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Miracles

By Rev. Bob Thompson Job 12: 7-13 I’ve said in the past that The United Church has developed a reputation for being so much into our heads, that we have lost the sense of the mystery of life. We are so busy finding explanations for miracles, that we fail to experience them. I think there has been some truth in those sentiments. And so, on this Thanksgiving Sunday, I want to talk about miracles. Not the miracles of science, or of human endeavour, great though they are. Not the miracles that the church has touted, like whether Jesus is God and man at the same time, or whether Mary was a virgin when Jesus was conceived and born. The miracles I want to talk about, are the common, everyday ones, that we overlook because they are so common. Through most of my life, the theory of evolution that I have heard about is the survival of the fittest. And as I have learned it, the fittest were the strongest, the most powerful, the most controlling species. That’s what I thought evolution was. But my reading in these more recent years, has told me that the species that are the most successful at surviving haven’t necessarily been the strongest, or the most powerful, or the most controlling. What I have read – not in scientific journals, because most of that is way beyond me – but in books and articles that talk about science and evolution – I have read and heard that the most successful species at surviving, have been the species that act co-operatively. Science confirms that Jesus was right! The way forward is always through co-operation! As a way of making sense of this, let me talk about how we humans survive. We often say that, when a baby is born, we quickly count to be sure they have ten fingers and ten toes, and then we heave a sigh of relief. They are going to grow up normally. But that is not the miracle. The miracle is, that at conception, the baby starts out as a single cell, and then over the nine months of its gestation, that single cell multiplies over and over again, until the baby comes into the world with two and a half trillion cells. And each of those cells is an independent living thing. It takes from its environment what it needs to survive, and it expels the waste that it creates. And the whole body feeds those nutrients to the cells and carries away the waste. And in return, those two and a half to three trillion cells, organize themselves – no one is in charge, they just do it themselves – they organize themselves into this body, each of the cells moving to that part of the body where they perform the function they were meant to perform, so that the baby comes into the world, ready to survive in the environment that it is faced with. Not one of those cells has any concept of what it is a part of, and yet they all work together, to make this body so that we can function as who we are. It seems to me that, if you believe in an interventionist God, as many of you do, you can’t help but marvel at the fact that that God has fashioned around ten million different ways for living creatures, vegetable and animal – ten million species who have their own way of organizing themselves so that they can function in our environment. That God must be unbelievably creative, to think up all of those different ways. And even if you do not believe in an interventionist God as I don’t – if you believe in the God presence that I referenced in the Book of Genesis several weeks ago – the God who formed a clay man, and breathed into his nostrils so that, not his body but his soul came to life – so that soul could reflect on all that I have said – that is a miracle that we can only stand in awe of. Think of it. We are the only beings on earth, and we may be the only beings in the whole universe, who have the ability to reflect on its existence, and stand in awe of the mystery of life. How blessed we really are to be given that kind of gift!


And then, those self-regulating, co-operating beings, themselves form other self-regulating, co-operating beings. On CBC radio a couple of weeks ago, I heard an interview of a couple of tree planters. One woman was a tree planter some decades ago – in fact, her son is looking for summer work as a tree planter. The other woman is currently tree planting. They were saying that mostly, the tree planting they do has been a monoculture, because that is the forest that has the most economic value to harvest. But that kind of forest is also vulnerable to the fires and drought that are becoming such a reality on our planet. So now, we are looking back at how nature organizes forests – how trees organize themselves into forests, so that we can make our planting more resilient. We can’t do it better than the trees do it themselves!


All of this seems so simple and obvious that it is hardly worth mentioning. But let me say, that I may be a slow learner, but it has taken me nearly 83 years, to really, in my soul, feel the real meaning and importance of these words that I am saying.


One of the things I read this summer, that prepared me to understand this, was in a book called “The Sacred Universe”. The chapter was called “The Gaia Hypothesis”. Gaia is the ancient Greek word for the Earth Goddess, and this hypothesis suggests that the whole earth is a living being. Just as the cells of our body have self-organized to create our body, so has the earth organized itself with the optimum temperature, atmosphere, and all the other conditions necessary to form life. We are here, because somehow, everything on the earth, the temperature, the atmosphere, and everything else necessary to support life, have organized themselves in such a way as to maintain and perpetuate the conditions for life on the planet. A living planet, that creates life!


And so, as we think about what we are grateful for on this Thanksgiving weekend, I invite us to conjure up in our mind’s eye, that now so familiar picture of the spinning blue planet which is our home, and then reflect on all the life that is so busily happening on that spinning blue planet, the millions of plants and animals that are going about their existence without thought for the wonderful gift they have been given – the gift of life on this planet. But we have been given an even greater gift. We have been given the ability to pause, and reflect on all of this. And if it doesn’t give us an overwhelming sense of miracle, then we better pause, and wait for the God-presence to breath into our nostrils, and awaken the soul that can give thanks and praise for this great gift of life.

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