This post follows from Paulfg’s post of today. Something that only happens to “important Christians”, and a brief exchange of comments that followed between us.
I was reminded of a sermon I heard a while back, where the Pastor stood to his pulpit, and authoritatively declared…
“There are only 156 miracles in the entire Bible!”
(If my memory does not betray me… it was 150-Something… I think 6… but I could be off by 4 in either direction, so forgive me.)
He knew this because he had counted them… or some author had and it was in his book… or some professor had and it was taught in his seminary… but anyway… God only intervened miraculously in the history of man 150-whatever times! He was certain of this, because such events would have been so significant (being so rare), that certainly Scripture would have noted additional episodes.
He then went on, in a series of sermons, to show that each of these miracles had the same “prerequisites”, a list of requirements and conditions, that man had to fulfill in order for God to act… and how and why we fail to fulfill them in our miracle-free lives. (Because there’s only 150-whatever!)
The preaching series was actually quite good. The exhortation, the scholarship and exegesis, the encouragement… all really excellent. But there was a flaw… a crucial flaw… that, while I know listeners were blessed and edified by their attention, equally I know this grieved the Father’s heart.
As so often, the problem is in the premise. That first course of bricks is uneven, it may not mean that the wall will be insecure, but the cosmetic flaw may persist throughout.
Here, the flawed premise is actually a “Scriptural Problem”. It is all well and good to say that someone went cover to cover through the Bible and located 150-something recorded incidents wherein God miraculously intervened in human affairs. But that leaves out (at least) one critical verse.
“And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written.” [John 21:25]
I offer you, Gentle Reader, a simple question: Have you, personally, ever witnessed or taken part in a “miracle”?
You don’t need to put your hand up, write in, or identify yourself… so there’s no danger here. But truth be told, most people who feel led to read anything like this blog have witnessed or taken part in a surprising number of miracles. Now, I’m not going to get bogged down in issues of “operational definition”, or “juridical specificity”. (I used to, once upon a time. For me, a “miracle” was “any event with a probability of 10,000:1 against, or less.” I kid thee not… it was a very young and exploratory time for me, God challenged me to “name my fleece”, I did… and He just smothered me in events so vastly beyond the probable or likely, that even my doubting self had to admit that it was He doing what He was doing.)
No, this morning I just want to make a simple point in follow up and affirmation of “a ripple” that arose in and from Paul’s post…
We are often accustomed to such “separation of church and state”, that it bleeds over into a pernicious “separation of God from daily life”. Whether morality, mood, love, relationships, or spiritual warfare… we tend to think of “God stuff” in big, overblown, “Ten Commandments — Charleton Heston — Moses/Exodus” terms, rather than the simple day-to-day living we walk through or that we see Jesus walking through among His Companion Disciples.
When I was a young novice, the very first challenge I was given (besides the trial of obedience in general)… but the first real “spiritual” challenge I was given… was to learn to “see God in all things”. Now, that SOUNDS easy, but try it sometime, even on a “day off” away from the office or workplace.
To SEE God, as a vibrant and active participant, in every moment. Setting a table, weeding a garden, sweeping a floor, doing homework, making your bed or doing laundry. Got that down? Great… now add a layer. Driving to work through rush hour traffic. Getting bad service from a fast-food drive-through. See what I mean? It’s challenging!
Now, please bear in mind… just because we CAN come to SEE Him, doesn’t mean we will always respond appropriately to His presence! It just means we are the more likely to address Him, our behavior, our selves… in moments even when we expose our frailties and faults.
And that’s pretty much it, the wrap up, to the ripples I found from Paul’s dropped pebble. That “spiritual warfare” certainly can be the stuff of heroic opera, but it is also the mundane and simple struggle between selfishness and servanthood reflected in gracious kindness, or sour curmudgeonry.
The cosmic and Wagnerian grand scale is all well and good. But the battle between Light and darkness isn’t so much a matter of “Strategies and Objectives of a Grand War”, as much as it is all about “Relationship”.
Do we receive the Love of Jesus?
Do we reflect the Love of Jesus back to God?
Do we refract the Love of Jesus through and around us to others?
