Sermon July 26, 2015
“Showing Up for a Miracle”
I know that I frequently talk about spiritual practices, but I have to add showing up for miracles to the list this week. I think it’s a pretty essential practice. It is truly living as a person of faith to notice the miracles around us. I believe they are there all the time.
Anne Lamott has a book called Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers. I love her ability to speak the truth simply. Years ago, I was struck by the simplicity of the prayers she prayed most often: Help me, help me, help me and thank you, thank you, thank you. Probably many of us could say the same, but we try to be a bit more flowery with our language. We don’t want our prayers to seem too abrupt. Now she has added Wow to the list. I love that! How often do you find your breath taken away by beauty or an act of kindness that pierces your heart? Hourly? Daily? Weekly? Monthly? Or so long ago that you can’t remember? It’s a wonderful spiritual practice – find something every day to which there is only one response…awe. Perhaps you are stunned at the delicious monsoon rains that dash in and out bringing life to the earth or an act of kindness you witnessed on the street this week. At the end of the day, you can ask yourself, when did I experience awe today?
I think this is a practice for all ages. It is one we can do across generations. What if we help our children see the beauty of a baby bird learning to fly? Or we watch together for the first star to come out at night? What if we turn off all media and take time to see the world through their eyes? I want to ask my kids every day “What is the most awesome thing you saw today?” My hope is that it will have something to do with someone showing compassion or seeing a porcupine on the Bosque.
How is it that we are surrounded by miracles and we miss them? Louis CK is a comedian who says everything is amazing and nobody’s happy. He uses flying as an example…Someone complains, “It was the worst day of my life. First of all, we didn’t board for 20 minutes. Then they made us sit on the runway for 40 minutes.” Louis sarcastically responds “Oh really. What happened next? Did you fly through the air like a bird? Did you partake in the miracle of human flight? You are sitting in a chair in the sky!” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uEY58fiSK8E)
Do we have any idea how many miracles we encounter every day? Do we recognize the food that we eat as a miracle? There are so many steps for food to get to our table. Do we recognize human relationships as a miracle? Even when they are flawed and imperfect, it is miraculous to encounter other human beings and build a world together. We have the most amazing opportunities everyday. I threw some seeds in the ground a few months ago and watered a little. The first sunflower is opening up in my backyard. It’s a miracle!
The scripture today is the story of two miracles. The first, known as the feeding of the five thousand, is the only miracle story to appear in all four gospels. Clearly it is important. It calls us to suspend disbelief and allow ourselves to be awed by God’s capacity to feed our deepest hungers. We really do choose how we will be in the world. As Albert Einstein said, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” That takes some practice.
When we hear a story like 5,000 people being fed with five loaves and two fish, our immediate instinct is to look for an explanation. There are theories about what may have happened, but let’s be real here. There were 5,000 hungry people and no Pizza Hut nearby. Somehow they were fed. We can go with some of the theories about how it happened, but remember, “Just because you can explain it doesn't mean it's not still a miracle.” ― Terry Pratchett, Small Gods
Karen Marie Yust suggests that we imagine this scenario of five thousand hungry people in our church today. She said, we “might expect the [finance] committee to echo Philip’s money-management concern, pointing out that the congregation doesn’t take in enough revenue to support such a project. The outreach committee might reinforce Andrew’s position, stating that the congregation has earmarked only a small percentage of its income for mission giving and the proposed project’s needs far exceed the allocated amount…The building and grounds committee may assist with seating everyone on the lawn, although some might worry about the effects of this event on the property’s landscaping. It is likely that none of the committees would expect to participate in a miracle, as that is not what they signed on for.” (Feasting on the Word Year B, Volume 3, p. 284)
One of the miracles may be that the child saw the possibility in his few loaves of bread and fish and he offered them rather than tucking them away in fear. We need to listen to our children and honor the gifts that they bring to us. They ask questions that stop us up short. A family walking through a park saw several homeless people. When asked about it, the mom explained that they have no place to sleep and nothing to eat. The four year old asked his mom, “Why don’t we feed them?” We may make excuses, but children cut through those to the real issue. Someone is hungry and I can do something about it. Why don’t we help? It is a miracle to help others and to offer what we have.
The second miracle story is about Jesus walking on water. It’s rather strange, but from that story, the disciples follow him into places they never believed they could go.
There are miracles all around us. We can try and explain or make sense of them, but sometimes the miracle is less about the logistics of the event itself, and more about the way it affected the people who witnessed it. Douglas John Hall reflected on this passage by saying, “What is truly awe-inspiring is not that someone could walk on the surface of the water without sinking, but that his presence among ordinary, insecure, and timid persons could calm their anxieties and cause them to walk where they feared to go before.” (Feasting on the Word Year B, Volume 3, p. 286)
Not only are we surrounded by miracles, we hunger for them. We long for miraculous healing of our bodies and relationships. We wish to be freed from a long time resentment. We want to give up bad habits. We wonder if it is possible to be transformed.
I think Einstein was right. We choose how we will live. We choose to see the miracles around us. We choose to allow the miracles to unleash something powerful in us. Trusting in God will take us into places that we never dreamed we could go. That same theme of God doing something amazing among us is also in the Ephesians text this morning.
My friend Fran sings the words we heard from Ephesians this morning, “Glory be to God whose power working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask…or imagine.”
That is the God we worship. God does miracles every day. We need to practice watching for them. We need to be open to the miracles that God wants to do through us. You are a miracle. Your life is a miracle. This community is a miracle – a 135-year-old miracle! There are many miracles ahead of us. God’s healing power will work through us to bring hope to our world. Maybe we should start with some bread and fish and see what happens…