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Material and Spiritual United

9 Pentecost

We leave Mark to hear John’s account of Jesus feeding the 5,000. The collect for the day contains the petition that “we may so pass through things temporal that we lose not the things eternal.”

Those 5,000 people had a very practical “temporal” problem. They were hungry. They had left their villages and homes and raced around the lake to be with Jesus, to be healed and instructed — although healing was probably higher on their agenda than being taught.

By the time Christians began to hear John’s gospel, this event was long in the past. Looking back at gospel lessons, we find it easy to “spiritualize” the mighty acts of Jesus. It’s good for us to return to the obvious. The people were hungry. They were fed. How they were fed was extraordinary, miraculous, and therefore, to our modern minds, distinctly odd. How on earth, or even heaven, may 5,000 people be fed by half a loaf of bread and a can’s worth of sardines? So we resort to metaphor. It’s easy to do because John will go on to recount Jesus’ teaching on his being the Bread of Life. The gospel has to be read as a whole, and so we too must see the connections of the miracle, the teaching, and the Eucharist in which we are fed and transformed by a crumb of bread and a sip of wine.

First reading and psalm: 2 Sam. 11:1-15Ps. 14
Alternate: 2 Kgs. 4:42-44Ps. 145:10-19
Eph. 3:14-21John 6:1-21

Jesus fed. In his taking care of the physical needs of the crowd, that which will be normal in the kingdom breaks into our world and we are amazed. Even the disciples were amazed. It is important for us to realize that in this miracle the material and the spiritual are one. There’s no distinction. When we attempt to separate the two we get into trouble. People who attempt to be spiritual without being religious end up with neither. Christianity is not about saving souls but about the redemption, the putting right, of “ourselves, our souls, and bodies” and of the world. When we feed the poor we are being sacramental. When we receive Holy Communion we are being material. Passing through things temporal involves the whole person and gaining things eternal will involve the whole person.

O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Look It Up
Read John 6.

Think About It
How does your physical well-being affect your spiritual life?

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