Living in Mystery

Living in Mystery

August 6th, 2017


Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. 15When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.’ 16Jesus said to them, ‘They need not go away; you give them something to eat.’ 17They replied, ‘We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.’ 18And he said, ‘Bring them here to me.’ 19Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. 21And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.


In certain respects, I miss the radio days before television.  Radio called us to use our imaginations to see the Lone Ranger and Tonto galloping across the plains.  And if that wasn’t sufficient mystery, there were the mystery shows.  “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?  The Shadow knows.”  I could never figure out how the Shadow managed always to keep out of sight.  It was a mystery, and I love a mystery.

So I wonder how Jesus did this thing with the loaves and fishes.  At what point did it become apparent that there was enough food to feed 5,000 people?  I’m reminded of Elijah who caused a bottomless supply of flour in the widow’s pantry.  How is this done?

Last month my daughter and three grandsons came to stay with us for a week.  I went to the grocery store every day that week.  I could have used some multiplying loaves and fishes.

To say that this feeding of five thousand is a mystery explains nothing.  You and I want an explanation.  A century ago scholars tried to explain this miracle.  Everyone in the crowd had a lunch hidden under their robes but they were afraid to bring out their lunch because they might have to share. When Jesus began to share the loaves and fish, everyone took courage and brought out their lunch.

I don’t know about you.  I prefer the mystery.  I love a mystery.  And I want to encourage you to make a place for mystery in your life.

Make room for mystery in your life because the truth is, life is full of mystery.  Ask the physicist who is trying to figure out quantum mechanics and action at a distance.  Or black holes.  Or string theory.

Of course, the physicist is trying to explain these things and he won’t be satisfied with letting them be a mystery.  But what physicists in general have found is that every time they solve one mystery a dozen more pop up.

While the physicist is trying to figure how the universe functions as it does, Christians are interested in “Why?”  Why are we here?  To what end do you and I exist on this earth with its Eden-like ability to sustain life?  And then . . .

When it comes to God, when it comes to Jesus, when it comes to the compassion that motivated Jesus to feed 5,000 people—well, Christians must know that we are immersed in a great mystery beyond anything the physicist will ever explain.

It is not up to you and me to clear up the mystery.  Our job is to make the mystery clear.  It is for you and me to point out that there is more going on in this world than the eye can see.  There is a mysterious movement in the universe beyond sight and sound.

I love a mystery.  Lately Leah and I have become fans of Louise Penney.  She writes wonderful mystery stories.  She seems to have a sense of the mystery of life that remains a mystery even as her stories reveal answers to the mystery at hand.

Have you noticed that the mystery is never cleared up until the end of the book?  That’s how it is with our life together.  Your life is a book in which the mystery will not be revealed until the end.

When someone asks me if I am a Christian, I feel like I’m asked to write the review of my own book.  And the book isn’t over yet.

I don’t know about you, but as much as I anticipate that final revelation, I am quite willing to wait.

Or consider the person sitting next to you.  A spouse, a friend, your family.  What do you really know about that person?  Do you know their deepest desire, their greatest fear, the great longing that struggles within them?  And even if you been with that person for fifty years, don’t they occasionally say or do something that reminds you that they still have some surprises for you?  If you love that person, you love a mystery.

Our tradition holds that when we celebrate the sacrament of Holy Communion, our Lord Jesus Christ is with us, his real presence in this room, in this celebration.  I firmly believe it and at times have experienced it.  I can’t explain it.  It’s a mystery.

God is a mystery.  Jesus is a mystery.  And I love a mystery!  Don’t you?

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