Today’s readings: Psalms 93; 147:1-11, 1 Kings 17:17-24, 3 John 1-15, John 4:46-54
Why do miracles happen? American Christianity often portrays them as rewards for diligent prayer and great faith. The Gospel of John tells a different story. Jesus performed seven miracles – John called them “signs”- before he was crucified. The second was the healing of a royal official’s son. The official met Jesus in Cana, about 25 miles southwest from where his son lay dying in Capernaum, and asked Jesus to save him. While Jesus did heal the official’s son, his initial response seems almost perturbed: “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” Jesus was coerced by his mother into the first sign at the wedding in Cana, grumbled about the second, and things didn’t improve much for the next five. When he raised Lazarus, he wept over his friends’ lack of faith. According to John, signs were performed for the unfaithful.
For some people, faith in God rests on miracles. Jesus, on the other hand, treated miracles as necessary disturbances to the natural order used to persuade people. God’s presence is not extraordinary, but an ongoing relationship during ordinary life. Like air, it is a life-sustaining presence constantly surrounding us and within us. We don’t normally think about air unless we can’t breathe. John’s Jesus delivers miracles like he’s performing spiritual CPR on those who can no longer inhale God’s presence on their own.
Isn’t it better not to need it in the first place? Like air or water, our spiritual environment can become polluted. Sometimes we trash it ourselves, and sometimes we are downwind from the spiritually toxic. When our faith feels choked off, it may be time to start cleaning up and preventing more damage. This could be a slow process: anger, hate, greed, fear, and poisons like them take time to remove. They are dangerous and unpleasant to handle, but with God’s help handle them we must. The alternative is spiritual suffocation.
Still prefer to wait on a miracle? Neither miracles nor CPR are a permanent fix: if our habits don’t change, our old problems will return. God is always present; live clean and breathe deep.
Comfort: God is as close as the air we breathe.
Challenge: Take an inventory of what’s polluting your spiritual environment.