Archive for Saturday, January 24, 2004

Faith forum

January 24, 2004


Believers likely to notice miracles

The Rev. Marcus McFaul, senior pastor, First Baptist Church, 1330 Kasold Drive:

Some readers, themselves cured from a cancer inexplicably gone, will respond with an enthusiastic "yes." Other readers, for whom death came too early for a loved one, will wonder of God's inequity. If God provides a miracle for some, why not all? A nuanced answer is needed. Certainly much seems to occur apart from rational explanation, leaving us to ponder, "Was that a miracle?" But a miracle may also find a friend in common ordinary experiences seen from new perspectives.

Often in the Christian Gospels, Jesus performs miracles. Just last week, the lesson was the first miracle in John by Jesus: turning water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana. In John, the miracles are called "signs," that is, the emphasis is not so much on the miracle itself as what it points to. The Cana story points to the Kingdom, where there is good wine still to be served and where God still expects new guests to arrive. Jesus is not just trying to save a party but to save people's lives -- and the life of the world. Miracle.

Yet we must be careful when we speak of a miracle as if it were formulaic: two parts prayer, three parts faith, one part good works. It could seduce us into thinking we control the miraculous. However, miracles are pointers, beyond ourselves, to the power of God displayed in the world. Barbara Brown Taylor nicely puts it: "Faith does not work miracles. God does. To concentrate on the strength of our own belief is to practice magic. To concentrate on the strength of God is to practice faith. This is not just semantics. This is the difference between believing our lives are in our own hands and believing they are God's. God, not faith, works miracles."

I believe that one who has faith in God and an openness to catch sightings of God's kingdom is more likely to regard many things as a miracle: every physical healing, each ruptured relationship salved by forgiveness, a good soaking rain, each day when the sun comes up, racial wounds given Gospel medicine, a lost child reunited with a loving parent. All miracles.

As Frederick Buechner writes, "a miracle is an event that strengthens faith." God is doing that all the time, even today. The world needs all the miracles God can provide, those which bring wholeness in its many forms. If we but open our eyes, our hands, our hearts, we can receive them.

Send e-mail to the Rev. Marcus McFaul to

Unexplained events provide us hope

The Rev. Vicki Penner, pastor, Peace Mennonite Church, 1204 Oread Ave.:

Yes. I believe so.

We tend to think of miracles as things that are beyond scientific explanation and mysterious, out-of-the-ordinary events -- the parting of the Red Sea or the changing of water into wine.

Amazingly, unexplainable things still happen to people today. Maybe we know someone whose cancer was miraculously reversed. Or perhaps someone showed up at your door at just the right time.

But there are a lot of other amazing events that happen everyday -- events I'd also call miracles.

Think about the birth of a child. Of course, we know how babies are created and born. Science has given us much of the knowledge about how this happens. But there is still a great mystery shrouding the event. Each child is unique, special and, yes, miraculous.

Similarly, the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly is something of a mystery. Sure, we know the stages involved. We can scientifically explain what takes place. Yet, exactly how a caterpillar completely dissolves and reforms into a butterfly remains a small miracle that happens again and again.

I define "miracles" as unexplained events that make the world a more beautiful and wonderful place. They bring hope when everything seems hopeless. They may be mysterious, but I doubt they are rare. Our problem is that we miss so many of them.

Send e-mail to the Rev. Vicki Penner at

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