THAT is the Spiritual Warfare of the Battle between Light and darkness, Good and evil, God and the enemy. Every moment yielded to love, to grace, to God (thus His will)… is a “blow struck for Light” in that War. Every selfish moment grumbling at our pitiful lacks, or the unworthiness of another… is not an affirmation of Light. That simple.
Sins are simple things… to treat another as less than sacred. Miracles are equally simple things… the expressions of God, His love, His grace, from His heart and hands into our lives.
As I listened to that Pastor that day, declare so authoritatively that God performed (precisely) 150-something miracles, I just had to smile and shake my head a bit sadly…
I wanted to pick up a phone, call him up, saying… “Oh, my dear son! Every BREATH we take, is a miracle. Every heartbeat! Don’t believe me? Too much “science” involved there? Well, ‘science’ can tell us when someone is ‘alive’ versus ‘dead’… but it cannot explain why that is so. No scientist can (thus far) begin with inorganic compounds in a laboratory, and create ‘living tissue’ from it. Even the great strides being made with tissue culturing, no one can yet ‘breathe life’ into a cultured organ, granting it ‘humanity’ or ‘consciousness’ as a person
“Hold a newborn in your arms, and tell me that is not miracle? See a person first see the grace and love of God pierce the misery and history of their life, see their tears of joy and newly discovered freedom as they first embrace Christ, and tell me that is not a miracle? Think of the love of a couple whose hearts have grown closer over 50 years, or the love of the widowed yet in love after separation of decades, and tell me that is not a miracle?”
I wanted to say such things, but I did not. “Grace”… the kind of “gentle touch of God’s hand” involved in such miracles as these… it is hard to see. It takes a bit of practice. Like finding a subtle flavor in a fine wine, a tea, or a delightful dish… it takes time and practice to train the palate. Not everyone can take a year to get apart, be silent, and learn to hear the singing of Creation.
But God is right here all the time, and He is ever about revealing Himself. So, let each of us enjoy that, and develop the sensitivity to touch, the discerning palate, the sensitivity to fragrance… that we learn to perceive Him, His love, His grace, and His miraculous Presence… everywhere and everywhen.
Grace to thee — The Little Monk
April 13, 2015 at 8:07 AM
“THAT is the Spiritual Warfare of the Battle between Light and darkness, Good and evil, God and the enemy. Every moment yielded to love, to grace, to God (thus His will)… is a “blow struck for Light” in that War. Every selfish moment grumbling at our pitiful lacks, or the unworthiness of another… is not an affirmation of Light. That simple.”
LM – I struggled and struggled this morning. A fleeting flash in the middle of something else – and then an urge to the word. And then the words tumbling chaotically, moved back and forth – still the “not yet”. The urge remained as did the word chaos. And then finally I thought I heard a faint “maybe” (maybe) – and jumping on the moment with a greater confidence than I really ought – I pressed Publish.
And for some reason the ripples reached something I could never have imagined – and here it is. WOW!
“Have you, personally, ever witnessed or taken part in a “miracle”? What are the odds of that little sequence!
Thank you for pulling a tiny thread and creating a vast treasure!
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April 13, 2015 at 8:15 AM
I delight that this delights you, 🙂 But I know you understand, I just find that HE is so cool in how He weaves all this stuff, and yes indeed… I just “pulled a thread” from YOUR work this morning.
So I thank you as well, for it was your pebble that started it!
Grace — LM
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April 13, 2015 at 9:10 AM
What an amazing “church” we have!
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April 13, 2015 at 9:12 AM
Loving family of children, poking into all the little nooks and crannies of the mansion… Great joy, finding the gifts Our Father tucks away in there.
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April 13, 2015 at 3:15 PM
Dear Little Monk,
I hope you don’t mind my crashing into your post as a living paradox and with my mundane miracles. Just where to start…Today! Today I couldn’t decide whether to go to a meeting in a town 12 miles away. Finally after encouragement from my husband I decided to go. I was late. i am always late, but for this meeting I wanted to be on time. We drove to the crowded town centre and found one last remaining parking spot. Quickly we walked across town to the Town hall and arrived just as the clock struck 12noon, the time of the meeting. We were on time. Was that a miracle? if you know me and my customary lateness “yes” it was.
And why was it important for me Not to be late. It is because i am doing something which is way beyond my comfort zone. I am standing in the election for the town council. The meeting was by the council officers for all the candidates to give us information at the start of canvassing.
