This Sunday’s readings are filled with miraculous events: Elijah is assumed into heaven after parting the Jordan river, the psalmist writes of God’s presence turning the rock to a pool of water, and Jesus walks on top of a lake to his disciples’ boat. Since the seventeenth century there has been a tendency to take these stories in the scriptures as myth (meaningful but not historical) or metaphor (symbolizing some other truth). One argument for this is that we have little if any modern events that seem comparable to these. “If these things happened then, why don’t’ they happen now,” the argument goes.
Take a look at the reactions of biblical witnesses of these events:
[T]hey said, “The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha.” And they came to meet him and bowed to the ground before him. (2 Kings: 2:15).
“They all saw [Jesus walking on water] and were terrified….They were utterly astounded” (Mark 6:50–51).
These are not the reactions of unphased people. These are the reactions of people “utterly astounded” who are not used to such miracles any more than we are.
I think it is important when we encounter these events in the Bible that we don’t just breeze over them. They are ripe moments for encountering God. The Christian life is built both on studying scripture and praying into scripture. We are very good in our modern, scholarly culture, at studying. We find blogs and YouTube videos and maybe even buy books. I think ‘praying into’ scripture often boggles us. These miracles we read about today offer an entry point. They don’t easily lend themselves to study—which is why the modern world reduces them to metaphor and myth. They do lend themselves to awe. They are passages we can simply explore with our imagination as if we were present, focusing on the powerful presence of God in them. This imaginative meditation is a good start to praying alongside our study of the Bible.