeding the five thousand, a text many have wrestled with. Explanations of this miracle abound, ranging from ‘pure’ miracle to the miracle of sharing as others contributed to the needs of others. What is important is no so much the way in which the miracle occurs, but what it symbolises. Here we see generosity unbound and the great crowd in a deserted placed is provided for. God’s surprising grace shows up again in the most unlikely of places. This is the character of Jesus’ ministry and life. He shows up, announces the Kingdom of God, and then it quickly appears in both spiritual and physical ways. This is the real miracle of the Gospel.