A MIRACLE! THAT’S IT! THAT’S WHAT WE NEED!
Things are going well here, or at least that is what it seems like to someone who has only been here for a short while. The number of folks seems to be holding at a steady level; sometimes with even a few more births than deaths. For a new comer, or for those who are only paying attention to the current times, things appear to be going, if not well, at least good enough.
It doesn’t take long though before the truth starts to interrupt this comfort zone with the reality that things aren’t going as well as they used to be or that things could be better. Talk of families who have left the area, talk of people who have drifted away, talk of how there once used to be many more services than just the current two each Sunday, and that the Monday evening bible study is what remains of a Monday night service; these come to the surface and present the truth of a slow, long drawn out decline from the good old days.
We need to do something!
We need a miracle! That’s it! We need a miracle!
The Gospels are full of miracles, and look what happens! Thousands of people come to at least see what is going on. The blind see; the lame walk; the deaf hear; illness is healed; lepers are cleansed (cleansed, not healed); water is turned into wine; even dead and stinking Lazarus is brought back out of the tomb; and the word spreads like wild fire, and the crowds come!
If we had a miracle, and let’s go for broke, if we had a miracle a day; just think of the possibilities!
The property team would be scrambling to put in large screens everywhere, even out in the parking lots – upper and lower.
There would be bleacher seats encroaching on the cemetery to hold the crowds that would come.
Our treasurer, Mark, he would not have to do so much magic to make the budgets work. The new headache would be how to spend all the new income from the crowds in responsible ways.
Why, we might even have to elevate the highway in front of the church so exit ramps from both directions could be installed to ease the flow of traffic into and out of Mt. Hermon.
If we only could have a Mt. Hermon miracle a day (even just one once in a while) all our problems could be solved and we could have things like they used to be.
You know the answer to that is not ‘right’, but ‘wrong’!
Let’s take a quick look at what we just heard me say. Where did Jesus go? We had crowds. We had finances taken care of. We even envisioned taking care of the traffic burden. But it seems like Jesus left the building.
Then let’s look at these things called miracles in the Synoptic Gospels, but what John prefers to call signs. And in one aspect, the feeding the five thousand (mentioned in all four Gospels, the only miracle that has that distinction) really is a sign, in that the religious scholars of the day, either missed it, or chose to ignore it. After all, as the Monday night bible study group read, not too long ago, this is very similar to a miraculous feeding in Isaiah and even further back when Moses lead the exodus out of Egypt. A sign that was missed as they merrily speed away from The Son of God, with only a few being bold enough to make that turn around and come back – a basic act of repentance. A sign we too might easily have missed, but can see with our perfect hindsight.
What exactly is a miracle? It is a surprising and welcome, highly improbable or extraordinary event, development, or accomplishment that brings consequences from ordinary object or events that seem to defy the common laws of nature or of science. These miracles defy our ‘THIS’ and leads us to God’s gift to us of ‘MUCH MORE THAN THIS’. “A sign is something that points to a reality beyond itself …a crack open[ing] heaven just a bit to give earth-bound people a glimpse of Godly truths”
There is something to notice about all these miracles, wonders; signs, since the pericope is from John’s version of the Gospel. All use common objects and items close at hand. All are done with direct intention, with direct personal action of Jesus. All are done to bring an end of a suffering of any form, a return to wholeness and happiness. They are all done to allow the desire of God to bring the creation back to its original plan, pointing to the Christ as the example to bring total reconciliation to all creation.
It also appears that these signs happen when credit isn’t claimed by anyone else. I find it telling that the, I guess you could call him the hero of the feeding of the five thousand – because he shared his five loaves and two fish, is only called a little boy. While the chosen disciples of Jesus, who both miss the mark to one degree or another, are called out by name for all eternity. (It is passages like these that make me smile to myself as I recall a seminarian referring to the 12 as the 12 stooges, constantly getting it wrong, and having to be corrected.)