A few weeks ago i would never have dreamt that this is what i would be doing. All I was conscious of was a kind of restlessness. Recently i have had so many ideas of what i want to do. With a hospital chaplain i had tried to set up an inter-faith group where i work. There seemed to be no interest and it just hadn’t got off the ground. I have been attending a writing course and i have ideas for several stories if not short novels for teenagers and young adults that i want to write. Apart from on the writing course i have not written anything. I had enquired about volunteering for a Christian initiative in schools to discuss matters that relate to faith as part of National curriculum. I have been trained to lead groups and i wanted to use these skills perhaps with teenagers of 16, 17 and 18 who are in the last years of school. The trouble is although i am trained in group work, I have not had much opportunity and so have not fully honed the skill and so i lack confidence. I have not got beyond making the enquiry. I have not volunteered as yet.
And then out of the blue, i was head hunted by local party members and councillors asking me to stand in town parish local election. i said NO repeatedly. They came back. After repeated meetings i found myself drawn to the idea. I discovered i was interested in representing the town, i care about the decisions that are being made (or not made), regarding the town which is looking increasingly in decline. And i found myself saying Yes.
I am not interested in party politics and yet I find i am standing for a party; I was not even a member of the party until i needed to join to stand; I don’t want to be labelled and i am giving myself a label; I was anxious before i made a decision and wanted to speak to someone i knew. When i spoke to him i discovered to my surprise that he was a a member of this same party (unbeknown to me) and after giving me a pep talk, he said simply “Please stand” and I felt peace about the decision and said Yes. Since then the anxiety has returned in different forms.Like making the decision with regards going to the meeting. i couldn’t decide at first because more experienced politicians said i didn’t need to go. But then Kevin said what i had been thinking: I am new to this and for that reason i need to go. And then we found the last parking space and i was on time for the meeting- the path was made smooth.
And that brings me back to the beginning…The paradox is i don’t know what i am doing, i am putting myself out there and i am scared.. and my prayers generally are: “help!”
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April 13, 2015 at 4:53 PM
What a delightful comment, and congratulations on the support you are receiving from those around you!
Sort of “working backwards” through your note… “I don’t know what I am doing…” is not a bad position for anyone on your path. It’s interesting to notice that you GOT here, by simply following your urgings to help people express their needs and feelings in group, and because you have received training to facilitate groups. You did NOT get here because “you have a sure fire, whiz bang, plan to fix the world… country… county… or parish!” Good for you! That is a plus.
I think your strength, your purpose, and your confidence lie precisely where you have recognized them to be. You are called to “service” of your parish constituency, not “governance”. You want to “facilitate” more than “manage”. And you want to “listen and encourage communication”, more than you want to “tell other people what to do”.
OK, all that being said, let me add that ANY and EVERY servant worth their salt that I’ve ever known, (including myself)… ALWAYS begins a task of caring/sharing for others, with a certain amount of “fear” based in “I don’t know what I’m doing! Who do I think I am? What am I doing here?” Why? Because we are taking on responsibility for the care of others and meaningful impact in/on their lives, and we are accountable to Light/Love for that care.
This foundational sense of… I think the technical word is “colleywobbles”… is a good and healthy thing. I’ve felt it before… everyone I respect has… I’ll feel it again one day no doubt. You’re feeling it… Good, shows you are probably in the right place at the right time, doing the right thing.
How do we keep it from becoming overwhelming? Well, that same realization. Remember what you are about… you are a servant, not a ruler. Remember why you are standing… to represent the needs and interests of your constituency, to make (and help your constituents make) a meaningful contribution to the welfare of the whole (not just themselves), and to represent and “translate” from the municipal and bureaucratic of “the government” OUTWARDS to constituents making issues and meanings and consequences clear for “normal” people living non-governmental lives.
What a tremendous adventure! How wonderful! So, be yourself. Be transparent and consistent to your convictions and values. Let your personal support network and accountability network… (those who truly know, understand, and love you)… be both a sounding board and a ballast (balancing weight)… in your days.
We will now await further developments with both interest and supportive prayer! By the way, Don Merritt, of The Life Reference, is well experienced in public service. You may want to touch base with him and his thoughts.
Grace — LM
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