MINISTERIAL MUSINGS: "The Miracle Among You"
I have been thinking about miracles a lot lately. How often do miracles occur — or do they? A friend once admitted, “I believe that miracles happened in Biblical times, but they do not occur anymore.” What, exactly, constitutes a miracle? (The conversation between Samuel Jackson's and John Travolta’s characters in Pulp Fiction is making me chuckle as I write this.)
I believe in miracles. They happen all the time. They do not need to be burning bush or water into wine experiences. They can be simple, and ever-present. A miracle occurs every time God chooses to enter the human drama. And God does that a lot.
Ironically, God’s recurrent appearances do not have to be grand manifestations. In other words, it isn’t just making “the impossible possible,” as Travolta’s “Vince” waxes in the aforementioned Quentin Tarantino film. It is God entering our lives and touching us in deep, profound, spiritual ways — ways that occur more often than we realize.
Pause for a moment and reflect. When have you felt God’s touch in your life recently?
Often times, we think it is during the joyous moments: births, weddings, baptisms. But I tend to think that God is just as close — if not closer to us — in the harrowing moments. God is at the bedside of the dying patient. I have seen God there many times in fact. God is standing next to the casket of the teenager who committed suicide, because he was told by everyone who loved him that his being gay made him an abomination in the eyes of God. God is with the woman struggling with depression, who feels as if she has nowhere to turn. Many of the ancient mystics believed that God is closer to us in the darkness; the irony is that we just cannot see God in those moments. But God is present with us in our pain and grief as well as in our joys and celebrations.
The miracle, my friends, is that we are not alone. We could have been. This could have been a universe in which our cries echoed into a silent void. The miracle of life, however, is that God is with us. In Eucharistic theology, Martin Luther developed the concept of Consubstantiation, which claims that God is “with, in, and under” the bread and the cup, although the elements do not actually change into the body and blood of Christ. In some respects, that also defines our state of existence. God is “in, with, and under” us, accompanying us on this journey. That, my friends, is a miracle.
Breathe deep. Look around you and beneath you, not just above you. God is present. In the word of St. John of the Cross, “This union between God and creatures always exists.” Thanks be to God!
John Tamilio III is the Senior Pastor of Pilgrim Congregational United Church of Christ in the Tremont neighborhood of Cleveland. A musician and a nationally published author, John lives in Lakewood with his wife, Susan, and their three children.