“…it’s a miracle…! Really!”

Jesus greets his friends who have just returned from their first mission trip.

He declares that they need to get away from the curious crowds

for some rest (and reflection, no doubt).

So it’s everybody into the boat and off across the lake…

where they are met by a curious crowd.

Jesus, in his compassion, begins to teach them and then…

the folks who put the reading together take a page out of Film editing 101:

smash cut to another boat ride; another part of the waterfront;

another crowd eager to experience Jesus’ charisma, Jesus’ power…

Never a hint of the drama that comes between these two very different crowd scenes.

Nothing to suggest the generous grace that fed 5000 men

(and who knows how many women and children).

No hint of the disciples’ horror as they struggled against the wind on a storm-tossed sea

(not to mention the sight of their teacher and friend coming across the water’s surface like a ghost…)

These are the kinds of things that allow us to imagine the terrific and terrible glory of God,

but in this mornings reading, we are detoured from these things

things we would likely consider to be the heart of the story.

We are, instead, swept along with the crowds –

caught up in the excitement of “this newest prophet and miracle worker”.

This is the ancient middle eastern version of Beatle-mania / Truedeau-mania / (dare I say Beiber-mania?)

and the lectionary treatment of the gospel asks us to consider what it means.

Treating the gospel in this manner is unfair.

Understanding these stories of Jesus is hard enough without leaving parts out –

and today we have left out the miraculous!

What is left, if you ignore the miracles?

What happens to Jesus  (more importantly, what happens to us)

when there is nothing left but expectant crowds and a weary (but compassionate) teacher and his friends…?

What does it mean to us, to hear only the buzz of the crowd after the fact?

We make our own sense of the missing pieces –

tell ourselves that Jesus himself was (and is) simply irresistible – he could not help but draw a crowd –

but the truth is lurking in the missing miracles.

God at work (in through and all around) – that’s what draws a crowd.

The sense that, at any moment, something amazing will happen.

That is what draws us still.

Even those who dismiss the idea of a miracle still yearn to be amazed,

and our faith assures us that God is still capable of taking our breath away.

 

the reality of this is illustrated by a story that Richard Lischer tells in his book “Open Secrets”:

A young lady in his first congregation (Amy) with a debilitating disease comes to her minister –

she wants to visit a traveling faith healer -she’s looking for a miracle.

Lischer tries to prepare her for what he considers will be the inevitable disappointment.

She is not deterred.

Amy returns from the crusade,  still wheelchair bound – no healing.

But Lischer soon discovers that no healing doesn’t mean no miracle.

His young friend has been changed –

she encourages a committee to build a wheelchair ramp into the church.

She makes plans to become a physiotherapist –she begins to live life in spite of her illness –

Amy found her life’s purpose while looking for a cure –

and Lischer rediscovered the miraculous.

Our lives are lived in denial of the miraculous.

We have explained away the miracles of Jesus as being “for that time and place”

and we rob them of their power.

We have become content with “ordinary miracles” like life and the beauty of nature

(neither of which are ordinary at all…) – and have stopped expecting extraordinary things.

But what made Jesus special (among many things)

was his absolute certainty that God was, not only capable of the extraordinary, but constantly revealing it –

offering humanity the chance to experience and participate in the miraculous.

Jesus instills in us a fresh sense of wonder at what is possible if we submit to God’s sovereignty –

Jesus invites us, not just to believe in miracles, but to expect them.

It is that expectation that changes us –

that anticipation of something amazing at the hand of God is what fuels Faith –

and enables us, like Lischer’s wheelchair-bound friend – to find purpose in our lives.

We have lived so long in denial, it will be hard to regain that sense of wonder that Jesus offers.

Hard, but not impossible.

The day to day work of sustaining our faith – supporting the work of the church – spreading the good news

these things seem an exercise in futility in the current climate.

But that is because we presume the work is entirely on our shoulders.

We forget that God is working alongside – ready to show us something amazing –

if only we believed in miracles…

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