I was recently asked for my thoughts on faith and miracles. Faith and miracles – I am tempted to tackle these two things seperately but my friend’s asking in the same context makes me think that he thinks there is some sort of link(!) so I should probably explore how I feel about that.
Hebrews 11:3 says “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear”. Essentially, the writer means “inexplicable stuff happens because of invisible stuff”. I mean, fair enough. In that case, it’s true to say that it requires faith for me to believe that I have a brain. That, or a really expensive and probably rather painful operation I don’t plan to have any time soon.
The problem with trying to write this is that I am not really interested in miracles. Sure, we could debate about how a woman touching Jesus’ overgarment meant she got healed of bleeding. We could wonder how exactly God managed to turn snakes into sticks and vice versa.
Or we could, you know, watch Paul Daniels once in a while.
I don’t really mean to say that miracles are by themselves meaningless. Far from it they carry the very essence of meaning. They are a thing which happens, that we cannot get away from. We can get away from words, thoughts, musings. But we cannot get away (notwithstanding deliberate self delusion) from what we are confronted with physically.They show us that there is more than just the dust of the ground. There is more than matter, and atoms, and electrons, and waves, and strings, and bosons. But I don’t think they’re all that exciting.
The really exciting miracles are the ones that aren’t physical at all. Forget gold dust appearing on people’s hands. What about gold coins? I mean, if miracles really did happen, then we might just see the natural happening. You know, the stuff that was always meant to be that way. Like, I don’t know, God’s word in Deuteronomy being honoured:
“There need be no poor people among you … [God] will richly bless you … do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward [the poor and needy]. Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need.
The ending of world poverty. Now that’s a true miracle.But it’s not all that miraculous. It would just take a bit of effort! But effort is the wrong word isn’t it. It would take faith.
Faith being that which encourages us to believe in what we cannot sense. I cannot see, hear, smell, taste or imagine a world without debt, without poverty. But I have to have the faith that it can happen, otherwise it truly never will. So there we have it – miracles and faith, intertwined and inseparable.
Now, what was that about a preacher from Nazareth who could perform miracles? I heard that people who started to follow him early on made sure that they were “selling their property and possessions and distributing the proceeds to everyone”. Now there’s a miracle done in faith that truly impresses me.
It’s not as though God can’t make fish spew up coins, is it? God can do that kind of thing. He can create manna, give people gold teeth, grow one leg to match the other, heal bad backs. That’s kind of part of the whole ‘being God’ thing that he does oh so well. To perform miracles greater than these miracles, we could perform miracles that transform entire communities. We must choose faith and choose to eradicate poverty from the world. Because whilst God once admitted that “the poor will always be with you”, that doesn’t mean we can’t try and change his mind…