We talked about miracles at our church Sunday, as did most folks who follow the common lectionary since the Gospel passage was about Jesus feeding the five thousand. Ginger asked a group of us to help pantomime the scripture as she read it; our drama included passing bowls of Pepperidge Farm rainbow goldfish throughout the congregation.
But I’m getting ahead of myself: before we acted out the miracle, we saw one.
We had a baptism Sunday. Court is about four months old and is an absolutely beautiful little boy. He has a full head of hair, blue eyes the color of the sky on your favorite late summer afternoon, defined facial features that make him look more like a little boy than a baby, and a smile that demands nothing less than a smile in return. He also pays attention, as though he’s storing it all up for future reference. As he stood with his parents at the front of the church, Court’s mother held him with his back to her chest so he could see everyone. One of her arms was wrapped around his waist and the other supported his bottom. As Ginger read through the vows, Court followed every word. When Ginger asked of his parents, “Will you remind him that he is wonderfully and uniquely created in the image of God and worthy to be loved?” Court waved his arms and legs up and down and giggled as if the Spirit was bursting out of every part of him. In that moment, the Word once more became flesh right in the middle of us all.
A few minutes later, we were up acting out the Bible story. After we collected the bowls with the leftover goldfish and finished the scripture reading, Ginger said what she says most Sundays at that moment: “May God grant us wisdom and understanding of this passage.” Maybe it stood out more this week because we were talking about a miracle and miracles are, in a way, like jokes: they lose something when you start trying to explain them. The gospel account doesn’t give much information on how the single lunch turned into a catered affair, only that there was more than enough food when all was said and eaten. Somewhere in her sermon, Ginger quoted from a hymn we sing regularly:
In the bulb there is a flower; in the seed, an apple tree;
In cocoons, a hidden promise: butterflies will soon be free!
In the cold and snow of winter there’s a spring that waits to be,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.
The song is a perfect soundtrack for this discussion because any miracle from the Feeding of the Five Thousand to fireflies starts as something God sees first — and then shares. As I held that thought, Ginger made an interesting statement: “Miracles are about timing and awareness.”
I thought of Court waving his wings at the exact moment Ginger said he was worthy to be loved.
I thought of Pentecost where some heard the mighty rush of the Spirit and some only felt the wind blow.
And then I thought of a story Madeleine L’Engle told in one of her books about the couple who brought their second child home from the hospital still a little unsure of how he would be received by the older sister. As the evening progressed, the little girl demanded time alone with her new baby brother. The parents stood at the door as the girl approached the crib and said to her brother, “Tell me about God; I think I’m forgetting.”
Then Ginger said, “Rather than try to explain miracles, let us learn to live with them and assist them.” She went on to reference Annie Sullivan and her work with Helen Keller, which was chronicled in the play The Miracle Worker, one of Ginger’s favorites. Annie worked hard for the miracle of Helen’s comprehension to happen, just as the disciples worked the crowds somehow in a way that everyone was more than satisfied.
We finished our service with Communion. We vary the way in which we serve the meal. This time we lined up and came to the front to receive the bread and the cup through Intinction. Ginger and Carla and the deacons who were serving stood in front of the line of bowls filled with goldfish and offered us the Bread and the Cup; when the service was over, the left over bread and the goldfish both made reappearances in coffee hour, along with Court and his family.
Ii took another piece of bread and gave thanks for both the timing and awareness that let me in on the miracles around me. Here’s hoping I can be as awake and aware more often.