I was away from home on a Sunday. We decided to go to a friend’s church we had attended before. I won’t name the church and details have been altered to stave off embarrassment…
The atmosphere was a mixture of comfort and “we mean well.” laced with the heady scent of “we’re trying to be relevant.” The music was a muted blend of choruses backed by a semi-conscious bass player and high-hat that was way too loud.
The text for the sermon was Mathew 14:13-21. The feeding of the 5,000. The children’s sermon was endearing. The children passed around to all of us a little paper cup-cake liner with two goldfish crackers and five oyster crackers. 5 loaves and two fishes. Cute right?
When the little ones trotted off to cut and paste class. I settled in for some exegesis of God’s word. I did not get it. I was prepared to endure a sermon about God doing miracles in my life. I was prepared to ignore that impoverished definition of a miracle. I was prepared for a whole lot of application and very little observation and interpretation….I was not prepared for a sermon that completely reversed the meaning of the text.
The minister looked familiar. She had been promoted from pianist to fill the spot left by the last minister. Her sermon attributed the miracle of Jesus manifesting food out of nothing just as God had done in the wilderness, to the generosity of people who saw the little boy’s sacrifice and decided to share with others the food they had brought…
The minister said “I like to think that what fed all of those people was when they saw the faith of that little boy who gave the five loaves and two fishes, they started sharing everything they had and this is what fed the multitude.”…I did some digging and apparently this is a popular interpretation….Some scholars refer to that particular explanation, which began circulating in the 19th century, as the “nice thought” interpretation…”
Is the reason for this travesty of exegesis simply a way to side-step the Jesus who is irritatingly divine with his supernatural hi-jinks? I wonder if there is something else going on….[A] Quaker theologian quotes another theologian: “The only miracle here is the triumph of the economics of sharing with the community of consumption over against the economics of autonomous consumption in the anonymous marketplace…”
And there it is. The real reason Jesus’ miracle ex nihilo is relegated to community action is that it becomes a parable about the evils of capitalism and the joys of socialism ….What could motivate someone to side step the miracle even if they don’t deny miracles out right? Why because what’s more important than what actually happened is what we can do with it. “I like to imagine.” is code for “My pet interpretation will serve my political ends.”