Sunday, November 18, 2012

Magic, Miracles and foot-long carrots.

Sermon preached at Our Lady of Walsingham and St Francis on the 24th Sunday after Trinity.

It’s Jim’s ninth birthday party.

Tubbo the Clown bursts through the curtains
                 to make his appearance
                    and perform his special magic tricks
                        – the amazing disappearing bunny;
                          the milk that turns into a white silk scarf;
                                  doves from nowhere.

At one point,
         Tubbo pulls a foot long carrot
                   out of Stephanie’s ear!

The majority of the children sit agog,
        but Eric has that smug look upon his face
            – the smug look that can only come
                   from that particular sort of boy
                       whom you know will proclaim
                          with a voice shriller
              than a parrot with whooping cough,
                    “I know how it’s done!”

What is your opinion of little Eric?

Are you irritated by his revelation
       of how the tricks work?


Does his behaviour
        ruin the trick for everyone?

Or are you impressed
      by Eric’s clarity of thought
        and his ability to figure out
                   how the magic trick works?

Does it even matter?


It’s easy to forget that a magic trick
     is meant to entertain.

 For some people,
     the entertainment may come
             from the mystery.

For others, the entertainment
        will come from figuring
                 it out how it’s done.

Either way, Tubbo is using his skill to entertain.

That is the purpose of his magic.

 If he is clever enough,
          his jokes and his tricks
                   will make the children laugh,
                         enjoy themselves
                            and bring a lot of happiness
                                   into Jim’s birthday party.

What would you say to Eric’s father
      who is of the opinion that
            “magic is just lies to children”?


For many people,
          magic and miracles seem to go hand in hand. 

Look at Moses standing before Pharaoh, staff in hand.

He throws his staff down and it becomes a snake.

 Pharoah’s court magicians laugh out loud
            and perform the same trick
                  – their staves become snakes
                             when they hit the ground.

 Of course, the get a bit put out
         by the fact that Moses’ snake eats all theirs.

However,  is Moses performing a magic trick,
             or is it a miracle?

Whatever it is,
        it is God who tells Moses
            to turn his staff into a snake
                for the enslaved people of Israel,
                 “that they may believe that the LORD,
                  the God of their fathers--the God of Abraham,
                   the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob
                         --has appeared."

This is not a trick to amuse Pharaoh.

It’s not even a trick to scare Pharaoh.

This is a sign to the children
       of Israel that their deliverance
             is at hand if only they will trust in God.

Does the trick need to be explained?


The court magicians can replicate that staff-snake illusion,
        and a few others that Moses does,
             but their ability to do so soon stops
               when they fail to call down lice upon the people.

It does not alter the fact
      that the Israelites can see
          their deliverance
              is at hand.

Can you see a difference
      between miracles and magic?


If you think about it,
     Our Lord is certainly
            not a magician.

Tubbo the clown is dressed in multicolours
         and makes a big deal of his magic.

Pharaoh’s sorcerers are ostentatious
      in their performance  of the same magic tricks as Moses,
              but Our Lord Jesus shows
                no form of showmanship whatsoever.

He performs his miracles in private.

Look at how He sends out the mourners
       from the dead child’s bedroom in order
              to raise the dead.

Look at his reaction
       when the woman with the haemorrhage
               touches His cloak and is healed.

He talks directly to the woman
    and to no-one else about it.

 What’s the point of doing magic
        to one or two people?

Well, this is it.

Our Lord Jesus is not performing magic!

He is performing miracles.

The Greek word for miracle just means a sign.

The word “miracle” itself
     comes from the Latin miraculum
            which literally means something
                   that causes wonder.

They have a purpose.

A man’s daughter is raised from the dead.


We don’t know, but that isn’t the point.

If we trust in what Our Lord says,
       then we know that
            He has power over life and death.

A woman’s flow of blood is stopped.

Could medicine have helped her?

Not at that time certainly,
      but possibly with modern medicine.

Again, this is missing the point.

 If we have faith in Our Lord,
         then we have witnessed the care
               that God has for us as individuals.

There is a tendency in our modern thinking
       to dismiss miracles all too quickly
             based on our scientific method
                   and understanding.

The woman and the father of the dead girl
        aren’t seeking a miracle
                for the sake of a miracle.

The woman wants to be healed;
         the father wants his daughter back.

 Their humility opens them up
             to the possibility of something wonderful. 

They recognise their utter need for Christ.

Their faith in Our Lord Jesus
          gives them their heart’s desire.

So where are our miracles?

If we are looking for miracles
      for the sake of miracles,
               then we will never actually see them
                       because they will always be dismissed
                             or explained away.

The crowd of mourners laugh Jesus
       to scorn for daring to raise the dead
                  and so they are shut out from the miracle.

Their pride blinds them to the glorious
        and they go on their way
                 literally none the wiser.

But when life is painful and horrible,
      when there is suffering and misery,
            when our loved one lies dying,
                  then where are our miracles?

 Don’t forget that the woman and the father suffer too.

 Their pain is as real and as agonising as ours.

All they had to go on was their humble faith
       in the face of an oppressive,
              dark, painful and miserable existence.

It is that clinging to their faith in God,
        even by the fingertips,
              through excruciating agony,
                     yet trusting, always trusting in Jesus,
                           that they find true joy.

Where are our miracles?

Well, where is our Faith really?



No comments: