Preached by Mr. Peter Linck at Christ Church Cathedral on Sunday, June 6, 2010
Help me, O Lord, to keep guard over my lips. Save me from words that hurt, from gossip and slander and lies. Let me speak only to encourage and cheer and to keep people on their feet, so that all my words may minister grace, to your honor and glory.
I’ve known this church my whole life, and as the church has changed, I’ve changed right along with it. And as I’ve grown up, much like everyone else, I’ve started thinking. Thinking really is the mark of maturity, and it’s all I’ve been doing for the past couple of years. And I suppose Reverend Kinman noticed that I’ve been growing up and he wanted to know a little more about my perspective on things, so here’s my own personal take on today’s Gospel.
In case you were a little less attentive than you would have liked to have been during today’s Gospel reading, as I myself have done many times in the past, allow me to give you a brief synopsis. Jesus goes into a town and notices a funeral procession going on. He touches the bier (which means the stand on which a corpse or coffin is placed), utters a few magic words, and the dead man rises. Everyone is astonished and begins glorifying God claiming that a prophet has risen among them.
So I get asked to preach. And I decide to preach on this gospel reading. Why this gospel reading, you might be asking yourself? “Mostly because I just sort of randomly picked it,” I reply.
This is a gospel reading about Jesus performing a miracle. Darn it. Why didn’t I pick the gospel reading where Jesus gives money to the poor or uses good table manners or helps an elderly woman to cross the street? Those would be easier sermons to give. I’d give some light, plucky message about how we should all do exactly what Jesus did thousands of years ago, and in repeating his actions, we’d all win at the game of being good Episcopalians.
But no; I have this story. The other reason I decided on this reading because it sort of mimics my confusion about spirituality. Nowadays, I don’t really spend too much time thinking about religion…mostly because it makes my head hurt. When it comes to spirituality, at the end of the day, I’m just a confused little kid. Questions always arise like: What is God? Why do I exist? Why the Bible? But specifically, as I’ve pondered this reading, the question has been “What is a miracle, and how do I perform them?” I’ve asked myself this question time and time again as I’ve re-read this passage. Can any of us bring people back to life like Jesus? No, we can’t. So if we’re trying to aspire to some ideal-level human being and we’re really looking at the Bible as some sort of template for our lives, then it’s going to be hard to be like Jesus if we don’t even have the same abilities that he had. But what if the definition of miracle was broadened? What if miracles are more prevalent in our lives than we think?
Let’s switch gears for a moment. High school for me was pretty terrible. It was exhausting and frustrating and monotonous and most any other bad adjective you’d like to assign to it. Teen angst complicates any situation by about twenty fold, and I practically lost my sanity every couple weeks due to some person or event or test or something. But I got through it. It dragged on day after day, but I got through it, and that’s probably a miracle. A miracle doesn’t have to bring someone back from the dead. Jesus was just doing what he could. And if the idea is to follow him and be christ-like, then we need to do what we can. The first step should be just noticing all the miracles around us.
A miracle doesn’t have to be huge. What’s miraculous to me is any number of things I see and experience on a daily basis. This congregation that I’ve known for 18 years is a miracle. A black president is a miracle. Waking up each day is a miracle. There’s soooo much music that I find to be miraculous. And considering how pessimistic I’ve become about a lot of things and how bogged down I can get, I bet just living is hard for a lot people. But the fact that human kind continues on day after day it is miraculous.
I think we exist because of miracles. I don’t know why the world is full of catastrophes and terrible people and monotony, but I do know that some things are just so breathtaking that they have to be miracles. We exist because whatever deity there is out there can do nothing but make miracles, so he created us and our world. That’s the only real conclusion I’ve ever reached about my stance on religion; God is perfection. Now, what does that mean exactly? There’s so much that is wrong and terrible and flawed in the world that the only thing that makes sense to me that can be perfect is God. And this God that I believe in performs miracles, all day every day. I’m not sure exactly what form this takes, but I can see its products. I can see gorgeous people and hear beautiful music and feel profound emotions that must be some divine creation.
So I’ve reached this conclusion. We’re all just a bunch of miracles. So what now? Do I just tell you to count your blessings? Nah, counting isn’t enough. Marvel at your blessings. Be inspired by your blessings. Ponder your blessings. And then, if you really want to be Christ-like, then it’s time to start creating some miracles. It’ll make living a little bit easier for someone else, and it’ll hopefully make you feel a bit stronger. Lots of people believe that faith is nothing unless you act on it, and I think creating miracles is a good way to get started.
So in conclusion, I’d like to implore everyone here to do small things like tell people that you love them or stop and smell the roses once in a while. Because the fact that that person or those roses are there in the first place could be much more miraculous than you know.
Famous poet Walt Whitman tends to agree in his poem befittingly titled “Miracles.” And it reads:
Why, who makes much of a miracle?
As to me I know of nothing else but miracles,
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,
Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of the water,
Or stand under trees in the woods,
Or talk by day with any one I love, or sleep in the bed at night
with any one I love,
Or sit at table at dinner with the rest,
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,
Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive of a summer forenoon,
Or animals feeding in the fields,
Or birds, or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,
Or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or of stars shining so quiet
Or the exquisite delicate thin curve of the new moon in spring;
These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles,
The whole referring, yet each distinct and in its place.
To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,
Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with the same,
Every foot of the interior swarms with the same.
To me the sea is a continual miracle,
The fishes that swim--the rocks--the motion of the waves--the
ships with men in them,
What stranger miracles are there?