The following was intended for the parish pew-sheet/newsletter, but it seems our interregnum now that he has 'arrived' will be picking up the task. I managed to get similar articles, my reflections on the Gospel of the day, in for each of the last three Sundays. but it seems my run is over. I didn't want to waste this one so I'm posting it here in the hope that someone may see it.
I found the following in an article on poetry (link below)… T.S. Eliot, who, when asked to interpret the line “Lady, three white leopards sat under a juniper tree in the cool of the day…” from his poem “Ash Wednesday,” responded, “It means ‘Lady, three white leopards sat under a juniper tree in the cool of the day.’ ”
If we were able to question Matthew, writer of the first Gospel we encounter in our Bibles, to interpret the line ‘during the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake’ (Matt 14:25), would he, do you suppose, take a leaf from Eliot’s book and say “it means, ‘during the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake’”. We can come up with rational explanations for the ‘Feeding of the Five Thousand” – the boy (who Matthew does not mention, though John does) prepared as he was to share his five pita breads and two salted fish, shamed everyone else who had food with them into sharing what they had and hey!, miracle of miracles, everyone had plenty.
There is no possibility of the same order of rational explanation for Jesus miraculous walking on the water. There were no convenient sand bars (Robert has a joke he will share with you on ‘walking on water’ and ‘sand bars’) nor were there special flotation devices, obliging dolphins, nor helicopters that Jesus might have hung beneath on an invisible wire. And Weta Workshop was still a couple of thousand years away!
So what do we do with this section of the narrative. Surely we can’t take it literally - or can we? What are the alternatives? This man, this Son of God, (so the story says) goes on to heal many sick people, feed another large crowd from equally meagre resources, raise Lazarus from the dead and eventually is raised from the dead himself. If Christ be not raised from the dead” says Paul, “our faith is in vain” (I’m quoting from a sometimes faulty memory here, one that grew up a Pentecostal and with the King James Version of the Bible).
I’m resolved not to be an unthinking and reactionary literalist in my approach to scripture, but sometimes, it seems to me, the principle of Occam’s Razor – the principle, put simply, that the simplest explanation is usually the right one, might be applied to some of the miracles in the Gospel. Any other ‘rational’ explanation has got to be ridiculously complicated, surely? But I’m a poet of sorts, one who sees the proof for God’s existence and the possibility of the miraculous every time I take a shiny, beautiful red capsicum in my hand to cut it into my chicken stir-fry.
Think about it all and get back to me.
Poets and lovers of poetry go here: