Have you ever witnessed a miracle? The dictionary defines a miracle as “a surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency.” Some people are a little reluctant to credit divine agency as an operative power in life’s events, so they rule out the possibility of the occurrence of miracles. But we think they do occur and that our scriptures, which recount one miracle after another, aren’t just ancient documents written by prescientific people who are too ignorant to understand the impossibility of what they claim. The miracle stories of scripture teach us all how to observe “divine agency” at work around us, and to help us live in response to its ample gifts to us.
Let’s take, for example, one of the best known miracle stories of the New Testament – the story of the wedding in Cana. In this story Jesus attends a wedding reception which is proceeding splendidly until suddenly the wine runs out. First-century Middle Eastern wedding receptions lasted for days, with a gathering of guests from miles around. Running out of wine in the middle of the celebration would have been more than a minor social faux pas, it would have been a serious dilemma. So what does Jesus do in response to the absence of wine? The story says that Jesus asks waiters to fill six enormous water jars to the brim with water. And when a sample of the contents is drawn from the jars, it turns out that the water has turned to wine.
What a pleasant surprise! But does it qualify as a miracle? It’s true that dihydrogen monoxide has suddenly and inexplicably become a compound of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, with various complex esters. But is a shift in chemical composition all we are dealing with here? That would be puzzling enough.
But maybe there is an even bigger message to be drawn from the miracle story, a message that points us toward the “divine agency” behind it all.
Here is a clue. If this story were only about the provision of adequate wine for a wedding reception, then producing a few gallons of wine would have been sufficient for the party’s needs. But producing six jars of wine, each holding 30 gallons, would be roughly equivalent to 900 bottles of wine – far, far more than was required to satisfy thirsty guests. The sudden appearance of this much wine reveals an abundance we did not expect, an overflowing goodness, an inexplicable joy. You might even call it grace.
Of course, 900 bottles of wine are going to have to be shared. It’s enough for a whole village, after all. And just maybe, when the first 900 bottles run out, the party-goers will find that sharing the unanticipated and inexplicable gifts of life brings such joy that the sharing will go on, and on, and on.
Maybe we could all think of ourselves as party-goers with gallons and gallons of blessings at our disposal. What if we all shared that abundant grace as widely and joyfully as we could, letting it flow on and on and on? What if we all credited the fullness and richness of our lives to a divine agency whose generosity to us we can scarcely begin to explain, and then we lived every day in gratitude? Wouldn’t that be a miracle?