In my courses “Jesus and the Gospels” for Crown College, at one point I ask the students to review a list of about 15 incidents and identify which of them, in their view, are miracles. One thing doesn’t change from one class to another – there is never a unanimous verdict among the 15-25 students. Some will identify 3 of them are miracles, others will think 10 might be miracles, and some of them think that none of the list is miraculous.
It becomes obvious to them, even if they didn’t already know, that the students bring different definitions of “miracle” to the table. Of course, when doing a study of Jesus’ life, definitions are important. As a result, I propose a definition that I work with in that particular segment of the course; that at least keeps us on the same semantic page.
But, my purpose in this little article is not to describe what I do concerning the nature and role of miracles in Jesus’ life. Nor do I intend to define a miracle and defend that definition. Rather, I want to point to the fact that commonly the students do what the rest of us do – once they identify an incident as a miracle, they and we tend to attribute special value to the event as a cause of being thankful to God. For example, we think it natural and normative that the leper that Jesus healed had more reason to be thankful to God for his restored health than did the person who had never suffered leprosy. It appears that it commonly takes a miracle for us to sense that standing behind an event is God, in His goodness and love.
George Gershwin, decades ago, wrote a song entitled “A Foggy Day in London Town”. These are the lyrics, and I am particularly interested in the last five lines for the purpose of this article. (if you want to listen to one version (David Bowie’s) of the piece, click http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dunP8rsep6o )
I was a stranger in the city
Out of town were the people I knew
I had that feeling of self-pity
What to do? What to do? What to do?
The outlook was decidedly blue
But as I walked through the foggy streets alone
It turned out to be the luckiest day I’ve known
A foggy day in London Town
Had me low and had me down
I viewed the morning with alarm
The British Museum had lost its charm
How long, I wondered, could this thing last?
But the age of miracles hadn’t passed,
For, suddenly, I saw you there
And through foggy London Town
The sun was shining everywhere.
Gershwin refers to “the age of miracles” as evidenced by “suddenly I saw you there.” Most likely most of us have had a comparable event when the unexpected, but completely joyful thing, happened. Maybe we would call it a serendipity which precipitates great thankfulness, and which we could easily put into the miracle category. An example from for me would be the afternoon I met Joyce Sykes, who would eventually become my wife and the love of my life. I am in no position to say it was, or wasn’t, a miracle when using a strict definition of the work. BUT, I do know that it was an event that I didn’t deserve, an event that began, in my case, almost 47 years of being blessed to be her husband.
I really don’t need to know if meeting Joyce was a miracle. What I do know is that it was a gift from God, miracle or not, and that is the point.
I would be dishonest if I pretended that I have always been as grateful for God’s many non-miraculous gifts to me. I do know, however, that I want my gratitude to God for His using non miraculous means to bless me to increase more and more.
To say it differently, although I do pray for miraculous interventions by God in my life and in the life of others, I also want to be equally thankful for when He doesn’t do a miracle. It doesn’t always have to be a miracle for me to be thankful to God. It may sound somewhat strange, but God’s goodness goes beyond the miraculous.
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