Signs and Wonders

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Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be. Amen.This prayer that I have started out with, is known as a doxology

        It is the most common of all doxologies and has a Latin name for it Gloria Patri – Glory to the Father

                        It is modeled after the closing verse that we had today from Ephesians 3:21

An expanded and more comprehensive doxology also based on that passage is in use in many traditions of the wider body of Christ and is a favorite for many people – including me

Glory to God, whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more that we can ask or imagine. Glory to God from generation to generation, in the Church and in Christ Jesus, for ever and ever. Amen

One of the reasons that this is important and a favorite: is because of the idea that Glory is to properly attributed to God - because God has the power to do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine

It captures a sense of awe

It captures a sense of appreciation for the incredible wonders of God – both in us, through us, and in the world

It is a great big statement – a statement that is worthy of God

A reason for this might be because it doesn’t try to explain God or God’s handiwork – but rather marvels in it and praise God for it

As I have been thinking about the readings for today, I was first thinking about the two miracles that we hear about, in John’s Gospel – the feeding of the 5000 and Jesus walking on water

And as I was thinking about the miracles of our Gospel reading – it came to mind a young family that came to St. Luke’s in my first year serving there – they were a very nice family from a Lutheran background

            They were interested in having their three teenage kids go through confirmation classes

I was warned, however, that their youngest might be a bit difficult – because he really didn’t believe in God

            My first reaction was to think of this as a challenge… I like challenges!

My second reaction however, was a little different – about how this 13 year old was to think that he knew better…

Better than his older siblings, better than his parents and also better than all the people that have been part of the church over all time

– And with his 13 years of life, he seemed to think he knew better

But as I read scripture, I really shouldn’t be all that surprised

He is no different than so many that have gone before him

       In fact no different than many of the people we hear about in the gospels

A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick/ (John 6:2)


Today, many of the people that have followed Jesus have done so because they needed to see for themselves the miracles – or they wanted healing miracles for themselves or loved ones believing comes in different forms and by different prompts for people

One thing we have in the expanse of scriptures, is that there are many different ways in which people come to faith

One of which is, of course, the testimony of others – perhaps 5000 hunger satisfied men – Or a dozen disciples

However Miracles…. is still kind-of an uncomfortable idea for our modernist or post-modernist, enlighten minds

We have science after all – we can split the atom - we have landed on the moon – we continue to chart previously unknown galaxies, with the wonders of man-made technologies

Miracles just don’t happen any more… right?

            They were for ancient people…

People not as civilized as us - not as advanced as us

       Now-a-days we have an answer for all those ‘so called miracles…’

And… I have heard some of those answers or explanations

            Looking first at the feeding of the 5000:

When Andrew, the disciple, brought a little boy forward willing to offer all he had – people felt so guilty that they too revealed that they had packed a lunch

Or Jesus wasn’t really walking on water – but knew just where to walk

            It was really a sand-bar and the storm hid it from the disciples…

Or it wasn’t really wine from water, but really good tasting water and over time translation has re-interrupted the message

But when you really think about any of these attempts to explain away the miracles… They sound a little silly

Would the story have marveled ancient listeners and us today, if 5000 people feed themselves and by their own guilt

Or would well-seasoned fishermen, not really know about a sand bar that ran all the way from one side to the middle of the lake

And why did the storm immediately cease when Jesus entered the boat?

Or would a story of really tasty water from stagnate jugs have been retold

Our desire to try and explain everything away and claim that science will eventually answer all life’s miracles - is actually a deep seated desire to control

            We try to explain because we are uncomfortable with something being ‘out of our grasp’

At its best this reflects both a lack of faith and it is a distrust of God

At its worst, it goes against the first and great commandment – to Love God (and therefore the miracles within only God’s grasp) with all your heart, mind, soul and strength

Now, I am not asking you to check your brain at the door – I am not suggesting that blind faith without questions and testing is what God is looking for

I believe God wants a well-informed follower… if you look at the predominate role of Jesus, it was education – teaching – in fact, the title that commonly describes Jesus in scripture is Rabbi (teacher) from both disciples and detractors alike

And I believe that if you thoroughly investigate all religions, you will return to Jesus as the truth above all truths


But I also believe that we might miss the point if we limit ourselves to trying to explain or disprove the miracles of Jesus – I would suggest that the more important goal is to try to see what the miracles are teaching us about God

May I suggest the follow things as some possible revelations:

            First, that Jesus really is God – capable of things beyond what we can imagine

                        Second, that God cares about us physically as well as intellectually and spiritually

Food was provided – Jesus taught

Jesus proclaimed the good news in word and deed

Jesus himself feeds the people

Search the gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – whenever Jesus provides a miracle or heals it is partnered with Jesus teaching

– Also each of the parables is not about the story at hand but the greater truth behind

            Many of the Parables start out with the simple formula “the kingdom of God is like…”

Jesus knew His audience – He knows that people paid attention to dramatic signs and wonders and dramatic stories – and this can be the device to teach something about God

This past week I was listening to a panel of experts on the radio speak about the increased gun violence in Toronto

There were community leaders that were lamenting the media attention on the fact that the police drew ties to gangs

