“Expect a Miracle”
Rev. Sandy Johnson
July 26, 2015
Last Sunday many of you know Rev. Dr. Richard Smith was our preacher. We had planned months ago that he would deliver the message in my absence from the pulpit and he did a marvelous job reminding us to be fully present in all that we do. I know he was preaching to me as I often struggle often with being still and listening and being present to both God and my family.
After the service I was introduced to Betty Scott, a guest with us for the first time. She lives in Boulder City, just up the street from Pat and Bruce. She had meant to come to worship the week before but something came up and she wasn’t able to attend. So last Sunday she stepped into the doors of our church, to reconnect with God and a Christian community.
But she wasn’t ready for the surprise that awaited her. You see Rev. Richard, in his role as Chaplain at San Martin, knew Betty from when they walked the difficult road of Betty’s husband passing into eternity. Betty told me that Richard was a Godsend during that week last October. Richard came along side Betty and together they made the difficult, heart wrenching decision to allow Betty’s husband to pass peacefully.
Last Sunday, Betty was reunited with the man who had meant so much to her, during a most intense and personal situation. Is that a miracle? It seems beyond coincidence that Richard and Betty would find each other last Sunday in a little church in Boulder City, but that is exactly what happened.
Or what about Leesha Nush? As you know she was the chaperone for the Sierra Service project that took the three Marlow girls to Northern Nevada to serve on the Walker River Indian Reservation. Leesha was the adult leader for a team of five high school students putting a new roof on a small house on the reservation. She and the students had painstakingly removed the old roof and were nailing the shingles on by hand, to cover the top of the house with a new roof that would keep the family dry and warm in the winter months.
In the front of the house, on the ground were piles of debris (show photo). The old shingles and roofing materials were on one side and an old shopping cart, a bike and other trash was on the other side. In the center of the home was a clearing, where the workers were able to safely access the roof and do the work they had been assigned.
On Thursday while Leesha and the students were working, an accident happened and Leesha was thrown off the roof. She told me that she doesn’t remember it really, except that she pushed the ladder away as she fell so that she wouldn’t land on it. She also related later that she felt that God had protected her (show photo). Leesha landed spread eagle, as you can see, and other than a few bruises she was unharmed. A miracle?
What exactly is a miracle? Certainly when we sent our youth to the Sierra Service Project we prayed for God’s protection and that they would have an amazing experience serving others, being the hands and feet of Christ in this world. We also expected that God would protect them from harm. Leesha’s experience at minimum would be an answer to prayer.
The dictionary says that a miracle is “an effect or extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause. An effect or event manifesting or considered as a work of God.”
“The common Hebrew word for miracle is nes (נס), which translates as something that is raised up or elevated. For example, a flagpole upon which a banner (or flag) is raised is also called a nes. So a miracle is an elevated and elevating event. It is something extraordinary that happens, where we see G‑d’s hand clearly.1
“Ordinarily, when we look around us, we are not privileged to see G‑d working openly. However, it is tough to argue with a miracle—a supernatural event that indicates strongly that G‑d is at work. When we witness a miracle, we are elevated. We have been given new insight into the meaning of the ordinary events in our life, and we realize that they too are really G‑d’s work.2”
Wikipedia says that “the word “miracle” is often used to characterize any beneficial event that is statistically unlikely, but not contrary to the laws of nature, such as surviving a natural disaster, or simply a “wonderful” occurrence, regardless of likelihood, such as a birth. Other miracles might be: survival of an illness diagnosed as terminal, escaping a life-threatening situation or ‘beating the odds’.
“The term miracle is applied to many things, from the secular to the religious, from sports events to creation.” For our discussion this morning I would like to suggest that a miracle is that place where God demonstrates his divinity in magnificent ways, reminding us that he is God. Miracles are those experiences and things in our lives that don’t have an explanation – we will never know how it was that Betty and Rev Richard were brought together in the same place at the same time, nor how Leesha was thrust off the roof and came away unharmed. These are the mysteries that we call faith.
The Apostle John says they are signs of God among us. And if they are signs of God among us, are we expecting them? Are we anticipating seeing God in very tangible ways, in and around us, as God works His miracles? Our biblical story this morning is a popular one that most of us are familiar with: Jesus feeding 5000 people with just five barley loaves and two fishes. Scriptures says that not only were they all were satisfied, there were twelve baskets left over. Let’s back up a minute. It begins with Jesus and his disciples who had just crossed over to the Sea of Tiberias and were followed by land by a large crowd who were eager to see the miraculous signs that Jesus had performed. The crowd was larger than usual because of pilgrims who were traveling for the Feast of the Passover. These folks likely came to see what the attraction was. Many came to listen and get closer to Jesus and be witness for themselves to a miracle or two. Jesus had hoped to have some time with his disciples to talk and rest, but the crowd wouldn’t hear of it. They came and surrounded them and Jesus realized that they weren’t going away and felt compassion on them. He knew that they would be hungry.
Jesus turned to Philip because he was a local and he figured he would know where to get food for the crowd. Philip couldn’t put his head around what was required and calculated that it would take six months wages to buy what was needed. Instead of approaching the problem from scarcity, Andrew came to Jesus, humbly and honestly and presented the young boy and his five loaves and two fish. So Jesus told the crowd to sit down, he blessed the bread and fish and distributed them among the group.
Before we continue, I wondered if I could share my picnic basket with you. I have five loaves and two sardines that I would like to share. I’m not really sure what will happen – will there be enough? After all there are only 50 of us, not 5000, but I’m curious to see how this lesson plays out here in our worship service. Let me pray a blessing over this food: Blessed art Thou, O Lord, our God, who causes to come forth, this bread from the earth.” Everyone take what you need and pass the rest along. Then ushers, would you collect whatever is left over at the back of the room and bring it back up front.
You should know that the barley loaves that were shared that day were considered the “cheapest of all the bread and was held in contempt. Barley bread was the bread of the very poor.” The fish weren’t big old salmon like the kind that Fred catches, but were more likely small fish, like the sardines that are being passed around. The Sea of Galilee was known for these small sardine-like fish that swarmed, were caught with a net, and then pickled. “In those days fresh fish was an unheard-of luxury, for there was no means of transporting it any distance and keeping in an eatable condition.” We can surmise that the young boy was a poor child, it is likely that he shared his family’s lunch with Jesus, who then shared the crowd. He was willing to give to Jesus all he had because Jesus asked him to.
Scripture says they had as much as they wanted and were satisfied. Has everyone received their meal? What do we have left over? Not much of a miracle really? That day, on the hillside, we don’t know what really happened. Was it a miracle of multiplication? Did the fish and bread continuously multiply as it was passed from person to person? I had an experience one where I believe my gas was multiplied. I was on empty and should have run out, but was able to make it to the gas station and in my heart, to this day, I believe the gas was somehow stretched to meet the need. A miracle? I don’t know but it is one explanation to the miracle of the loaves and fishes.
What else could have happened that day? It has been suggested that the meal was more a sacramental meal, similar to what we receive as communion. It is possible that there was enough because everyone just took a small bite of the food being passed around and were filled up spiritually rather than physically.
The third possible explanation is that the real miracle was that the people shared with one another. The crowd had walked more than nine miles to be with Jesus. It would be expected that they would have brought some snacks along for the hike.
Although they might have wanted to selfishly keep their provisions for themselves, rather they shared what they had, it is possible that they added to the baskets as they were passed around. Those witnessing Jesus sharing the loaves and fishes, wished to be like Jesus and they gave from their abundance and all were filled. “It may be that this is a miracle in which the presence of Jesus turned a crowd of selfish men and women into a fellowship of sharers. It may be that this story represents the biggest miracle of all – one which changed not loaves and fishes, but men and women.”
The lesson today is that Jesus took what they had – a young boy who was willing to share his lunch– and used them to feed the community, he used them to demonstrate who he is and he fed them both physically and spiritually. We are called to be willing to share our gifts, our loaves of bread, with Jesus and allow him the privilege of enacting a miracle. We can’t do this life alone. We can’t make the necessary changes in our world, in our country or here in Boulder City, without the miraculous work of God done through the Holy Spirit and through each of us here today.
It is up to us to offer up what we have, whatever that is, and allow God to work the miracle and through it all we must expect God to show up, we must expect the miracle that is coming, because that is how God works. To think otherwise is to have a lukewarm faith.
I don’t know about you but every time a baby is born, I believe God has performed a miracle. It is beyond my comprehension how our bodies do what they do, to produce this amazing replica of ourselves. Betty and Leesha experienced God’s miracle in a unique and sacred way. God is always close to us and waiting to enact a miracle on our lives. We must expect and welcome them, we must prepare for them, we must work with God to get the job done.
“Jesus needs what we can bring him. It may not be much but he needs it. It may well be that the world is denied miracle after miracle and triumph after triumph because we will not bring to Jesus what we have and what we are. If we would lay ourselves on the altar of his service, there is no saying what he could do with us and through us. We may be sorry and embarrassed that we have not more to bring – and rightly so; but that is no reason for failing to bring what we have. Little is always much in the hands of Christ.”
It is up to us to raise our expectations, to expect more of ourselves and to expect more of God. We are called to be His people and he will always equip us for service. He will always take what we humbly offer and multiply it into His miracle.
Let us pray: Gracious, loving and miraculous God, expand our expectations, expand our ability to work side by side with you to enact miracles here on this earth. Allow us to trust you in all things and to expect your miracles. Amen.
 http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/miracle. Accessed July 25, 2015
 http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1594274/jewish/What-is-a-Miracle.htm. Accessed July 25, 2015
 Barclay, William. The Daily Study Bible Series: The Gospel of John, Vol. 1. The Westminster Press. Philadelphia. 1975. Page 202.
 Barclay, 204
 Barclay, 205.