Location: First preached at First Presbyterian Church of Tequesta, Florida & The Pink Church, Pompano, Florida
For two consecutive weeks the liturgical calendar places the stories of Jesus feeding the 5000 and walking on water - front and center. We read about them in Mark in 6:30-56 and then again in John’s Gospel, chapter 6, verses 1-21. Accounts of both of these stories are actually found in all four gospels. Additionally, Mark’s account leads into three more verses that tell us about Jesus’ continued healing of the sick at Gennesaret**.**
The described miracles in the Gospels, on their face; do not seem to have good explanations for how they happened. Additionally, because people today live in a scientific and technological age, many want to quickly discount these stories because we don’t have an easy way to explain them. They don’t fit neatly into the scientific method. No one back then had an iPhone to take photographic proof. And, let’s face it, even if someone had been able to take a photo – skeptics on the Internet would probably be claiming that the images were all photoshopped.
But, the inclusion of these stories in the Gospel narrative forces a personal question that must be answered: Do you believe in miracles?
And let me push a bit further… If you believe in miracles, why do you believe in them? Have you ever seen a miracle?
As it so happens - I believe I have.
I saw a woman physically healed outside a church in Mexico. And if I am being honest, I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes.
Early in my ministry a mission team that I was leading from Ohio was collaborating with another group in an effort to pour a concrete roof for a church in Matamoros, Mexico. And, in the middle of the job, the cement mixer behind the church stopped working. After trying to fix the problem to no avail, someone sent for a repairman.
The church that day was bustling with activity as over 80 children from the neighborhood swarmed the grounds for the VBS that our group was providing. As children were running around and folks were still focused on getting the concrete mixer back into action, I saw a woman walking along a support wall that started midway along the side of the church and gradually inclined up to about four feet high.
I was coming out of the church to see if any progress had been made on the repair, when I happened to see this woman misstep, her right foot slipping off of the wall. She screamed as she began to fall.
I stood there helplessly and watched as her turned ankle hit the ground about two and a half feet below. She slammed onto the ground. Everyone who saw this happen has no doubt that the result was dreadful.
Fortunately, one of the men working from the other group was a doctor and he immediately rushed over to care for the woman. Slowly her screams turned to whimpers but the doctor quickly concluded that she had broken her ankle and it was swelling quickly. He announced that we needed to get a vehicle to the site immediately that could take her to the hospital. Until then he ordered that she was not to be moved.
Wondering what all the commotion was about, the head pastor of the church came out to investigate what was going on. Immediately, he went to the woman to console her. As he did the doctor intersected with him and told him that she needed to get to a hospital soon. The pastor swiftly corrected him and said “No, we need to pray for her now.” The doctor didn’t seem too happy about this response and vehemently protested. But the pastor insisted, retorting: “Ye of little faith.” Seeing that there wasn’t a vehicle there yet to move her, the doctor backed down.
The pastor then proceeded to call out in Spanish to several of his congregants to come over to the woman. They helped her to stand on her one good foot, gathered around her, and laid hands on her while they began to pray.
I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it myself but when they finished – the woman was obviously healed. She was rejoicing, smiling and hugging everyone who prayed for her. Several onlookers and myself stood in awe looking at one another like “what the heck just happened?” Then the pastor invited the doctor to come over to check her out. Sure enough, no pain, no swelling – she was good to go.
The doctor later told me that he had never seen anything like this before in his life. Most of us hadn’t. He was convinced that this woman had been healed completely.
After the majority of this impromptu mini-celebration had concluded, the pastor happened to notice that all work on the roof had come to a screeching halt and that several people had returned to the mixer frustrated that, after numerous attempts, it still wouldn’t start. The pastor inquired as to what the delay was about and he was quickly informed of the situation. Again he simply said: “Ye of little faith” and, again in Spanish, called over his congregants who all proceeded to lay hands on the cement mixer! I remember thinking “what the heck are they doing now!?”
After they finished praying, they all stepped back and the pastor flipped the same switch that I had seen flipped a dozen times before. Now intrigued, onlookers watched with anticipation. This time the mixer started. “Everyone get back to work!” he said as he smiled and walked back into the church. It was simply unbelievable… but it happened.
A few minutes later the vehicle showed up that was supposed to take the woman to the hospital. She had already left the church to walk home. The repairman then also arrived only to be informed that he wasn’t needed because a “miracle had occurred.” He was very skeptical. I would have been too if I hadn’t seen it all with my own eyes.
Reality Changing Observations:
Q1. If you know how something happened can it still be considered a miracle?
Q2. Do you believe that prayer can heal people?
Q3. In your opinion what ethics should guide whether spiritual practice should ever supersede medical treatment?
Continue reading God of Superposition - Part 2 of 3: What is a Miracle?