There is good news in that miracles still happen! They happen all around us! We miss most of them, except the ones that are simply too big to ignore; just as Pastor Carrie explained a few weeks ago, how we also miss the opportunities of grace that are always present for us to choose when we aren’t too busy puffing ourselves up, taking care of our ego.
We can even make miracles happen, but the formula is exacting, a deviation from it and the opposite reaction from what we desire will most likely take place. It requires us to move beyond our personal relationship with God, and share it.
This idea of sharing our faith in Jesus is contrary to the most damaging concept most of us, and all of my parents generation, were taught; to keep our politics and especially our religion to ourselves. It is why our churches are either all white or all black (and why the ones who have figured this out are dynamic and alive). It is why denominations stand isolated from each other instead of working together to a common goal as different parts of the same body. It is the result of the secular worldview in total control over the sacred worldview; it is the result of the fallen world. Taken to the fullest conclusion, it will result in the end of religion as we know it.
“God is personal, but never private.” If we focus only on our personal relationship with God, our salvation, our atonement; chances are very likely that we will miss the full power of the possibility of justice in the world as it was to be according to God’s design; we miss the vision of justice at the heart of God’s kingdom; we are not hearing the words we pray at each service we attend, and at most if not all the meetings and classes we participate in: “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. “
Too often we are looking for the wrong Jesus, who will simply serve our programs, our desires, and our wishes. Jesus responded to the needs of the crowd and the disciples. Jesus is active, and Jesus is also simply present to those who don’t even realize the power of God’s transformation among us. How often is it that all someone needs is a simple reassurance that Jesus is present
What to do? We really need a miracle don’t we?
Jesus refuses to become a king on people’s terms of force and power. When those elements are present He withdraws, to a mountain, to get away. Jesus always opts instead for humility. And he taught us how to also opt for humility when we were instructed to “Love your neighbor as yourself”
If we are willing to truly share the Love that we have from our God with others; if we are truly willing to receive the love others offer to us as their expression of understanding the love they have received from God, then, and only then will we have peace, and then, and only then can we expect our unnamed actions to produce the miracles the world needs today.
When we are willing to see all the grace around us, when we are willing to let go of our selfishness, when we are truly ready to be servants –unnamed, then and only then will the chaos of our world, our “THIS”, be calmed and will we will begin to experience the rest of the creation. Once we are in tune with the full mission of God’s Kingdom, then Jesus will be back in the building, and we will have arrived.
When we move toward that crack that allows us to see the true Kingdom of God, then we are able to do the service tasks that we normally wouldn’t do. When we allow these signs to guide our focus to our true relationship with God, and our true purpose in this broken world, even to the endangerment of our lives, then we will rejoice over people like Pastor Mauricio and Dena, his wife; and also Mary Glover; and all the rest of God’s people going about bringing “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. “ about.
Pastor Mauricio and Dena, his wife, are equally committed to sharing Christ in dangerous areas. “We like expanding the kingdom because sharing the gospel is not an option — it’s a command,” she said. “And He said to share the gospel to every creature.” They both know when they go out to share the Gospel and to preach, it could be the last time see each other alive. Yet they are convinced that the Lord has called them to minister in a Colombian red zone — together.
Mary Glover volunteers at a soup kitchen in Washington, DC. Her prayer at the beginning of their service time, just before the doors are opened, at the last pep-talk with the others is, “Lord, we know you’ll be coming through this line today; so help us to treat you well.”
For when we are servants like these, we will be able to hear the words, “ I am here [The “I am” has come to be with us and bring us to the goal God has intended.], you have nothing to fear.” It is then that our little bit can be transformed by Jesus into more-than-enough, and it is then that we will be able to know the miracles that surround us and are presented to us to participate in each day.
Steven preached this at Mt. Hermon Lutheran Church in Concord, NC. Used with permission. © Steven Stillwell, July 29, 2018. All Rights Reserved.