What kind of miracle are you waiting for?
Tonight on the Colbert Report it was noted that presently, as in previous times of recession, their is a jump in church attendance, particularly in evangelical churches. In his oft irreverent fashion he put on a prayer cap and giant foam prayer hands, and asked for things that like cars and money. It was slightly reminiscent of the "Baby Jesus Prayer" in Taledaga nights, which is always good for a laugh if your spiritual skin is thick enough for it. I'm willing to bet that God's is if yours is not. Colbert also placed a baguette and a fish on a plate expecting them to multiply copulatively, a new take on the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 (plus women and children) to be sure. He did at least lower the plate behind the desk at that point to give them privacy. At the end of the show it was revealed that they had turned into a plate piled high of breaded fish sticks. "Fish sticks for everyone!" He cried as he flung them to the studio audience.
All of this reminded me of a conversation with one of our elders and his wife about a 3 & 4 yr old Sunday School class where they taught using goldfish snacks to recreate the Bible story of feeding the masses. It was mentioned that the value of sharing was taught as well, and it reminded me of a sermon in which it was noted that there is no way 5k people would have wandered out to the plains without a scrap of food. The elder noted having read a comentary along the same lines and being troubled with the need to demystify the reality of the miracles of Jesus. I told him that I agree to some extent.
Yes, we need to take it on faith that Jesus walked on water and had command over creation as he was and is God incarnate. The question that I have is not so much about the reality of the miracle, it is about the reality of God's sovereignty and the messiness of faith. Put more simply - If God was miraculous then, how is God miraculous now? Does it truly matter if the miracle was the dissolving of the laws of physics or the dissolving of the human will? And what is it we are expecting God to do in the here and now if the miracles are limited to physical acts of Jesus when he was with us in the flesh? I can tell you how my elder friend would answer. For he told me that he knows God has placed people in his life to turn him toward God's will, and he believes that it is his job to do the same. For in the words of Teresa of Avila,
"Christ has no body now but yours;
no hands, no feet on earth but yours.
Your eyes are the eyes through which
he looks compassionately on this world.
Christ has no body on earth now but yours."
Wow. Not sure that I always remember to see with the compassion of Christ. Suddenly I am reminded of a grotesque crucifix I saw in a hospital in Guatemala. The disfigured and dismembered Jesus was no accident. It was a statement about the level to which God identifies with the suffering of an oppressed people.
Crucifixes always remind me of a conversation with a friend who noted that I did not have a dead guy on my cross. "Excuse me?" I replied indignantly. "My Christ is alive." was her only reply. That's all good and well, but as we see in the example above (and as I said to my friend and fellow church officer) the reality of faith and of God's presence is messier than we want it to be. We can't say what kind of Jesus we want like we are ordering a value meal (see the McJesus Skit) at the King's Crown (see also Fancy Nancy), because the miracle of Jesus is both cosmic and particular at the same time.
Ann called me crying today. She is 26 and on her own in a strange town with no family or friends. Her tax refund debit card will not work before Wednesday and she needed help with a motel fee for two nights. Or at least that was her story. I know there were tons of questions I did not ask because I let a young woman's tears break my heart. I don't know if she will use the gift of the next two nights as sanctuary or Sodum. I do know that God suffers with her in her pain. I do know that faith and God's activity in my life are just too messy and risky sometimes. For if God will use a sinner like me to be God's hands and feet, God's very vision of compassion in this world, anything is possible and many more things than I can imagine are even probable.
Thanks be to God for the mystery and the miracle of faith in Jesus Christ. Amen.
Ps. Fish Sticks for everyone!!!!