Physics and Miracles

Homily 423 – 8th Sunday APE
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
August 2, 2020
Epistle: (124) – 1 Corinthians 1:10-18
Gospel: (58) Matthew 14:14-22

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.

This morning we hear in the gospel one of two times Christ is recorded to have fed the multitudes. In this account, 5,000 men, along with women and children, were fed from five loaves and two fish.

And, twelve basketfuls were left over. One for each of the Apostles. Everyone ate and was satisfied. No one went away hungry.

There is a temptation today to perhaps dismiss the miracles of Christ, especially this one where food is multiplied. After all, we are modern people – if we can’t understand it, then we are taught not to believe it.

Now, on the surface, that seems absurd. There is so much I don’t understand. There are some in this room who understand so much about the world that I never will – scientists, scholars.

I’m fascinated by science. Particularly physics. The building blocks of the universe that God created. Energy and matter and how things move and change. I’m fascinated by it, but I don’t understand it.

My lack of understanding, though, doesn’t negate that what is known is known. There is a difference, subtle perhaps, between knowledge and theory.

One of the things complicating this pandemic is that individually many of us feel empowered to understand things for ourselves. Formerly, we followed the best knowledge of the experts in the field in question.

That understanding may or may not be the final answer, though. In physics, Newton was considered the absolute foundational truth – until Einstein came along. There were problems with Newtonian physics, and Einstein explained that difference.

That doesn’t mean that Newton’s observations were somehow invalid or not to be trusted. Only that our understanding had been deepened and enhanced.

OK, so what does that have to do with the pandemic or the feeding of the 5,000?

Well, our conclusions about the world in which we live should never be considered final. The world never changes – but our understanding of this world changes constantly.

Similarly, the truth that underlies the creation, that underlies the Scriptures, is also unchanging. God is unchanging. Unmoving even. Perfection cannot change, and cannot move.

Our understanding, though, can change. What Christ offers the disciples here is that change in understanding. The disciples were familiar with the concept of manna in the desert, and quail in the desert.

With that understanding, God fed Israel in the desert directly. It wasn’t through Moses or the leaders. It was unquestionably God.

Christ changes that understanding of feeding multitudes. The disciples ask Christ to send the people away to buy food. But Christ says something completely unexpected – “You feed them.”

The translation says the disciples replied, We only have here five loaves and two fish! My guess is that there was a tone of unbelieving, of an incredible request – somewhat sarcastically, even.

So, in a precursor to the Eucharist, Christ takes what is there, blesses it, and gives it to the disciples to give to the multitude. That is what we also will do – Christ commands me, like the Apostles, to feed the multitude.

So, the one loaf and the one cup we offer to Him, and He multiplies it for us. All of us. And through what we receive, we are satisfied – it is sufficient.

What we now can understand is that God feeding us directly isn’t the whole picture. God has now allowed us to understand that we can and should participate in this process.

He still blesses, He still multiplies – but we have a role to play. A role we can play, if we choose.

We see that here tangibly. In other miracles we see it also – last week, Christ told the ones seeking healing that “according to your faith, be healed.” We have a role to play.

Importantly, we don’t provide the power as it were. We become the conductor, the conduit, for the power. We have to provide the switch to allow the power to flow through us and through our actions.

Because when we give drink to the thirsty, and feed the hungry, and clothe the naked, and visit the imprisoned and the sick – God works through us, providing a miracle to the recipients of our giving.

That is why we have things to begin with – to share them with those that do not have them. St. Paul tells the church at Corinth this directly: In this present time, let your abundance make up for what others lack, so that their abundance also may become a supply for what you lack – that there may be equality. As it is written, “The one who gathered much had nothing left over, but the one who gathered little was not in need.” (2 Cor 8:14-15)

The part about “as it is written” is a quote about manna in the desert, by the way.

Whose manna will we be? Are we willing to understand that the things we hold are not for us, but for others?

God works through us. We offer everything – literally everything – out of our abundance. And we become the means by which miracles happen.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Glory to Jesus Christ!