These community leaders have been part of and witnessed remarkable developments in their communities and were complaining that the media is only there when the story is sensational

          To which one commentator said the news industry adage – “if it bleeds… it leads”

Jesus knew this – He knows that the people needed to have their interests piqued with dramatic signs and wonders (miracles) OR dramatic stories

Consider the most famous: the Good Samaritan or the raising from the dead of Lazarus

                        In all the situations the drama is always there to serve a bigger goal

Water into wine isn’t as important as revealing who Jesus was or that His time had indeed arrived

Or one less storm on the seas is not as important as revealing that God is there in the midst of the storms of life or is the Lord over all creation

And one more meal to a hungry group is not as important as Jesus display of abundance in the face of scarcity

       God wants to be part of lives – God wants us to learn about Him


Jesus wants us to put us to the test, as He did this with the disciple Philip, when He asked him question about where they would get enough food

Jesus wants to make sure we can see the fullness of what He’s going to do

                        He instructs them “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost. (John 6:12b)

                                    Jesus is giving us a beautiful metaphor – in which we can hear God heart for all                             His people and all His creation

They gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets(John 6:13)

God’s desire is for wholeness, symbolically represented by the 12 baskets – twelve is a key number, seen in the 12 tribes of Israel, or 12 disciples and whenever you see the number 12 in scripture

Each time it is to tell a message of wholeness

God doesn’t want a fearful, distant people – God wants us to find security and comfort and protection in His presence and in his ways

When Jesus is walking on the water and scares the disciples, he states simply

“It is I; do not be afraid.” (John 6:20b)

There are many, many things that we could draw out of our reading today – as John, is a writer that fills his narrative with so much – but the point is not about what the miracle is… but rather what the miracle is teaching us about God

When I was a boy, I remember my Dad sometimes suffering from some pretty bad back pain

I remember one Christmas in particular in which my Dad needed to spend much of the

Holiday-time sequestered to his bed

He tried many conventional methods, he went to the Dr., He was prescribed pain killers, and he spent a lot of time laid up in bed and he read lots about it

I remember one thing that he read which obviously really struck a chord with him, so much that he called me into his room and he read it out loud to me

I will paraphrase as best as my memory will allow

It was a story about how God assigned some engineers a special project

            It was their task to build a structure that would hold many times its own weight

Able to flex in multiple directions, like bending forward 180 degrees and backwards nearly as far – it needed to flex sideways – both sides

The structure was to house a conduit in the middle of it that was to have communication wiring, and even be supply source

From this structure other things would be connected - two that were as long as the structure, and two that were still longer and one that sat on the top and was heavy and in which house the central processing engine

God was merciful in the task given – He did require that it grow out of its owns stuff and be self-repairable if moderately damaged

The engineers got to work – and after some considerable time they figured that they had a solution

– they showed God their efforts with much excitement

– only to be told that it needed to be pretty light weight, about 5 lbs

            In frustration they abandoned their one ton, 30 foot high structure

And then God shared with them that the task set before them – it was to assimilate the human spine

My Dad shared this story with me, I know, because he - like me, is astounded by the awe-inspiring miracle of creation of just one part of the human body – and consider the entire body and all its parts

            Each one of us is a miracle

                        All of God’s creation is a miracle

                                    The intricacy of creation, down to the smallest detail, is incredible

Our ordinary every day miracles, in which we so often take for granted are a testament to the power and dominion of God

For me, although I believe in the miracles of the Bible

            I marvel at the miracles that are all around us, everyday, everywhere

This thinking of the miracles of creation, I was reminded of a song “Ordinary miracle” sung by Burlington’s own Sarah McLachlin

There are many lines that capture the message well… here are a couple that caught my attention:

Life is like a gift they say - Wrapped up for you everyday
Open up and find a way - To give some of your own

Isn’t it remarkable? - Like every time a raindrop falls
It’s just another ordinary miracle today…

Its seems so exceptional - Things just work out after all
It’s just another ordinary miracle today

We don’t need to have lived in biblical times – miracles are all around us – even us – our bodies are miracles – one moment with a new born baby is a miraculous moment

Some might think as we become more aware of the world – as our scientific knowledge of the world is ever expanding – that the very scientists themselves might be people who don’t have a need for faith

Well, you would be interested to know that 100 years ago approximately 40% of scientists were believers…Now the percentage remains still approximately 40%

And many of those have become believers because of the sheer beauty of the created order, which is beyond all imagination

A good one to follow up with, if this is an interest to you, is Francis Collins – he was the director of the human genome project

In which DNA was first mapped

            And instead of this DNA knowledge making him a sceptic

He wrote about how this brought him to a deeper faith and he has an excellent book (which you can borrow from me) called “the Language of God”


So in closing when reading the scriptures, look for the teaching beyond the signs and wonders

Believe beyond the limits of trying to explain or disprove the miracles of Jesus – believe because of the miracles to what they are teaching us about God

            And celebrate and be thankful for the miracles all around us!

Thanks be to God for all the miraculous creation!

            Thanks be to God for the miracles that drawing us closer to Him – teaching us

Let us pray … let us pray the prayer we have in the form of our second reading from Ephesians

14For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. 16I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, 17and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. 18I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, 21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

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