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What Makes a Miracle?

I truly enjoy the story of the wedding at Cana found in John 2. We see Jesus in a little more of a human light as his mother orders him around, just like all mothers everywhere do. I picture his friends smirking a little bit when Jesus gets put in his place. But, then Jesus has a little fun himself and converts the water used for bathing, for ritual cleansing, into wine. And who doesn’t appreciate the thought of turning huge containers of water turned into wine?

My enjoyment of the story, however, does not make it easy to preach on taken at face value. What would I say? Jesus turned water into wine, go and do likewise! I wish.

It is important to note that this wedding story in John is the first time we come across it in any written material. In other words, it was mostly likely a newly devised story in the late first century, probably 60 to 70 years after Jesus’ death. Why? Why create this story? It’s likely that the author of John wanted to emphasize the unique God-presence in Jesus, his ability to turn something ordinary into something extraordinary. Afterall, he basically made miracles happen in the hearts and souls of people through his teachings. Plus, Jesus himself was metaphorically the “new wine,” the “better wine.”

Sometimes I think miracle stories do us a disservice by focusing on supernatural events that we can’t do. It sets Jesus above and apart, but what does that mean for our lives? How do we follow him when we can’t do those things? It leads me to ask whether this is the only way to understand a miracle? Does it have to be a supernatural event?

My short answer is "no." Taking the supernatural out of the picture, there are still many moments and events that feel miraculous. To me those often contain a number of these elements:

  • surprise

  • gift

  • needs met

  • hope given

  • unimagined good fortune

  • synchronicity

  • awe and wonder

Here is my premise: Because the God-presence is in each of us, we can ALL make miracles happen by watching for opportunities and listening for nudges.

I find it amusing that Jesus’ first response to his mother was an excuse to get out of doing something. We’re all good at excuses to get out of doing something we’re asked to do. Either we don't have time, money, skills, or desire to do something. Or we don't look at it as our problem, or our place to get involved. 

In this story, Jesus had his mom who wouldn’t take no for an answer. We don’t always have that person refusing to let us wriggle out of a situation. Sometimes we have to push ourselves to step up, risk, say “yes”, try, trust! When we do this, we have the ability to become the hands and feet and heart of the Divine, we have the opportunity to make a miracle happen.

Let me share a few examples.

It was the beginning of January this year and you may remember the huge snowstorm that hit the mid-Atlantic area and caused a 50-car crash on 1-95 paralyzing traffic on a 50 mile stretch between Richmond and Washington DC. Many motorists were stranded overnight in their cars. After spending the night in their car, one couple noticed a Baltimore bakery truck stranded not far from them. They called the bakery and left a message, not expecting to hear back. But the owner of the bakery called them directly. He had instructed his driver to hand out one loaf of bread and a package of rolls to any one in need. The couple and the driver walked up and down the highway handing out bread to dozens of hungry people. They made a miracle happen for those folks who’d been trapped there – the modern day version of manna from heaven!  

A woman I’ll call Francie tells this story: "I moved to California last month completely on my own. Two weeks after I got here, I was in a huge car accident. Not only had I just arrived but I had absolutely no one to call in an emergency. Going through such a major trauma with no one by your side was the worst feeling in the world. However, that day a ton of strangers banded together to make sure I didn't feel alone. The paramedics and firefighters not only saved me at the scene but ended up falling in love with my dog who was in the accident with me, so they brought him back to their fire station and kept him while I was in the hospital recovering. And my nurses were out of this world. When they heard I didn't have anyone to come get me and no way to get home and had pretty much lost everything in the crash, they banded together and raised hundreds of dollars of their own money to pay for me to get home and have something in my pocket to start rebuilding. They were my literal angels, and I don't even have the words to express adequate thanks." Some folks would just turn their heads and decide it wasn't their problem, but these wonderful people created a miracle in helping a perfect stranger after a traumatic event.

Susie shared this story: "I was grocery shopping when I received a call that my grandpa had died. My grandpa and I were close my whole life, everybody called me his little shadow. We knew it was coming, but to hear it over the phone put me into a shock. I just stood there and went white and numb. An older couple happened to be standing near me and sensed something was wrong. They asked but I couldn’t make words come out. They sat with me for a while, got ahold of my best friend to come pick me up, AND bought the groceries in my cart. Then, not too long after, they sent flowers to my house! Apparently, they had my friend’s phone number from when they called her and they paid her to send a bouquet to me. That was one of the worst days of my life and I miss my grandpa every single day, but that kindness and humanity makes me cry in a good way."

So, often we don't pay any attention to what is going on around us, and I think it is worse now that we often wear masks everywhere we go. We are laser-focused in getting our tasks done and getting out of the stores. But in this case, two wonderful people not only saw what was going on, but were kind enough to offer support to someone they didn't even know. That in itself was a miracle. Buying her groceries and getting her flowers showed how much they gave from their heart.

Andrea and her new husband and were taking pictures after their courthouse wedding, and a woman from afar saw them taking pictures by the river walk. She noticed that Andrea didn't have a bouquet of flowers so she cut some flowers from her garden and brought them over. She said it was just what Andrea needed to be a perfect bride. Again, a perfect stranger follows an impulse and creates a miracle.

Now, you could argue with me that these examples are all simply acts of kindness. Are they? They meet the miracle criteria: surprise, gift, unexpected goodness, synchronicity, needs met, hope given. What makes a miracle? We do, simply by seeing the opportunity and using the gifts, skills and resources we have. Then something ordinary turns into something extraordinary and we become the hands, and voice, and feet, and heart, of the Divine right here, right now.

Love & Light!