Today’s Old Testament reading focuses on a very tiny happening, yet it became a turning point in the whole history of Israel. It begins in portraying Moses as a simple shepherd high in the mountains with his sheep, when he sees a burning bush, strange because it keeps burning. And through this apparent miracle he hears the voice of God calling him to go and liberate the Israelite nation from captivity in Egypt.
I remember that as a child I envied the way things were in the Old Testament, where God kept performing such miracles so that his presence was obvious -- breaking the natural laws time after time. I read about the whole Red Sea being divided in half so that God’s people could walk through it as if dry land. Prophets were put in fiery furnaces and walked out unburned. Rivers flowed backwards, manna mysterious appeared as food, and Daniel was safe among the hungry lions. So it was in New Testament times as well -- when Jesus walked on water, cured the incurable, stilled storms. HHe was the incredible miracle worker.
Yet for almost 90 years I have never experienced any such miracle -- not one. I live by a lake and it never divided; I live among trees and bushes, and never once has any of them spontaneously burst into flame. Such a situation brings many persons in our time to disillusionment, the kind that came to the Psalmist when in doubt he shouted: “This is what causes me grief -- that the way of the Almighty has changed.” Remembering all the miracles of the past, the Psalmist had to conclude that God no longer seemed to be going around breaking natural laws. And so his psalm ends in melancholy, left only with memories of things past.
I found today’s Gospel reading helpful at this point. In it, this is what Jesus prays: “Father, what you have hidden from the learned and the clever you have revealed to the merest of Children.” Yes, unless we are reborn with the eyes of a child, we shall never see miracles. To see them, we only need to experience one miracle -- that resurrection morning called Epiphany, when the crude, illiterate, frightened disciples who hid themselves behind locked doors were enabled to open every door and declare the good news to leaders of every kind -- exuding a miraculous confidence that risked death itself in order to make available to the whole world a totally new way of living.
And what is such living like? It means living with the eyes of a child. You see, instead of miracles bringing us to faith, it is faith that bring us with to behold miracles, everywhere. With the eyes of a child, everything becomes miraculous; everything takes on the sacredness of being a mystery, a gift. Have I ever seen a burning bush? Indeed I have, every autumn, as each tree glows and every leaf is aflame with color; or in the spring when the dogwood renders each forest a holy land. Have I seen miracles? Oh indeed I have, every winter as the first snow mysteriously falls and bathes the world with a gentle silence. Miracles? Oh yes, everywhere: as in the birth of my great grand child just last week, the miracle of spring wildflowers after every wildfire, eating strawberries and cream, having a special friend, and in recognizing each morning as a new gift of life itself.
The resurrection occurs when we are reborn as little children, with new eyes, new ears, new taste, new touch, and new smell -- to behold the miraculous everywhere. And as it was with Moses, so with us -- each miracle is a call for us to become liberators -- so that by our words and deeds and lives we help others too to find joy everywhere, everyday, everything.
Fr. W. Paul Jones