Sunday, August 3, 2014

What Is a Miracle?

At church this morning, the theme was the story in which Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes.  In the children’s part of the service, the pastor was asking the kids what a miracle was.  One of the kids referred to an example: a person has a heart attack but does not die.  The pastor agreed with that example.  He then said that a miracle could be giving money to the church so that the poor could have something to eat.  There the poor are, wondering where their next meal will come from, and they find that they can eat because someone gave a charity a donation.  There the multitudes in Jesus’ day were, hungry and wondering if they would eat, and Jesus multiplied the loaves and the fishes for them.  In these cases, there seems to be some subjectivity when it comes to a miracle: people in a crisis may appreciate relief and consider that to be a miracle, to be God interfering to meet their needs.

I think that the pastor was referring to donations because of the new offering plates that were donated to the church.  It was a timely reference!  Still, the pastor’s discussion of miracles was pretty interesting.  I remember, way back in Bible study, our group was talking about the miracle of the loaves and fishes.  The pastor’s wife referred to an interpretation that she heard: that the miracle was that people were sharing food.  According to this interpretation, Jesus did not multiply loaves and fishes, but people brought their own food and shared it with others.  The pastor did not care for that interpretation.  “That takes the miracle out of it!”, he exclaimed.  Yet, this morning, in the children’s part of the service, he was essentially implying that a miracle does not have to entail a suspension of natural law.

What is a miracle?  A while back, a liberal Christian professor defined it as an event that we consider to be unusual, and that evokes in us recognition of God.  That is a pretty good definition.  The professor did not care for defining a miracle as a suspension of natural law, but I think that a miracle can entail that, while not being limited to it.  I am hesitant to say that every unexplained healing is from a suspension of natural law, for that healing may have a natural explanation.  There is so much that we do not know.  But multiplying loaves and fishes?  That seems to me to be a suspension of natural law.  I think that can happen, at times.

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