December 16, 2007
The Rev. Robert C. Granfeldt
|667 Mount Road, Aston, PA 19014 610-459-2013
|Small Parish - Big Heart - Inclusive
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To grow the
I think I have. One or two, maybe – at the most a small handful.
I wouldn’t swear to it – couldn’t swear to it. But I have witnessed a very, very few events in
my lifetime that I can’t really explain in any other way to my own satisfaction. Each has
involved healing in one way or another, but none of them terribly dramatic – nothing like,
say, a longtime invalid getting up and walking away, no blind person suddenly able to see.
Nothing, even, that I could absolutely swear was not a purely normal, natural event – just
some things that seemed to me – seem to me – to have been something that was not
normal, not natural in any way we understand, not expectable or easily understandable.
Nor, if these things were miracles, do I have any idea why they happened – although all of
them occurred in a context of prayer. And if, indeed, these things were miracles, then the
even more perplexing question would be, why haven’t I seen such things more often than I
have? Certainly I’ve been in any number of situations of great need that involved prayer
where nothing at all unusual or even slightly dramatic happened, so one question that
arises must be – if miracles do happen, why do they happen so rarely?
I’ve certainly seen lots of claimed miracles! And I suspect many of you have, too…, on TV!
There, they’re a dime a dozen – and have been almost since the advent of TV! In fact “the
miraculous” has been a hot commodity whenever and wherever religious hucksters have
been able to figure out a way to make a buck from unsuspecting and unsophisticated
believers. But they’re not real.
Nevertheless, I believe in miracles; I believe I’ve seen them. I only wish I could understand
how it is they come about, why they happen at all, and why so seldom. And I certainly wish I
knew how one could make them happen at will.
But not even the one person the faith has always believed to be the greatest miracle
worker, ever, could do that. We have it from the Gospels, themselves, that when Jesus
visited his own home area, where people scoffed at him and rejected him, he could not do
the kinds of things he’d done elsewhere, “because of their unbelief!” Miracles are
mysteries. Always have been, I know; always will be, I suspect.
I began thinking about these things as I studied this morning’s Gospel: when John sent a
messenger to learn if Jesus was the one he was waiting for, and Jesus said, “Go and tell
John what you see and hear: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are
As I thought about those words, and about the miracles of Jesus, another, similar line came
to me – a similar charge.
When Jesus went to the synagogue in Nazareth, he read the words of the Prophet Isaiah,
'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the
blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.’
And then he told them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."
And as I read, the words of the two sayings began to run together in my mind, and I was
hearing, in my mind, a combination of the two: “the blind receive their sight, the lame walk,
the lepers are cleansed. Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."
And I suddenly realized it was true – that what Jesus had said two thousand years ago has
been fulfilled, has come true!
It may have taken two thousand years, but the miracle has happened, in our hearing, and in
our sight – and the prophecy becomes more and more fulfilled with each passing year!
Today, in ways unheard and undreamed of just two hundred years ago, let alone two
thousand years ago, the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed –
and there are members of this parish who have experienced each of those miracles, and
more. And with the gift of our new defibrillator, we may someday see someone rise from
death in this very building, and with our own eyes!
All miracles by any real understanding of the word; but miracles that can be preformed and
repeated, virtually at will! What a marvelous world we live in, where the miracles of the
Bible, the miracles of Jesus’ life and ministry truly do become commonplace in the world we
live in, 20 centuries later.
But there was more, yesterday, too.
As I thought about all these things, something else I had read earlier in the day kept coming
back to me – nagging at me, if you will – till I began to connect the things I’d been reading
and thinking about.
Earlier, I had received, via the internet, the annual Advent Message to the Anglican
Communion from the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. And the opening of that
message kept coming back to me! Rowan wrote:
One of the strangest yet most moving expressions in the New Testament is a verse in
the Letter to the Hebrews (11.16): God ‘is not ashamed to be called their God’. The
writer is talking about the history of God’s people. When they have been faithful to God,
faithful in keeping on moving onwards in faith rather than settling down in self-
satisfaction, when they are true pilgrims, then God is content to be known as their God.
He declares himself to be the God of pilgrims, of people who know that their lives are
incomplete and that they are still journeying towards the fullness of God’s promises.
Visiting refugee camps in the Middle East, as I did this October, brings home so
powerfully what it is to be literally and absolutely homeless, not able to be confident in
any resources, inner or outer. People in these terrible circumstances will never be
complacent, they will always be looking for a future. They are in the most obvious way t
those whom God is not ashamed to be with, people whose God he is happy to be. He is
at home with the homeless.
And suddenly the wonderful, miraculous world of prophecy fulfilled was not quite so
wonderful. Well, actually, no less wonderful, and no less miraculous, but so only in a small
part of the world!
And I remembered that in much of the world – in MOST of the world – the miracles haven’t
arrived yet! That there are no simple eye procedures, or corneal transplants to preserve
and restore sight; no quick knee or hip replacements, no state of the art limb prosthetics;
no kidney transplants and no dialysis; no pace-makers or defibrillators; no open heart
surgery, by-passes, of artificial valves: none of the miracles we’ve already come to take for
I remembered that in much of the world – most of the world – people not only don’t have
these miracles available to them, but they don’t even have clean water to drink, enough
food to eat, adequate shelter or hygiene; don’t even have what we would regard as the
most rudimentary health care.
And I remembered that we, you and I, are amongst the world’s elite! Blessed with the kind of
commonplace advantages that we would have regarded as miraculous just a century ago,
and that most of the world still do! And I realized the answer to my question.
If those miracles don’t happen more often, if they don’t happen “at will,” it’s because the will
is lacking! It’s because we don’t do what’s necessary to make them happen – to make the
real miracles of God’s world available to all who need them!
God is not ashamed, the Archbishop reminds us, with the author of Hebrews, to be called
our God, and it is at Christmas that he shows to the world that he is not ashamed to show
himself with us – indeed to become one with us. But, he continues, “because he is content
to walk with us, we are challenged about whose company we might be ashamed to share.”
Are we to be found standing side by side with those who do not live in this miraculous world
we live in?
Can we be found sharing the burdens they carry?
Can we be seen to be sharing with them the miracles we have come to take for granted?
Would we be willing to be seen standing side by side with them and sharing their burdens?
Or would we prefer to close our eyes to the condition of most of the world, and pretend we
are not blessed beyond the imaginations of most of the people who live, today, on this
earth, and most who have ever lived!
We do live lives that are richly blessed, every one of us. Lives in which the miracles
promised in the prophecies of our ancestors in the faith have been fulfilled in our hearing
and in our sight.
And it is only fitting that, in this time of preparation, as we reflect on our lives and on our
calling, we think about how we could become the true miracle workers in this marvelous
world God has given us – by sharing the miracles of this world with those who do not have
We shared a bit – just a taste – of the miracles of this world last week as we joined in the
CityTeam Adopt-A-Family project, but the means to perform all the miracles of Scripture are
available to us every day!
As we approach the end of this Season of Preparation, I would ask you to spend some time
thinking – and praying – about what miracles the people of this blessed part of the world
could accomplish if they really wanted to, and if they really tried! What miracles we could
perform, if we really wanted to!
In the name of the greatest miracle of all, Jesus Christ. Amen.