Rev. George Miller
August 13, 2017
Years ago there was a song by Luther Vandross called “Little Miracle Happen Every Day,” a song that testifies to the ways in which God is active in all our lives, even if we don’t know it.
This song has gotten me through so much-seminary, search and call, health scares, and the loss of loved ones.
Though my sermons may speak about issues of fact and truth, metaphors and metaphysics, I am, at the very heart of my faith, a miracle-believing Christian.
Miracles manifest in many ways. There are those that are simply coincidences; some are easy to explain. Some occur because our eyes were open to see what had always been there, our mind was able to understand, or our heart was finally open to receive.
Then, then there are those miracles that make no sense; that defy all forms of logic, all rules of science, and have to be experienced to be believed.
Like hitting the guard rail on the highway, and emerging without a scratch to you or your car.
Or receiving a cancer diagnosis, but the next time you visit the doctor it is suddenly and completely gone.
Finding your dream home and the inside is covered with wallpaper of your parent’s favorite bird or butterfly.
How do these things happen? Why do miracles occur? When and where do they materialize?
Is there a miracle memory muscle that the more you look for them, the more they are experienced?
Who can say, and does it matter, if a miracle reminds us that the Magnificent, Mysterious God of grace and mercy is present in our lives?
I had my own miracle moment earlier this week.
Last year I went on a cleaning spree, getting rid of clothes that no longer fit, didn’t make me feel good, or were too worn out for wear.
A product of this cleaning spree was an especially special pair of socks. They were green socks with happy blue whales on them.
What made these socks so special was that they were the 1st pair of fancy socks I ever purchased. Until then, my socks were either white, blue, or black, and purchased in packages from Walmart.
But years ago, while unemployed, poor, and in a prolonged Search-n-Call process, I came across them in a high end store in Portland, Oregon.
I had no business being in Sacks Fifth Avenue, had no business putting down $12 for a single pair of socks, but for some reason it felt good getting them.
They were kind of like a promise of success in the midst of continued defeat.
Well eventually those green socks with the happy blue whales wore out, the elastic gave away, and they no longer stayed up around my calves. So last year, in the trash they went…or so I thought.
Because in the middle of last week, with worries about opening night, and a delayed adoption process, and an acquaintance in the hospital, I randomly opened up an end-table drawer in my living room…and they were there.
My 1st ever fancy, funky green socks with the happy blue whales purchased at a time of struggle.
It brought the biggest smile to my face, like seeing an old friend, or a long lost toy from childhood.
I immediately felt the presence of God, and for me, it was a miracle.
Now- maybe it was no miracle at all. Maybe I only thought I had thrown them away. Maybe I did, but had a random sleep-walking episode in which I rescued them from out the garbage.
Why would worn-out green socks with happy blue whales ever end up in the draw of a living room coffee table?
Who knows? Does it matter? Did it make me feel good? Did it make me feel as if God was right beside me?
Luther is right- little miracles do happen every day.
Today we have perhaps the Mother of all Miracles.
Though this story is short, don’t get it twisted. It has way more levels than anyone could ever imagine, with references to Genesis, Exodus, Isaiah, and the 23rd Psalm.
This is a great “I AM” story in which Jesus appears and takes us to the other side.
So before we go any further, I invite you to repeat a simple, simple prayer-
“Jesus, step into the boat…”
“…and take us to the other side.”
Jesus, step into the boat and take us to the other side.
John chapter 6 is a fundamental story about Jesus, also told in Matthew and Mark with various nuances.
It begins with Jesus atop a mountain with a hungry crowd surrounding him. He feeds the 5,000 thousand people with 5 loaves and 2 fish.
When evening comes, the disciples get in their boat and head to the other side. But, a storm hits.
It’s the kind of storm in which things seem bleak, they can’t see ahead of them, the wind is howling, and the sea is battering the boat.
The disciples feels lost, alone and confused, trying their best to row ahead, navigating the way forward, but no luck.
Then…Jesus appears to them, walking on the waves. They are afraid. They bring him into the boat.
They reach the other side.
Talk about a miracle. Jesus walking on water. Can you imagine? What a surprise!
But then again, maybe it shouldn’t be all too surprising. After all, in the beginning, God’s breathe did dance over the waters. God parted the Red Sea. God brought water from a rock. 23rd Psalm says the Good Shepherd will lead us beside still waters. Jesus turned water into wine.
The waters belong to God. They are a force of life that sustains creation. From a world religion point of view, invoking water is a fundamental form of prayer.
So there should be no surprise that Jesus, the Son of God, the incarnation of God, Emmanuel, is able to walk upon water, because the waters belong to him and his Father.
Jesus walking on water is indeed a miracle, but perhaps the greater miracle, the miracle that’s never really talked about, is that once Jesus walks on water, and gets in the boat- they reach the other side.
For hours, for miles, the disciples had been straining at the oars, trying to navigate where they were going, fighting the storm.
But they see Jesus. They want him in the boat. They make it to the other side.
Somehow, someway the great “I AM” gets in the boat and takes them through.
That, perhaps, is the greatest miracle.
A way out of no way. Safe passage in the midst of a scary storm.
Dry land despite dark skies, harsh wind and wild waves.
And note- just like last week’s story, there is an element of choice in this tale.
Just as the man by the waters of Bethzatha had to stand up, pick up his mat, and walk, the disciples had to see, want and receive Jesus for this act of wellness to take place.
I wonder if today’s scripture gives us another expression to add to our worship life and way of believing.
Perhaps, perhaps the simplest prayer there can be is “Jesus- step into the boat and take me to the other side.”
Think of the ways in which such a prayer would work.
For someone who is job hunting in which the only way to be employed is to go out, seek, and apply again and again and again- “Jesus, step into the boat and take me to the other side.”
For someone dealing with the death of a loved one in which the only way to go through the grieving process is to go through it- “Jesus, step into the boat and take me to the other side.”
For someone whose life is immediately disturbed by a cancer diagnosis- “Jesus, step into the boat and take me to the other side.”
For someone facing a rough break-up- “Jesus, step into the boat and take me to the other side.”
For someone who is facing a long adoption process and opening weekend jitters- “Jesus, step into the boat and take me to the other side.”
For anyone who is watching their child or grandchildren struggling and trying to make their own way- “Jesus, step into the boat and take them to the other side.”
For our state during the hurricane season, or our nation during a tense political environment, or our world facing the threat of nuclear war- “Jesus, step into the boat and take us to the other side.”
For when we are in the process of completing our journey here on earth and ready to take our final, final breaths- “Jesus, step into the boat and take me to the other side.”
Storms and difficult situations arise all the time. It’s how we face them that makes a difference.
Today we are told of a miracle that happened far, far away, but a miracle that can and does take place anywhere.
Today we are reminded of a miracle that happened a long, long time ago, but that miracles do happen every day.
Today we are reminded that no matter the storm, no matter the sea, Jesus is able to appear, Jesus is able to get into the boat, and Jesus can take us to the other side.
For that, we can say, amen.