Forming Faith Blog

Magic, Miracles & Mass-Energy (Feb. 24, 2019)

God’s Power

This week continues the theme of God’s Power with a look at two of Jesus’ miracles. Last week, we discussed the upside-down power of the kingdom as expressed through parables. Next week, we will look at God’s power in the transfiguration.

Superpowers and Magic

I must admit that I’m a science fiction and fantasy geek. Many of my favorite movies, television shows, and books are sci-fi/fantasy, specifically about superheroes and/or magic. I find these to be fun and exciting. Since I was a kid, I’ve thought about what I would do if I suddenly got magic or superpowers (be a hero, of course) and what my adventures would be like.

Conservation of Mass-Energy

However, as much as I enjoy stories in this genre, I know firmly they are fiction. It even bugs me to an amusingly small degree how writers play fast and loose with the laws of physics (I’m a science nerd, too). The easiest to see is the Law of the Conservation of Mass-Energy. Basically, this means that energy and matter (which we know are related thanks to Albert Einstein’s E=mc2) can change around but cannot be created or destroyed. So, if I’m going to shoot energy beams out of my eyes or magic up a chair to sit on, that energy must come from somewhere. But, it’s fiction, so it’s all for fun.

Miracles and Mass-Energy

Theologically, there is a major difference between superpowers/magic and miracles. But, from an outside perspective, they aren’t that different after all. Jesus defies gravity and change the properties of a liquid when he walks on water. He creates a LOT of food out of nothing. Just to play with some numbers, if there were 6,000 people (5,000 men and 1,000 women and children), and each received 50 g of bread and 50 g of fish, then that’s 600,000 g/600 kg/1,300 lbs/0.67 tons. If we’re going to use a Star Trek food replicator to directly convert energy to food, we would need the energy equivalent of 12,000 megatons of TNT. That’s a lot.

Skepticism and Miracles

In the mind of a skeptic, the miracles of Jesus can sound as much like fantasy as Superman and Harry Potter. For those who believe the miracle stories to be factual (or thereabouts), the explanation is easy: The God who created the universe can find a measly 12,000 megatons of energy somewhere in the universe and convert that into bread and fish (or any other method).

Meaning and Miracles

The truth is that each side (to oversimplify) approaches these stories with their conclusions already decided. One “knows” that they are impossible, and the other “knows” that they are historical. Given a secular culture, this is a real problem. However, no matter your beliefs about miracles, one question that both (all) sides can approach these stories with is: What does this miracle communicate about Jesus? In these two stories, Jesus demonstrates that in the kingdom of heaven there is abundance, and all are cared for. The Messiah (King) doesn’t just rule over people’s thoughts, but over all of creation. Jesus brings calm to frightening circumstances.

Teaching God’s Power Today

As you are teaching children, youth, and adults about the feeding of the five thousand and Jesus walking on water, you could focus on whether these happened or not (alienating one side or the other). Or, you can teach the stories and what they tell us about God, Jesus, and the kingdom of heaven.

Worshipping Jesus

Our Scripture passage ends with the disciples worshipping Jesus. That is also what our end should be this week and all weeks. Our free activity this week, “Pipe Cleaner Praises” comes from our Living the Word: Kids (PK-2nd) curriculum and it encourages participants to think about the wonders of God today, and to worship God with their own creativity. This activity can be done by any and all age groups with very little adaptation.

In Christ,

-Gregory Rawn (Publisher)

Lent is quickly approaching, so it’s time to order Spring Living the Word faith formation resources (covering Lent through Pentecost Sunday)! As soon as your payment is processed, you can download the materials immediately and start using them!

Year 2 (2019-2020) products have launched! Check out the announcement blog post for a special discount for readers of this blog. This promotion ends February 28th, so don’t wait too long!

For more great ideas on how to engage participants of all ages in the story of God’s love, check out our Living the Word series for elementary students, youth, adults, and intergenerational settings!

Be sure to download our free Narrative Lectionary 2018-2019 Planning Tool and Scope & Sequence. The 2019-2020 Planning Tool, NL Readings Overview, and Scope & Sequence are available to download, too!