"There’s no use trying,” said Alice, “one can’t believe impossible things."
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast!” (Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland)
On June 9, 2013, our lectionary treated us to three miracle stories: Elijah performed two miracles: providing an unending supply of food to a widow’s household and resuscitating her son. In the gospel reading, Jesus restored a widow’s son to life. Can food multiply? Can the dead be raised to life? Are miracles possible?
When we encounter miracles or impossible stories in the Bible, I believe they are an invitation to think more deeply about our relationship with God. These stories call us to examine more closely what we believe about God, the world, each other and ourselves. I believe every story we hear invites us to be the highest aspiration of the story. I stand with Aristotle who believed that every story and event in life invites us to imitate what is best in the story.
Do you believe in miracles? I asked the crowd last Sunday as I began my preaching. I confess that I was a little surprised at how many people raised their hands. Who knew that Trinity Church had so many believers in “impossible things?"
I like to remind people that they, themselves, are miracles -- and I did so on Sunday. Later, in an email sent to me by Robert Thomson after my sermon, I was reminded of Bob Marley’s insistence that “Almighty God is a living man!” As Christians, the first miracle we are called to believe is that we are temples of the living God and that the Spirit of God dwells in us.
Sometimes, it is hard not to believe in “impossible things.” Science and technology and human intelligence have built, written, and done things that amaze and puzzle the generations. On one level, I am not surprised that people believe in miracles. Lately, I have wondered if there isn’t an increase in the American appetite for miracles or impossible things. The reality shows that are a common staple of the television diet are so farfetched that they truly require major suspension of belief for me to watch them for even a minute.
Then there are the movies; increasingly the box office hits are based on Marvel and DC characters who fly, punch through buildings, do impossible feats and save the world over and over again. I wonder how this younger generation conceives of miracles. Do they already suspend belief? For instance, what is the fascination with 75-year old Superman about? Do super heroes inspire us the way the Scriptures do?
At the same time, we know of places and situations where the miraculous seems forever absent or virtually impossible. Sickness, suffering, wars, and death sometimes seem as unbelievable as health, peace, and life.
Do you believe in miracles? Or do you reserve your opinion?
A priestly character in Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory notes: “It isn’t a case of miracles not happening – it’s just a case of people calling them something else. Can’t you see the doctors round the dead man? He isn’t breathing any more, his pulse has stopped, his heart is not beating: he’s dead. Then somebody gives him back his life, and they all – what’s that expression? –reserve their opinion. They won’t say it’s a miracle, because that’s a word they don’t like.”
As for me, I believe in miracles (possible and impossible things) – without reservation. I believe in God, I believe in you, I believe in love and life and the Spirit of God at work in a world of miracles. One of my everlasting creeds is this: anything can happen. And it always does. Is this an impossible thing? A Miracle?