Nothing for the journey

The abbot of the Buddhist monastery in Thailand where the coach of the Wild Boars football team - whose teenage members have just been rescued from a flooded cave - spent some years as a monk, was astonished and delighted by the outcome.  “Was it science or a miracle,” he asked.  “I don’t know!”  Does it matter?  It was a drama that held our gaze and the world was united in wonder, joy and gratitude at the success of the mission.

But the answer to the question – about science or a miracle – could be “both”.  It was certainly science but it was also a miracle.  We know what science is but what is a miracle?  Perhaps we are conditioned to think of it as a sort of magic; an act that defies the ordinary laws of nature. Gerhard Lohfinck, in “Jesus of Nazareth: What did he want? Who was he?” – a book I do not have access to at the moment, explores the notion of ‘miracle’.

What I understand him to say is: there comes a point where all our efforts can do nomore and we have to hand over the issue to God.  But what God does – or is unable to do – at that point is inextricably related to what we do – or don’t do.  God doesn’t do magic.  He can only act if there is a sign from us that we want him to act.  The prayers of millions across the globe supported those seals. I once went to my eye doctor for a review after an operation and he asked me how I felt. “Great”, I said, “I feel much better.”   “It’s your faith,” he said. “No!” I protested, “it was your skill.”  We had a minor argument.  But, again, we could say it was both.

Jesus couldn’t do a thing where he found no faith.  When he found even a shred of it – as with curious Zacchaeus up a tree – he could do something.  Human beings and God make for a powerful combination.  If we come with our five loaves and two fish to Jesus we can do wonders.  So a miracle is the take- off point where a person brings all their science, equipment, skill and their trust in God together.  Our contemporaries are good at the first three.  We have still some way to go to add the last.  The enigmatic words of today’s gospel – about taking nothing for the journey – are like a code pointing us in that direction.

15 July 2018                  Sunday 15 B

Amos 7:12-15                Ephesians1:3-14                      Mark 6:7-13

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  1. Andy Kadir-Buxton

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